2011-02-11 "Revolution Party" in Egypt [UPDATE:3]

[UPDATE - 6:05 PM ET]

The Egyptian people were out all night partying. Here's a video posted by The Guardian's Jack Shenker:

There has been much jubilation, but, as Egyptians wake up tomorrow, this will be the present situation in Egypt: the cabinet will be no more, parliament's upper and lower houses will be under suspension and the head of the constitutional court will be in the process of forming an interim administration with the military council. (That's all according to Al Arabiya.)

According to Al Arabiya, Amr Moussa (whom WL Central covered earlier in the revolution) will step down as secretary general of the Arab League within the next few weeks. There is talk of him possibly running for president.

Rulers in North Africa and the Middle East are now terrified. They fear the build up of uprisings in their countries. That's why The Guardian's Julian Borger tweeted, "Reports say Bahrain's King Hamad has offered a grant of $2600 to every family ahead of Bahrain's day of rage due on Monday. Panic spreads." We'll see if the people in these countries can be bought.

Finally, here's a statement from Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan that raises some key points on moving forward:

We hope The Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will adopt a common sense approach and under this new administration organize free and fair elections...It should hand over power in as short a time frame as possible. Since the beginning of the mass protests in Egypt, Turkey has supported the legitimate demands of our brother Egyptians for democracy and freedom. The country should now move peacefully towards a new order that is pluralist, representative, and upholds human rights.

[UPDATE - 1:38 PM ET]

ImageStatement #3 read by an Egypt military spokesman indicates that there is little reason to fear that the military is going to take control of Egypt in this moment and try to suppress the demands and aspirations of Egyptians.

The spokesman announced, "The army is not an alternative to the authority that is demanded by the people of Egypt." He explained the Supreme Council will soon hand down resolutions and statements laying out what will happen to the government in a post-Mubarak Egypt.

The New York Times's Lede blog has posted this report from Ahram Online, the English-language arm of the state newspaper Al Ahram, that "both of last night's addresses by Mubarak and Suleiman were in defiance of the armed forces":

Maj. Gen. Safwat El-Zayat, a former senior official of Egypt's General Intelligence and member of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs, asserted, in an interview with Ahram Online, that the address delivered by President Mubarak last night was formulated against the wishes of the armed forces, and away from their oversight. He claimed that Vice Preisdent Omar Suleiman's address, which came on the heels of Mubarak's address, was equally in defiance of the armed forces and away from its oversight.

Also, a Muslim Brotherhood leader appeared on Al Jazeera and indicated he believes the army genuinely wants Egypt to become a democratic country. And he encouraged people to continue struggle to build democracy in Egypt.

(Update - 11:52 PM ET)

Mubarak has stepped down from power, Suleiman announced.

The military now has power and details on the recent turn of events are trickling in.

Suleiman said, "In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency. He has commissioned the armed forces council to direct the issues of the state."

Al Jazeera reporters are talking about Egyptians finally having pride and dignity after thirty years of repressive rule from Mubarak. It's heartening to think the military made the right decision.

Ayman Mohyeldin, Egyptian and Al Jazeera correspondent, who had been arrested and detained by the Mubarak regime days ago, said that for so many people, "a dream has become a reality".

Hossam Arabawy tweets, "We got rid of Mubarak. Now it's time to get rid of the Mubarak's regime. Long live the Egyptian people. Long live the revolution. #Jan25"

Dictators throughout North Africa and the Middle East must now be terrified.

Here is the post that appeared before the Egypt revolution won victory. It illuminates the Egypt military and may provide some insight on what happens next.

Cables Show Military Leaders Resistant to Change

ImageDemonstrators in various cities in Egypt filled the streets for an eighteenth day. Many of the demonstrators on Friday, one day after President Hosni Mubarak and Vice President Omar Suleiman gave speeches indicating Mubarak was not resigning, have focused their attention on the military hoping that it will support their demands and aspirations.

High-ranking military officials have been trying to assure Egyptians that the changes and reforms being proposed will take place and they can go home. They are issuing military statements aimed at stabilizing Egypt. Colonels, according to Al Jazeera, are reportedly getting into conversations with demonstrators on the role of the military, whether the military will intervene to remove Mubarak, and higher officials thus far are maintaining that Mubarak should be able to leave with “dignity.”

The actions of the military, presumably under the leadership of General Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, are not that surprising if one reads a cable sent in March of 2008 on Tantawi. 07CAIRO3503, indicates the military would not do such a thing:

… The military's loss of some prestige is partly due to the disappearance of an imminent, external military threat following the 1979 Camp David Accords. The regime, aware of the critical role the MOD [Ministry of Defense] can play in presidential succession, may well be trying to co-opt the military through patronage into accepting Gamal's path to the presidency. We agree with the analysis that senior military officers would support Gamal if Mubarak resigned and installed him in the presidency, as it is difficult to imagine opposition from these officers who depend on the president and defense minister for their jobs and material perks. In a messier succession scenario, however, it becomes more difficult to predict the military's actions. While mid-level officers do not necessarily share their superiors' fealty to the regime, the military's built-in firewalls and communication breaks make it unlikely that these officers could independently install a new leader.

A cable on presidential succession with some heavy redaction, 07CAIRO974, notes, “While discussion of presidential succession is a favorite parlor game in Cairo salons, hypothesizing about the acutely sensitive topic of a coup is certainly not regularly undertaken in Egyptian circles.” A post-Mubarak coup had generally not been discussed between leaders and the US Embassy.

That does not mean that the military had never thought about a scenario where the military might be forced to respond to maintain stability. US officials and political opposition, as 10CAIRO145 indicates, thought in 2010 that prospects for significant political reform were slim while President Mubarak remained in office.

Protests have expanded and now are in and around Egyptian State TV, Parliament, presidential palace and other areas. Forces are trying to protect the presidential palace, but the military cannot contain the overwhelming power of the people. And, the protesters do not expect leaders like Tantawi to do what's right because he is part of the Mubarak regime.

Human rights campaigners in recent days have noted that the military has been involved in detentions and torture of “anti-government protesters.” This puts at risk any claim by the military or protesters that the military, as an institution, is neutral.

This is a full-blown popular revolution, no longer just consisting of youth with grandiose fantasies of freedom, justice and democracy. It has begun to involve trade unionists, teachers, upper class, those from institutions like Al-Azhar that have generally been servile to Mubarak, and the people are only becoming more galvanized by the regime's refusal to end its rule over Egypt.

As one follows Al Jazeera’s remarkable coverage of Egypt, the military will continue to be considered a wild card. Many participating in demonstrations do not seem like they will settle for statements from high-ranking officials that they will ensure the emergency law will be lifted and they will safeguard free and fair elections. They might be pleased if the military can put forth a specific timeline to steer Parliament but one cannot forget the chief reason this uprising began: to get Mubarak to leave.

Time will only make protesters more uncertain. Will they provide a mechanism for getting Mubarak to go? Will they begin to shift their position and conclude that the crisis of legitimacy facing the regime is so grand that to protect Egypt from chaos now means to no longer protect one man, Mubarak, but means the military must coerce Mubarak and others in the regime to vacate their position in power?

US officials and political opposition have traditionally thought, as 10CAIRO145 indicates, that "prospects for significant political reform are slim while President Mubarak remains in office." Opposition leaders had these thoughts on the military:

The leaders agreed that the military would play a significant role in any post-Mubarak scenario, and that constitutional provisions would be secondary to concerns about internal stability. Leader of the un-registered Reform and Development Party Anwar El-Sadat asserted that the military would not support Gamal Mubarak's succession to the presidency, but that loyalty to President Mubarak kept it from acting to sideline Gamal now. Abaza called Egypt's military "apolitical," but predicted the military would to step in to ensure stability if necessary.

Suleiman clearly indicated these demonstrations must come to an end and he singled out what is now, in his view, preventing Egypt from returning to “stability” in his statement on Thursday:

I call upon the young people and heroes of Egypt, go back to your houses, go back to your work. The homeland needs your work. Let's build together. Let's develop together and let's be creative together. Do not listen to the satellite stations that have no objective but to sew sedition among people and to weaken Egypt and to mar its image. Just listen to your consciences and to your awareness of the dangers that are around you.

This was clearly directed at Al Jazeera. His condemnation of those with “agendas of danger” was more ominous speak on so-called foreign elements influencing the demonstrations.

Suleiman is not someone those demonstrating will trust to move Egypt forward. He is tied to the very parts of the regime that have brutally targeted, harassed, intimidated and tortured activists, bloggers, dissidents, political opposition leaders, etc. How will the military respond to Suleiman’s view on the unfolding events? How long will they try to maintain this facade of neutrality before they make a decisive move?

The military has a high standing in the hearts and minds of the people of Egypt. The revolution will not end if the military cannot be moved. An imposition of order may come, but there is no clear indication from protesters that if the military is working against them they will bring a halt to the revolution.

However, this holding pattern the military is maintaining indicates clear tension. The existential question currently over whether Egypt will stand for authoritarian dictatorship or robust democracy that can respond to the aspirations of the people has become critical.



What you can't see in that 20 second video is the gun the guy behind Suleiman is holding aimed at his back.

Military haircut... dead giveaway.


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