Friday, February 11, 2011

What now, Egypt?

All day yesterday there was talk of Mubarak’s big announcement in the evening. The Egyptian military, the media, the us government, opposition leaders, everyone “in the know” was grinning and nudging everyone else saying, “ooo. Big announcement tonight! Not gonna say what, but it should be good.” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

The speech was infuriating. It was the exact opposite of what people wanted to hear. Mubarak isn’t going anywhere.  What a jerk. For a close analysis of what this means, I’ll just quote longtime Egyptian blogger sandmonkey:

So what does this mean? What next?

The crowd was pretty pissed last night, but if Mubarak was trying to trigger a mass act of violence to force the hand of the army he was unsuccessful. Groups of protesters went to the national TV station and the presidential palace to do some angry chanting, but the majority of the crowd went home. Friday, after prayers, we will see the true response.

There is other strangeness afoot. The army (who seemed to be pressuring Mubarak to step down) issued a cryptic message to the Egyptian people entitled “Communique Number One” last night. The content of the message was unremarkable, but the ramifications are pretty substantial – “Communique number one” is traditionally (in 20th century middle east history) the military’s first address to the people of a country after they seize power in a coup. Have they? Apparently Mubarak  doesn’t think so.

A few notes on the Egyptian military – The middle east institute has a good policy insight piece that will certainly help you better understand their unique position in Egyptian society. However, the paper’s overall positive attitude towards the army should be tempered with some unsettling reports that have recently surfaced regarding mass arrests of protesters and violence (lethal violence, even) being wielded against protestors. This may just be the work of Mubarak loyalists within the army ranks, but it is nonetheless a foreboding  indicator of internal divisions within the army.

So, with multiple factions potentially moving in the streets this evening, I await tonight's reports from Egypt with trepidation. We are, it seems, moving closer to both my best-case and worse-case scenarios.


Last minute update (I’m sure this will be a day of significant news, but I want to get this up so I can get on with my work)

Mubarak has relocated to an undisclosed location (possibly out of country) but the council of military chiefs have agreed to back Mubarak’s declaration to stay in office.

Final analysis: Bleh.

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