Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman warned Tuesday that “we can’t put up with” continued protests in Tahrir for a long time, saying the crisis must be ended as soon as possible in a sharply worded sign of increasing regime impatience with 16 days of mass demonstrations. — AP
No one said the transition from the Mubarak regime and their emergency rule would be easy, but to accept a military dictatorship or Mubarak 2.0, because it’s more comfortable for the regime or the West isn’t what Egyptians have in mind. From the Washington Post:
For many demonstrators, however, the legalistic and logistical questions of how to transform Egypt into a full-fledged democracy are premature. As long as Mubarak remains, they said, it cannot happen.
“Either we have a full revolution or no revolution. There is no such thing as a half revolution,” said Mustafa Munir, 23, a medical student. “We are not scared of the future. We are sure there will be freedom and respect and justice, regardless of the details.”
The protesters aren’t playing from the same script as Egypt’s Suleiman, Pres. Obama and world politicians, all of whom have been caught flatfooted by the power of the crowds.
Protesters thronged Cairo’s Tahrir Square Tuesday in one of Egypt’s largest anti-government demonstrations to date, energized by a televised interview given by a 30-year-old Google executive who for two weeks had been detained by Egyptian security officials. [...] Appearing briefly in Tahrir Square on Tuesday, he said, “We will not abandon our demand, and that is the departure of the regime.” – Protesters surge into Tahrir Square as tens of thousands return to Tahrir Square
What leaders in Egypt, America, Israel, Britain and beyond aren’t getting is that this isn’t a matter of what’s best for the world or how inconvenient the Egyptian people’s cry for freedom is to other countries or their own elite.
The protest yesterday was the largest since January 25th. So Friday’s call for people to come out again, which Richard Engel reports is being energized by the Muslim Brotherhood getting the word out, could reach beyond what we’ve yet seen. Blake Hounshell said yesterday that there’s even a split among the MB, because younger members “fear senior leaders will sell them out.”
The long-term obstacle that could damage the Obama administration is in the way Arabs and Egyptians see America’s role in Mubarak not stepping down, which NBC’s Ron Allen said today on MSNBC has Pres. Obama already taking a hit. That Republicans are applauding Obama’s realpolitik is not something he should take comfort in. Egyptians see Pres. Obama as aiding the regime’s ability to stay in power, because the Administration has backed off their demands for an “orderly transition” to being “now.” What is left in Mubarak’s wake matters.
In the age of asymmetrical warfare and lone bombers, this is the type of foreign policy legacy that can come back to bite another American President. It can also come back to haunt everything we do in the Middle East and our reputation in the Arab and Muslim world.
Of course, in the alternate universe of Dick Cheney and Tony Blair, the U.S. shouldn’t be concerned with the Egyptian people, because serving American interests is more important. Back the Thug, He’s our Friend sloganeering used in place of a foreign policy. It’s thinking like this that brought on 9/11.
I say this not as someone who is for “spreading democracy,” because we all have seen what preemption has wrought. I say this as a believer in standing out of the way of a proud populace standing up to corruption and tyranny, while we absolutely must not aid the people’s known oppressors.
It’s just as easy for a president to state this case, “the Egyptians have spoken and it’s not up to the U.S. to stand in their way,” than the 20th century realpolitik being practiced by the Obama administration, which ignores that few moves can be hidden in today’s wide open media world and to be on the right side of history you must stand with the people.
Pres. Obama is reportedly pushing for more tangible results and reforms, likely because experts are telling him that if concrete gains don’t continue, though Egypt won’t slip back to Mubarak, it could miss the real chance to lurch forward. A strong military dictatorship taking control after Mubarak is obviously not what Egyptians want.
While all the media focused on Clinton’s supposed pro-Suleiman message in Munich, her overall message was very strong on reform. President Obama and Robert Gibbs have repeatedly and consistently demanded in public that a meaningful transition begin immediately. When Suleiman dismissed the call to repeal Egypt’s Emergency Law, Gibbs quickly called his statement “unacceptable.” The question is now how the administration can best exercise its limited influence in order to ensure that the coming months see a real and meaningful transition to a more democratic, pluralistic, transparent and accountable Egyptian government. [...] The Egyptian military seems to have a winning game plan, and it doesn’t include the fundamental reforms for which Egyptian protestors or the Obama administration have called. — Marc Lynch
Right now Israel is relieved, because they have their preferred military man directing things at this point. From Wikileaks, via UK Telegraph:
5. (S) In terms of atmospherics, Hacham said the Israeli delegation was “shocked” by Mubarak’s aged appearance and slurred speech. Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however, and noted that a “hot line” set up between the MOD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use. Hacham said he sometimes speaks to Soliman’s deputy Mohammed Ibrahim several times a day. Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim President if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated. (Note: We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Soliman.)
First challenge is getting Mubarak’s emergency law lifted. The only way to make it happen is if the protesters keep up the pressure.
Then what will V.P. Suleiman do?