Live from Cairo (14)
[There is no "Live in Cairo ~12.9999" because I don't want to jinx anything. Butterfly wings in the Amazon, and all. --lambert]
SUMMARY 12:10AM Dawn breaks, TS calm.
BREAKING 10:06PM AJ tweet:
The Muslim Brotherhood tells Al Jazeera that it is joining the dialogue with the government http://aje.me/fBieYK #Egypt
[AJ interview: MB route to power is not democracy, but the military. Interesting.
SUMMARY 4:08PM A wild day at the elite level -- Wisner walkback on Mub resignation, disinformation FAIL on Sul assassination attempt, Mub resigning and then not resigning -- but it's not clear if the balance of forces between the actors in E has changed. Reports of another march of millions tomorrow, and govt ban on demonstrations, although curfew is still not enforced. Copt mass in TS tomorrow.
SUMMARY 12:41PM US official appears to walk back Wisner, says he spoke as private citizen. [Hat tip, jawbone] TS still festive. More cracks in the regime: State Imams near TS encouraging protesters. Protesters prevent a few soldiers from entering TS.
SUMMARY 1:29PM PM Shafiq meets with National Association for Change [their demands]. Obama tries to throw protesters under the bus, has envoy Wisner say Mub must stay to "steer change." [Ah. "Change.] Papandreou (EU) cancels tomorrows visit. Fewer people in TS, chilly, but people still coming in bringing supplies. Tents. Calls for blankets. Nevertheless, Army has not moved, and all the players still have cards [AJ].
SUMMARY 11:09AM People queuing to get into TS tonight as darkness falls. Concern Army will move in. Reports that Mub is resigning as head of NDP. 11:27AM State TV reports that Mub has resigned as head of NDP. 12:04PM Nope, no clarity on Mub resignation (AJ). 1:05PM Still not clear, and not clear on state TV. 1:09PM Report now retracted.
* * *
AJ ~11:22AM Anch: It's clear that the Army wants the protesters to move. It's also clear that the protesters don't want to move.
[Update 3:36 p.m. in Cairo, 8:36 a.m. ET] Opposition demonstrators formed a human chain to block Egyptian army tanks from entering the anti-government redoubt in Cairo's Tahrir Square, CNN's Ivan Watson reported. This is the first sign of tension between the demonstrators and the Egyptian military since the protests erupted, but the standoff lasted just a short time, CNN's Arwa Damon reported.
Charging cell phones in TS. Now that's networking!
* * *
11:19AM Int, Exter: NDP play less of a role after this; many of its headquarters were burned. Scapegoats sought. A university to teach Arabs and the whole world how to take back your dignity from a dictator. [ding] Most important university in E right now. If this continues, will see an end to the Mub regime.
11:19AM AJ Tweet The Army spoke to the protesters in TS:
6:08pm [Cairo time] Egyptian TV reports that Hosni Mubarak resigns as head of the ruling NDP party - more details soon.
6:00pm [Cairo time] General Hassan El-Rawani, the head of the army's central command, speaks to the masses in Tahrir Square urging them to leave the square, they chant back at him "We are not leaving, He [Mubarak] is leaving".
Clinton: "Status quo is not sustainable."
11:28AM Army general came on foot to speak; now Mub's resignation [which turned out not to be true --lambert]; people are "emboldened" [Worrisome Versailles word for a shift in the balance of power. --lambert] Anch: Protesters must feel they are winning by standing firm. Anch: Can Army enforce curfew simply by asking? Int: General walks through square, followed by a train of people saying "We will stay." All know the Army decides the fate of Mub. Anch: Shift in perception of Army? Still think neutral? Int: Not lost. ... People wonder what game the Army is playing, but nobody wants to agitate the Army. Army is both privileged and of the people, and wants to maintain both.
11:32AM Curfew imposed in 25 minutes. Will it be obeyed?
11:53AM Anch: Sul a negotiator? Parents ask your kids to go home, WTF?? [paraphrasing] Int: Superiority complex. Also, every negotiation that Sul has been involved in has failed [examples from ME]. The young people have outmaneveured these guys at every stage.
Mub has $70 billion squirrelled away in British and Swiss banks. So why not kiss Cairo goodbye and get on the plane? They don't have ATMs in Basel?
12:18PM More on the Mub assassination attempt from CNN:
[Update 2 p.m. in Cairo, 7 a.m. ET] An assassination attempt was made on Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, the host of the Munich Security Conference said Saturday. During a plenary session at the conference, the host Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger said several people were killed in the attack.
Details about the incident, including when and where it happened, were not immediately known but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the conference that the news of the assassination attempt reflects the challenges of restoring stability in Egypt. The vice president, appointed last week amid widespread cries for President Hosni Mubarak's ouster, has been working to initiate a government transition, and Clinton said it's important to support the Suleiman-led process.
[Update 4:09 p.m. in Cairo, 9:09 a.m. ET] The German diplomat who said there was an assassination attempt against Egypt's new vice president has retracted his comments. "I was led to believe that we had a confirmed report but in fact we didn't," he told CNN. [WTF?] He added the information he received was based on an unsubstantiated source [WTF??].
[Spooky, this. I'm glad this didn't turn out the way I was concerned it would. --lambert]
[I'm loving the talking point that "Mub can't step down because that wouldn't be Constitutional!" He's a dictator! As Lord Vetinari asks in Terry Pratchett's Making Money, "Do I need a badge that says TYRANT?"
* * *
AJ talking heads on the role of the media
12:38AM ... Int: A surreal disconnect between reports from the ground and discussion back in Washington. You get vivid reports of brutality, and back in DC, the media is talking about negotiating with the bosses of the people throwing Molotov cocktails! Anch: Role that media plays in American society? Int: Media important in maintaining stability, and the US is no exception. We have a very commercialized media, very closely aligned with corporate management, which in turn has a close tie with govt.
Int 2, Charlie Wolf, London: I don't buy into the corporate [indictment of Int 1]. Conservative vs. liberal. I haven't found anything I'd consider spin and lies [including FOX --lambert].
Int 3, Prof Banuazizi: Debate here focuses on E 2010 and Iran 1979. E events more like Iran 2009. E movement is not ideological, demanding rights.
Int: If US media were doing their job, they'd be pointing out US is not for democracy. We want free speech if we agree with what you say.
Anch: Would coverage be same if Internet were cut off in a Western capital? Int 2: [bafflegab, does not answer, anch draws him back] Int 2: Democracy is a fragile thing that can be easily stolen [Our rulers should know, and that's really not snark --lambert]. MB lying low and will wade in. Iran 1979 was not Islamic at the beginning.
Int 3: Yesterday, Supreme Leader in Iran tried to portray E as an Islamist Revolution, and [E religious leader????] puts out statement denying! One should not underestimate enormous complexity of this transition to democracy. Concerns about fragility of E are entirely justified.
Anch: Would coverage be better if correspondents from country in question where used? The Americans flew in the big names, and flew them out when things got tough. Int: People reporting on the ground are brave. Political coverage in Washington is the issue [not reporting] Fundamental myth: Policy is motivated by promotion of democracy. Very little evidence to point to this.
Anch: The American public is surprised to hear Mub has been in power for so long. Int 2: You can have a view of utopia or realism. America has always supported freedom and democracy. But you've got to be realistic. Anch: Support Mub was realistic? Int 2: Countries are self-determinate. Good example, China, call them out. When movement is there, support it. Need to work with the E now to establish rule of law. [But see.] Anch: Hypocritical?
Int: Plan US is promoting is to replace Mub with Sul, head of the intelligence services, boss of the people who are taking reporters to torture centers. The boss of these people is the guy the US wants to put in power. Int 2: Short term, prevent chaos. I'm a neo-con, don't want to see a nascent move to democracy replaced by a tyranny that's worse, Islamist, and there are also strategic aspects, including Israel. Would rather put those important institutions in place, then hold an election. [Making US policy on supporting Sul and Constitutional changes a neo-con policy! --lambert]
Int 3: US is reactive. You talk of E elite as those they were pawns. Both the movement and the reaction to it were initiated by the E people themselves. We are remiss if we do not focus on enormous problems for E in this transition. US has no choice but to respect the will of the E people no matter what. Gradual movement. The one voice the US adminstration has been trying to bring about reconciliation. The main actors are the E themselves
Anch: Isn't that good point? Init 2: Yes, it is up to the E, that's the whole point of freedom and democracy. But you can't snap your fingers and make it happen.
Int: US clearly does not have the ability to dictate events. But the American people do not have a clear idea of what their govt wants, and if it did, the E poeple would have a better chance.
[In general, I'm noticing that the E interviewees provide better analysis, and speak better English. --lambert]
* * *
1:09PM AJ Tweet: Al Arabiya television retracts its earlier report that Hosni Mubarak resigned as head of Egypt's ruling party.
1. Mub step down.
2. (a) release all detainees, (b) arrest and penalize all who assaulted protesters, (c) not to prosecute or hunt down protesters.
At this point we can negotiate.
Anch: Mub step down immediately? Int, Hamalawy, blogger and activist: Met with Shafiq: Spoke about timing. Believe it should take place now, leave country now or delegate via article 139. Then we will negotiate about ending TS. They try to circumvent this demand. Agreed to all the other demands without reservation, but first demand is huge to them. [They were not empowered even to discuss it.] But we are adamant. This revolution will not come to an end unless this demand is met. Anch: No purpose? Int: Removing Mub is first obstacle to engage in negotiations. Anch: What happens if not go? Int: The crisis will deepen and escalate.
Int: A long day, because Army tried to evict protesters, who stood in front of the tanks. General also came to try to convince to leave, but chant to continue. Protesters will not leave TS until Mub leaves. ... Problem, no unified command. Militancy of the protesters outstrips the leaders. Anch: State of disarray. Who will be able to dictate outcome if Army does not dictate the outcome and Mub won't comply? Int: Most activists believe govt will fall.
AJ MB endorses ElB [??].
1:30PM: AJ live blog:
8:07pm Hosni Mubarak must stay in power for the time being, says Frank Wisner, Barack Obama's special envoy for Egypt.
We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes.
2:02PM Papandreou cancels visit:
Greece has announced that the prime minister, George Papandreou, has cancelled his planned visit to Egypt tomorrrow, AP reports.
Papandreou said yesterday he would visit Egypt to deliver a message from the European Union to Mubarak.
The resignation of Gamal Mubarak from Egypt's ruling party was a positive step, an Obama administration official has said. The official told Reuters:
We view this as a positive step toward the political change that will be necessary, and look forward to additional steps"
The sequence of events was, I think (this is very dynamic) 1) Unconfirmed announcement that Mub had resigned as head of NDP; 2) Above congratulations; 3) Disconfirmattion of resignation; 4) Wisner/Obama/Clinton blessing of Mub. Seems like very confused elite maneuvering!
2:13PM AJ plays Wisner from teleconference: "The Pres must stay in office to steer those changes through. He can write his own legacy. He has given 60 yrs of his life to his country...."
AJ rep Monica from DC: No more interviews from Wisner. They don't say how "this famous transition" is to take place! Wisner has been named as key advisor. Also Wisner personal friend of Mub.
AJ 2:15 Anch: Negotiations premature because what happens in the streets is paramount. Int: At one point, Army was key power broker. Every passing day the dynamic changed, foreign powers. No doubt what we are seeing on the street: We are seeing a stalemate. Every player still has cards to play. The military has come out and said it will not use force, but is appealing for the protesters to leave. Nobody has been able to break the deadlock. Anch: When army lose patience and with whom? Protesters or Mub? Int: If indeed the protesters can maintain, bring out thousands, people bring in supplies, not just Cairo but across E. Military will have to decide. The whole burden is on the military for policing, and they want to do neither that nor politics. Don't want to be placed between the govt and the people. These talks are talking place behind very closed doors.
AJ 2:21PM from Munich: European leaders are "desperate" to find a new Eyptian leader with whom they can do business.
1737: The BBC's Jim Muir analyses today's changes in the ruling party: "The removal of Gamal Mubarak as the party's bureau chief and of Safwat Al Sharif as its secretary general is a highly significant development. Protesters regarded it as the latest in a series of concessions which make them believe their cause it slowly making headway. Safwat Sharif was for long a major figure in Hosni Mubarak's power circle. Both his and Gamal Mubarak's jobs are now taken by Hossam Badrawi, who has a reputation as a moderate. Despite the dramatic development, protesters in the square continue to insist that they'll only pack up and go home when Mr Mubarak himself steps down from the presidency."
2:41PM Walking back Wisner?
1931: More on Frank Wisner's remarks. A US official quoted by AFP news agency says the envoy spoke as a private citizen about President Mubarak's future role.
O really needs to decide who he's going to throw under the bus (although apparently not Mub, no matter what).
2:47PM AJ blove blogCall and response?
8:07pm Hosni Mubarak must stay in power for the time being, says Frank Wisner, Barack Obama's special envoy for Egypt.
8:12pm Thousands more pro-democracy protesters flock to Tahrir Square amid reports of possible army evacuation of the square.
Probably not cause and effect. But it's pretty to think so!
The BBC's Helena Merriman reports seeing two government-employed imams near Tahrir Square, encouraging protesters to keep going. They said that for years they have had to censor what they say in their mosques but now they are preaching openly about freedom of expression. One said: "I now feel closer to God knowing that I can say what is really in my heart."
Which is good, I suppose... Or at least better.
2:56PM CNN tweet:
Demonstrators just prevented about 2 dozen Egyptian army soldiers from entering Tahrir Square.
3:01 PM McCain in Munich [really bad public relations, there... --lambert], ever the opportunist, called for Mub to go immediately after Wisner floated O's trial balloon, or whatever it was. Guardian:
7.41pm John McCain, who attended the security conference in Munich, has underlined what he sees as the need for Mubarak to go quickly, reports AP.
AJ 3:06PM Int: Senior generals have made up their minds; they are not letting Mub be marched out. Govt is trying to present normalcy. And the end of the day: The decisive moment will be who has the most resilience. Every revolution we know: Will the protesters outlast the Mub regime? Anch: Many revolutions end violently, don't they? Int: Military must make up its mind. I fear the momentum has shifted to Mub. There's a great deal of fluidity, however. A fierce struggle of political wills. The next few days will tell. [Shades of Elizabeth Drew. --lambert] Anch: Reports of another million man march tomorrow.
* * *
President Mubarak appears to have adopted a two-pronged approach to save his government and ward off his departure, BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi reports from Cairo. On the one hand, he has got rid of figures who have become, in the eyes of many Egyptians, hated symbols of his long rule, including his younger son Gamal. On the other, he has tightened his grip on the country, with the much-disliked plain-clothes police reappearing on the streets to round up pro-democracy activists, and state media stirring up nationalist sentiment and portraying the protest movement as a foreign plot.
The balance between the two sides in the Egyptian crisis is at a delicate juncture and it is still too early to see how the confrontation will end.
Here is a summary of the sources of strength of the two sides:
THE PROTEST MOVEMENT
* The protesters have the numbers, for the moment. The movement brought more than one million people onto the streets last Tuesday and its rally in central Cairo on Friday was almost as well attended. The protests have also been massive in provincial cities and towns, especially Alexandria, Suez and the textile town of Mahalla in the Nile Delta. ...
* The opposition has widespread international sympathy, enhanced by the reputation it has earned for non-violence. A crucial phase in the battle for public opinion came when Mubarak supporters attacked the protesters on Wednesday and tried to expel them from the square with rocks, petrol bombs and gunshots. The protesters are searched for weapons when they enter Tahrir Square and have to defend themselves with whatever they can find there.
* The protesters have a promise from the army that it will not shoot them. Although the army's role has been mysterious and ambiguous, most do at least trust the army to keep that promise.
* Foreign governments, the United Nations and international rights groups have upheld their right to demonstrate peacefully and is watching the Egyptian government's behavior carefully. Any attempt to disperse the Tahrir Square protests by force would lead to condemnation and international isolation.
* The opposition has the momentum, again for the moment. Mubarak and others in government have made a succession of concessions and gestures, the most important of which was Mubarak's announcement that he will not stand for re-election when his current term runs out in September. The core protesters have held fast to the demand that Mubarak must leave.
In other words, stalemate.
MUBARAK AND HIS GROUP
* Mubarak is supreme commander of the armed forces, which has more than 450,000 men and a vast arsenal of weapons. ... No outsiders can readily judge whether the army command might at some stage press Mubarak to give up and resign.
* The police forces, especially the Central Security riot police force, are in serious disarray after withdrawing from the streets on January 28....
* Mubarak remains president of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) but the party is immensely unpopular and many of its offices have been ransacked or burned. ...
* Mubarak still controls the state media, which have proved one of his most loyal tools, broadcasting a stream of propaganda in his favor. But many Egyptians now have access to a wide range of satellite television channels that the government cannot control. ...
* The popular uprising has alarmed many Egyptians, including some prosperous middle-class people, those who benefited from the old system and some Coptic Christians who fear the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in political life. But those people are unlikely to come out in the streets for the moment.
* Mubarak has support and sympathy from right-wing leaders in countries such as Israel, Italy and Saudi Arabia. On Saturday the United States shifted its position significantly, saying that Mubarak should stay on for some time to supervise political change -- not very different from Mubarak's position. But foreign connections are a political liability for both sides.
The future lies ahead!
* * *
[top] SIDEBAR Assassination story fail
3:46PM AJ Tweet:
Gov't denies reports that a motorcade of vice president Omar Suleiman had been targeted by gunfire, nor was he injured in any way
So much for that, and Hillary's remarks in Munich, too. Mub, through FOX, deked Hillary. If we can't manage our client states, then we no longer deserve the imperial role. It's worth noting that this little bit of disinformation took three-quarters of a news cycle to play out, and only FOX and the administration, including the SoS, took it seriously. I just reviewed Google news on this, and it looks like the story never propagated successfully outside the right-wing echo chamber; the best treatment it got was material like this from Reuters: "The Fox US television news network reported late on Friday," where the lead radiates skepticism, as does the embarassing headline: "Clinton: reported attack on Egypt VP shows risks. Well, no. It didn't. (Note additionally that the story attempts to undermine the protester's non-violent branding, so it's a two-fer.) Whoever the night desk editors were who saved their media outlets bacon on this one, instead of joining the pack, kudos, because they turned out to be smarter, more skeptical, and more informed than the US government.
* * *
Some ordinary Egyptians outside the protest area shouted profanities at those heading to the square in frustration at the collapse in law and order in some areas. Fights erupted now and then between protesters and people wanting them to go home.
4:12PM Anch: Is the constitution a deformed confection of a corrupt regime? On the other hand, some framework is better than none, isn't it? Int: Pres has ceded power when he has gone abroad for surgergy.
500 protesters have arrived in Tahrir Square from the port city of Suez. The protesters have called for another day of protests tomorrow called "the day of the martyred".
[Yes, the trains are working again. Cross-fertilization is always good, and one wonders whether tomorrow's demonstrations will be seen, in E, as a national uprising in all cities, were the committee members to take the night trains to Suez etc. --lambert]
Also on Sunday, the Copts in Egypt [Christians] have called for Sunday mass to take place in Tahrir Square.
[Superb public relations, if nothing else! --lambert]
Sunday will see Egyptian Christians praying in the square in a planned Sunday service. A month ago, the streets of Shubra, a Cairo suburb, saw scenes of uproar as Coptic Christians marched against police. They were angry at the deaths of 21 Copts in a suicide bombing on New Year's Eve. In contrast, Tahrir square is now filled with a secular, unified Cairo populace. Christians ringed their muslim colleagues earlier in the week to protect their prayers from police and Pro-Mubarak incursions.
Anch: Are we any more clear on O? Rep, Monica: Times says in private call for Mub, but not say officially, "make the right decision." So it's still a bit of a mystery.
Day-by-day from AJ anchor Jane Dutton. Great stuff.
If the situation is eventually stabilised so that the old regime survives but with some liberal cosmetic surgery, this will generate an insurmountable fundamentalist backlash.
NARUS deep packet inspection makes it to AJ. Phoned by AJ, Narus has no comment. Sweet!
10:26PM MB breaks ranks, enters negotiations with Mub. We'll see how the youth takes this. AJ:
[I]n an apparent bid to bring the impasse to an end, Egypt's outlawed opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, announced that it is joining the dialogue with the government.
The opposition had previously rejected all dialogue until Mubarak steps down. But the group confirmed to Al Jazeera on Sunday that it is joining talks with vice-president Omar Suleiman to end the crisis.
Al Jazeera's correspondent in the capital said the announcement is "highly significant".
"They are interested in talking about the resignation of president Mubarak," he said. "They want parliament resolved, they want those responsible for violence of the last few days put on trial ... and wanting to be able to peacefully protest."
11:02PM Anch: Daybreaks, curfew lifted. MB enters dialog. MB: "We gave conditions that agression stop, anybody cause harm to taken to court, peaceful demonstration is right. Amy stays in position. This is beginning of dialog." Int: Feared loss of opportunity, looked at NDP resignations, though people in the square are far from MB members." Anch: Latest from TS? Int: Very quiet. Cold. Singing. Military presence is low. Anch: Tomorrow? Int: Banks re-open, people are interested in going to work and restarting lives. Schools closed, and big businesses. Copts to hold services. Protesters organize Day of Martyrs in honor of those killed." ElB warns unrest could "turn vicious."
Rep, Nick Spicer: E TV annnounces big changes. Army tries to take down barricades. They chant, "We're not leaving, he is." Shafiq, return to stability. No longer events like last Friday. Opposition divided, but we will talk to anybody... Rep: Western diplomats changing emphasis from immediate to orderly transition.
Anch: Military key, dragging out resolution to absorb energy? Robert Springborg, int: Sul and the Army had reached out to the MB. And Gen. Kampawi when went to the square very visibly embraced an MB rep there. Anch: Tactic, direct anger to Mub, position selves to dominate? Rep: Two committees of non-brotherhood (ElB, "Wise Men") take a harder line than the MB about "respecting the outcome of the popular will." But Tatawi is very close to Mub, distributes patronage. If he comes out on top, no change. Anch: MB and Sul negotiations? Int: When Nasser and Sadat came to power, brought MB on board, then jettisoned. MB not a dominant political force. Their route to power is not democracy, but through the military. Playing a very cynical game here. Anch: Army loses income? Int: Some of those jettisoned from the Mub administration were in competion with the military economically, and so army can reinforce its own position. Now with the Brotherhood legitmating, much stronger position.
Crawler: MB to begins landmark talks with leaders of NDP party.
Crawler: Demonstrators say they will not leave until Mub leaves office.
For decades, though, most of these same governments have not pursued the kind of political and economic reforms that would make them more democratic, responsible, and accountable. In Doha last month, I urged the leaders of the region to address the needs and aspirations of their people and offer a positive vision for the future for their sake and for ours because the region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trends. A growing majority of its people are under the age of 30. Many of these young people, even the most educated among them, cannot find work.
At the same time, however, they are more connected with each other and with events occurring around them because of technology. And this generation is rightly demanding that their governments become more effective, more responsive, and more open. All of this is taking place against a backdrop of depleting resources. Water tables are dropping, and oil reserves are running out.
Leaders in the region may be able to hold back the tide for a little while, but not for long. That has been the story of the last weeks. It is what has driven demonstrators into the streets of Tunis, Cairo, and cities throughout the area. The status quo is simply not sustainable. So for all our friends, for all the friends in the region including governments and people, the challenge is to help our partners take systematic steps to usher in a better future where people’s voices are heard, their rights respected, and their aspirations met.
This is not simply a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity. Without genuine progress toward open and accountable political systems, the gap between people and their governments will only grow, and instability will only deepen. Across the region, there must be clear and real progress toward open, transparent, fair, and accountable systems. Now, in some countries, this transition is happening quickly; in others it will take more time. Different countries face different circumstances.
It's a good speech, marred by our unfortunate support for Suleiman (and thirty years of aid to Mub). And on "open and accountable political systems".... We need to keep our own side of the street clean, to say the least.