Friday, February 04, 2011

Is Today Mubarak's Day of Departure?

Hundreds of thousands of protesters are coming together across Egypt to demand that today Hosni Mubarak exit from the political stage. It's gotten to the point where the US is trying to intercede and get Mubarak to step down and lead to an orderly transfer of power. The US and Egyptian officials are trying to figure out an exit plan.
Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.

The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.

Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now.

They cautioned that the outcome depended on several factors, not least Egypt’s own constitutional protocols and the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

Some officials said there was not yet any indication that either Mr. Suleiman or the Egyptian military was willing to abandon Mr. Mubarak.

Even as the Obama administration is coalescing around a Mubarak-must-go-now posture in private conversations with Egyptian officials, Mr. Mubarak himself remains determined to stay until the election in September, American and Egyptian officials said. His backers forcibly pushed back on Thursday against what they viewed as American interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.

“What they’re asking cannot be done,” one senior Egyptian official said, citing clauses in the Egyptian Constitution that bar the vice president from assuming power. Under the Constitution, the speaker of Parliament would succeed the president. “That’s my technical answer,” the official added. “My political answer is they should mind their own business.”

Mr. Mubarak’s insistence on staying will again be tested by large street protests on Friday, which the demonstrators are calling his “day of departure,” when they plan to march on the presidential palace. The military’s pledge not to fire on the Egyptian people will be tested as well.

Mubarak, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour claimed that he wanted to leave, but that he was concerned about the chaos that would ensue.

That's a laugh-riot, considering that it was his refusal to leave, and his security thugs, that were causing much of the chaos and bloodshed. Mubarak could have spared everyone the scenes of chaos and violence in Tahrir Square had he agreed to an orderly transfer of power and new elections within a short period of time.

He refused to do so.

This is where things get odd. On the one hand, you've got Mubarak in an interview saying that he contemplates leaving, but wont do so because of the chaos that he claims would ensue, and then there's the reports that there's no willingness on his part to leave. Those mixed messages aren't helping matters, and one has to wonder whether he's saying one thing to Amanpour and the US officials, and quite another to his generals. It wouldn't be the first time either.

Amanpour has also managed to snag an interview with current VP Omar Suleiman.

Journalists continue to be targeted by the mobs and security forces.

The EU is mirroring calls by the US for an orderly transition to a broad-based government that reflects the public will.

Some Egyptians are bridling at what they consider interference in an internal state matter, but if Mubarak is honestly saying he'd leave, then the US efforts aren't meddling but would potentially help keep the violence to a minimum while a transition government is put in place and that existing government officials would not be allowed to run for office or stay beyond their allotted time periods.

The military remains the wildcard in events, and thus far, they're providing security to the protesters in Tahrir Square. That follows two days of riots where pro-Mubarak thugs assaulted and pummeled anti-Mubarak demonstrators. Hundreds were injured in those riots and the videos from Tahrir Square and other locations around Cairo show the harrowing scenes where security forces ran over demonstrators and engaged in a reckless disregard for the lives of their fellow Egyptians or otherwise allowed the pro-Mubarak thugs to run wild through the crowds causing stampedes and carnage.

Since the protests began, more than 5,000 Egyptians have been injured, and at least a dozen people killed.

A further sign that the Mubarak regime is under increasing pressure to quit: Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League appeared in Tahrir Square alongside the anti-Mubarak demonstrators.
Amre Moussa, the Arab League's secretary-general and a veteran Egyptian diplomat, joined protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, state-run Nile TV reported. Time magazine has described him as "perhaps the most adored public servant in the Arab world."
Demonstrations are expected today in NYC at Times Square and a march is planned thereafter to the Egyptian mission on the East Side of Manhattan in solidarity with the anti-Mubarak protesters.
The rally will start at 3:30 pm. Protesters are expected to march to the Egyptian Consulate on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue. A large enough crowd could complicate the evening commute for those trying to escape the city via the 59th Street bridge.

The larger rally in Cairo has been dubbed by protesters there as “the day of departure.” They are hoping to get Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
1709: Wael Abbas seems to confirm his own detention, tweeting: "Arrested by the army!"
1708: Ramy Yaacoub tweets: "It seems that blogger Wael Abbas has been arrested by the army."
1705: CNN Breaking Newslink tweets: "Security force with "thugs" storms website office of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and makes arrests, group say."
An Egyptian journalist relates harrowing tale. Having a policeman say that she would be lynched wasn't the scariest part of her experience yesterday.

No, that came when crowds surrounded her car:
Having a policeman say he wanted to kill me wasn’t my most frightening moment yesterday in Cairo. That came when police and civilians smashed our car windows -- with the five of us inside it -- jumped up and down on the roof, spat on us, pulled my hair, beat my friends and dragged us into a police van.

The five of us were lucky: We emerged from our confrontation with President Hosni Mubarak’s police and operatives alive and relatively healthy. Violence over the past 11 days, much of it in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, has killed as many as 300 people in Egypt, according to the United Nations.

But it was a day I never dreamed could occur in my native city. It happened not because I was a reporter, a Sudan-based contract journalist for Bloomberg News returning to Cairo for vacation. The friends giving me a ride downtown were just trying to take food and first-aid supplies to those injured the previous night in clashes with pro-Mubarak protesters.
Meanwhile, Tunisia's government is lifting the state of emergency next week, which undermines Mubarak's argument that Egypt will descend into chaos if he departs. Egypt's unrest continues precisely because he's sticking around past his expiration date.

US officials are continuing talks with Egyptian officials, and they're even pressing the Egyptian military to take a leading role in the transition but the focus is on trying to get the opposition to meet with Suleiman to discuss a transition. The opposition doesn't want to engage in talks until after Mubarak leaves:
The Obama administration, encouraged by the relative calm in Egypt on Friday, is urgently trying to persuade opposition groups to participate in a dialogue with Vice President Omar Suleiman in a meeting scheduled for Saturday morning.

Over the past 24 hours, senior administration officials have urged the army and a still-unformed council of respected leaders from across Egyptian society to step forward and bless the dialogue.

President Obama plans to reiterate his call for a transition in public remarks at the White House Friday afternoon.

At the Saturday meeting, the administration hopes that government and opposition leaders will begin to draw the contours of a multi-step transition, including the immediate suspension of harsh emergency laws and establishment of a roadmap for constitutional change and free and fair elections.

Reform protesters have continued to insist that no dialogue can begin until President Hosni Mubarak leaves office. Officials - who discussed the administration's efforts on condition they not be identified or directly quoted - agreed that no substantive progress will be made until Mubarak steps aside.

They said that Mubarak's departure had not been directly addressed in administration conversations with Suleiman, defense leaders and others outside the government. But, they said, that was the recognized subtext.
Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN he's willing to run for president "if people want" him to and if Egypt becomes a "democracy based on social justice." I just don't see people coalescing behind ElBaradei given that he's an outsider and has only recently inserted himself into the opposition of Mubarak. While he's a known quantity for diplomats and the West, what he would actually bring to the table for Egypt is far less certain.

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