Mubarak Turns to Military for Support

After a dramatic day in which hundreds of thousands of Egyptians came out in all the major towns and cities of the country to challenge the police and the ruling party, President Hosni Mubarak finally appeared on Egyptian television Friday evening to read a speech in which he announced that he would dismiss his cabinet. He will appoint a new one on Saturday.

He appears to have interpreted the protests against his regime as primarily about jobs, and he pledged to create more of them. The dismissal of the Interior Minister, Habib Adli, was indeed one of the demands of the radicals, and perhaps Mubarak meant to give in on it without admitting he was doing so, by firing all the ministers, including prime minister Ahmad Nazif. Nazif had widely been credited for economic reforms that produced on the average, about 5 percent per annum growth, in contrast to the largely stagnant economic situation 1970-2000. As for Adli, as minister of the Interior he was responsible for domestic surveillance.

At the same time, Mubarak sent the police home for the most part, and called out the army. He established a curfew, largely ignored in the big cities. By early morning Saturday, the military had taken up positions in the capital and elsewhere. Rumors swirled as to why he made this switch. Some said that too many of the police had sympathized with the protesters. Others that the crowds just overwhelmed the police. Certainly, reports were posted to twitter of police stations set ablaze in traditional Sitt Zaynab and in tony Maadi. The HQ of the ruling National Democratic Party was set ablaze and looted. The military moved Saturday morning to secure the museum area and to prevent a looting of the priceless artifacts.

Among the central demands of the protesters is that Mubarak himself step down, and it remains to be seen if they will really be satisfied with the fall of a prime minister and his government. Aljazeera is now broadcasting scenes from Saturday morning in Cairo and the crowds seem much thinner army establishes itself as the chief security force. Aljazeera is reporting a few hundred protesters in the center of the city called for Mubarak to step down altogether.

Mubarak is making a last stand. He is testing to see whether the army will back him. The military, some 460,000 strong and the world’s tenth largest, has the resources to commit to the struggle if it decides to get involved. The army chief of staff had been in Washington but is now flying back to Cairo.

Despite President Barack Obama’s call for greater personal liberties and restoration of internet access in Egypt, it is clear that Washington would just as soon Mubarak presided over a transition to his successor. With that tacit backing of the superpower, and support from the army, he may believe that he can survive yet one more crisis in this way.

14 Responses

  1. Excellent analysis as the situation develops in Egypt. Yesterday, the Egyptian army chief was reported to have returned home from Washington. Much of the 1.5 billion dollar annual aid from the US goes to the Egyptian military. The Obama administration, for a while at least, openly warned that it was reviewing aid to Egypt. It has been interpreted in several ways. My guess is that it was a warning to the military to intervene to stabilize the situation; otherwise the army’s privileges would be at risk. It seems to tie up with subsequent events as Mubarak spoke.

    • i agree it was excellent analysis

      as to your guess, US policy in pakistan comes to mind and that tells me, if the US really wants the army to play a central role in “stabilising” anything, its privileges will be assured to quadruple in monetary terms

      whatever is the US interested in stabilising? the status quo that it stabilised for the last three decades is altered forever – a new status quo whith ‘reforms’? what sort of reforms? do they have to pass obama/biden/clinton desks who din’t think mubarak was a dictator but a valued ally until forced to do a doubletake?

      this is indeed inept diplomacy

  2. Thanks for the continued analysis.

    Your site was down when I tried to visit an hour and a half ago. Just thought I’d let you know in case you were unaware.

  3. My guess is that the Police are re-grouping for a government counter-offensive on Sunday.
    Clearly Mubarak is offering Suleiman the succession if he can secure it. And Suleiman is not a very nice man. Though he is quite popular in Tel Aviv.

  4. Appreciate your attention to such a fast-breaking story….And when it seems whatever we anticipate intellectually could be overcome by the mood of the people, who may now be ready to do whatever it takes for real change. Peaceful demonstrations by themselves don’t mean a lot: only when push comes to shove will things change in a place like Egypt.

    My questions: How close is the military to the people, really? One of NPR’s talking heads on the street equated their relationship like that of the Chinese people to the PLA. The “praetorian” history since 52 is also clear. But when push comes to shove, will the military respond to the people or to the commands of Mubarak? I’m wondering what they will do, and what will happen, in something like a Tiannaman scenario.

    What difference will any revolution, here or in Tunisia, if house is not totally cleaned. If the bureaucracies are left intact, the status quo continues on auto-pilot, until the next President for Life emerges. I read that the mukabarat in Tunisia is now carrying on as usual. And in Egypt this is (as I understand it), one of the largest, most sophisticated and capable “internal security” apparati around.

    The MB is supposed to have something like 1 million members in Egypt, which’d be a little over 1% of the population. That’s enough to constitute a revolutionary vanguard, especially assuming the mukabarat has winnowed-out its weaker and less-committed people. (And that they will have an activist orientation due to that repression).

    So. What doe you think the military will really do, and what do you think the odds for a TRUE change that does not continue along secular lines?

  5. Is the suggestion that the U.S. might reconsider its aid package for Egypt simply for the benefit of Mubarak, or is it also a message to the military that if they engage in a coup they may find that aid immediately cut off?

  6. Your web page was off the air for a few hours today–is your server in Egypt? :-)
    You properly complained about the lack of coverage of Tunisia in the American media; but Egypt has gotten wall-to-wall coverage. A stock market drop was even blamed on fears about Egypt.

  7. The army chief of staff had been in Washington but is now flying back to Cairo.

    Hopefully it’s to end this and put Mubarack and friends on a plane to whom ever will take him. The Middle East must be wondering who next, not like we couldn’t use a change here in Amerika. Love the picture of the tear gas canistor, how sad as the picture will be used for more hate toward us. I wonder if the boys and girls of the beltway have any idea on what to do next beside the normal reaction.

  8. “Despite President Barack Obama’s call for greater personal liberties and restoration of internet access in Egypt, it is clear that Washington would just as soon Mubarak presided over a transition to his successor. ”

    The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning “regime change” for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

    link to telegraph.co.uk

    • you don’t believe what you read in that broadsheet, do you?

      mind you, they may be right but i am yet to be convinced if that is the sole source of this info

    • i had to go and read that piece you linked to

      the first thought that occurred to me was that it was a desperate right wing attempt at cya for ineptitude at both policy and operational levels as well as an obfuscating spin for unfocused reactive confusion

      my personal take is that the uprisings in egypt were too broadbased to be controlled by a handful of organised group(s, including the clergy, military and opposition political parties

      the cia and the US state department were caught flat footed because they had no communication channels to appreciate the anger and revulsion of ordinary individuals at the corruption, nepotism, disempowerment and relative poverty that engendered a ‘nothing left to lose’ mindset that overpowered any fear of failure

      tunisia was an inspiration certainly and that was to some extent consequent on access to undeniable evidence of that which was common knowledge

      think history will credit assange/wikileaks as a major game changer in this millenium

  9. Top Egyptian military in pentagon during this crisis. You dot see the implications?

  10. When one reads the secret wikileaks document that pertains to aledged US support for anti Mubarak forces in Egypt in full one gets the impression that the charge that the US has been plotting the downfall of Mubarak for three years is complete nonsense.
    What the real mystery is, is why would the Telegraph and Russia Today want to portray it in such a misleading manner?

  11. Something is a bit ood about the whole thing. I think the answer lies in Orwell. One is for the CIA to think, Aha the Ruskies are claiming that we are behind the fall of Murbarak because they want us to think that they are really behind it because they really did not have a damned thing to do with it.
    Or maybe they are just building up a historical record so that if they do not like the way that the things are turning out they can say that we were behind whoever took power as a way to try to discredit them. If they like whoever takes power the little claim that the US had been plotting for years to remove Mubarak from power will be lost to his tory.
    Maybe they actually think that some people in current high level circles will buy in to this claim and if they manage to keep power these people will turn to the Russians as a counter to US manipulations inside their country.
    I myself do not think that it was very smart to make this claim. It makes the US leadership look smart.

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