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Live from Cairo (4)

BREAKING, Reuters: Egypt V-P Omar Suleiman says asked to start dialogue with all political parties: State TV

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[Welcome Confluence readers. New thread here! --lambert]

Sunday night: Crawler: ["Some"] protesters call nationwide strike.

This morning: Tuesday, million marches, in Cairo and Alexandria

2:21PM, AJ: Military statement: "fully aware" of demands "made by honest citizens" and "will not use force." Reuters translation:

"Your armed forces, who are aware of the legitimacy of your demands and are keen to assume their responsibility in protecting the nation and the citizens, affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody."

Again, however, it's not the army the people fear, but the police. [Statement interpreted by a retired general.

* * *

Cairo this evening.

Continuing to live-blog Al Jazeera's live stream. AJ's own blog. 1:20AM I'm going to bed. If anyone wants to update in comments, feel free. 9:00AM Starting again. New material is below the fold.

* * *

Since it's moving toward daytime in Cairo, I thought I'd do some light blogging with AJ in background; if I work late, maybe I'll see people moving back to Tahrir Square (if AJ leavs the feed off; they've tended to shut it down late at night). Earlier, much longer live blog here, and commentary for that here.

* * *

[Anch: Anchor; Rep: Reporter; Int: Interviewee; Mub: Mubarak; MB: Muslim Brotherhood; ElB: ElBaradei; E: Egypt, Egyptians; TS: Tahrir Square] Time stamps are EST.

* * *

~9:45PM Interview with doctor doing triage in hospital: Thousands of injuries. Bullets.

10:01PM Military setting up roadblocks around Cairo.

10:07PM Barricades, tanks positioned at intersections, setting up barricades, cutting off access to the Square, because there have been rumors of a General Strike.

[Useful links from Boing Boing.]

10:12PM Anch: Your take on the Army? DC Int: Heard for years army will not open fire. Whether they will answer the call to either repress or, like Tunisia, tell Mub to leave, don't know. They will do what the regime tells them to do. [Versailles mush]

10:13PM ["Football playing" youth on the street.]

10:26PM Institute for Peace Stephen Hayden: Need to see a split in the ruling coalition, as in Tunisia, and if that doesn't appear, they think they can weather the storm. A change in leadership is not a change in regime.

10:39PM Great post from George Washington on the looters as agent provocateurs. And see especially this comment.

11:07PM 6:00AM in Cairo now, only about 200 protesters in TS. Putting up barricades. Today, Monday, rumors of a General Strike. Internet is still down. Banks closed, stock exchange closed. Anch: How ordinary E get news? Rep: From state TV, which is [essentially Soviet] Govt backed media very skewed. Anch: Police coming back to streets. Any indication of events in burbs? Rep: A little quieter last night. Real backlash against it. Also, the barricades. Unconfirmed reports that looters had police papers. If police return to streets, will be interesting to see how they are received.

11:36PM [Ha ha Nile TV is called Denial TV. They have the same joke! --lambert]

12:01AM Protesters call general strike [#117]. Army erecting barricades in downtown Cairo. No traffic at all, when normally traffic now would be heavy.

12:09AM Anch: A misty morning, as dawn breaks over Cairo. Streets are empty. Don't know if it's that curfew is still in force for another 45 minutes, or the call for a general strike.

12:24AM Rep: Army helped youth to organize watches [gave them tips] [#198]. Not all police withdrawn; some helped [!]. Megaphones in mosques. People are "worried but not scared."

1:01AM Anch: Curfew over. There is traffic on Oct 6 bridge. Rep: Have sealed off TS with tanks and barricades. Helicopters. April 6 Movement calls for million march [#38] on Tuesday. Anch: Hard to see how communicate [Surely this pushes communications to the mosques. --lambert]

Imran Garda supplies "the template":

Formulaic responses

So this is how it works:

When an ally (who may well be the type to wonder what happened to the missing 0.1 per cent when he wins 99.9 per cent of votes at each of the last 12 elections he’s rigged) mows down peaceful protestors in the streets calling for change, or if an ally has a penchant for bombing civilians to smithereens, here is the template:

“We continue to monitor the situation and are very concerned about recent events in ______. We call for restraint on both sides. We urge President/Prime Minister/King ______ to facilitate dialogue and provide concrete steps towards a peaceful resolution.”

Luckily, there’s more flexibility if you’re not dealing with an ally - there is no stock template.

Try to throw in as many colourful condemnatory adjectives as possible. Toss in a couple of reminders of International Law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions; dig up a few things about what Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have to say - and basically be honest.

Haw. True, that.

1:18AM Anch: Protesters having heated discussions with tank's soldiers.

1:20AM Eyptians are using tor with dial-up. Tor has gone to 100,000s of downloads a day, and they're guessing E is why. [Huge!] [#180]

9:02AM Rep: Still 1000s in TS. Doctors taking care of elderly. People writing posters. Collecting garbage. Very much a movement still with no political affiliation. No flags of parties or political slogans. Police were redeployed. Six AJ journalists then released. Concrete blocks in front of the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of information and the Radio and TV. The images being broadcast are so important. US State calls for release of journalist. Look at the list of the new appointment, very little has changed. "Theatrical." "President doesn't seem to understand what these people want." [Really?? --lambert] Anch: Mood? Rep: More defiant, because of nature of protest. Many remained cautious. Now what you see is just as lively, now see how they are being supported, bring medical supplies, food, every time the numbers go down, you see another wave. You see people directing other people into the heart of the city. Flyers, for tomorrow, one million. Anch: Big test, the million march. Rep: Will let it take place? Trying to make it as hard to move. Protesters are trying to bring in more supporters, add a sense of reinforcement to the protesters in preparation for tomorrow. One million after one week would be unprecedented. Anch: One of our reporters not arrested, six others arrested, then released, but equipment seized.

9:47AM Int E Press Syndicate: The first measure taken was to cut off communications, then Internet, a large segment of E cannot interact or communcication, reflects reality of Mub. For first time, 7 days. The streets of Cairo and provinces, millions in streets. Anch: How reps like you getting stories out? Rep: Conventional and traditional means. Comm with colleages and famlies before comm with outside world. Main goal of cutting comm is to restrain people. Also railway lines suspended. [important. No answer on means, though] Anch: Will anything change for press when protests are over? Rep: The tougher the measures taken, the longer the demonstrations will stay. Always reinvigorated by repression.

~10:00AM Int: Police on streets, but only for traffic control, therefore innocuous. [I'm not so sure. Looks to me like both sides are building for the march tomorrow, and controlling traffic and the streets is a big part of that. --lambert]

10:21AM Int: E State TV putting on cooking shows.

10:28AM Int: SOs spokesperson PJ Crowley tweeted in support of releasing AJ journalists. O administration "increasingly definitive."

TS Square now.

10:56AM [AJ connection really bad, but I think that's my second world infrastructure up here, since my entire connection seems to be slow. Snarl. --lambert]

11:20AM Crawler: Panic food buying.

12:02PM [better connection]

12:02PM Paraphrasing rep: Seeing the barricades, thoughts -- Army making it harder to get into the square with barricades but more ominously making it more difficult for people to flee in case there is an incident. [important!] Rep: Strange ambiguity about the mood, people glad for security, but also very angry about deaths and injuries.

12:07 Anch: Tens of thousands march in Massoura, delta town, marching peacefully [#38]. Demanding revolution, demanding Mub step down. Million man march tomorrow, no sign protest intensity decreasing.

Hot spots:


Shubra District: Lot of protest, first organized and led by MB, march to TS

Heliopolois, where Pres Palace: could be the target of march tomorrow, heavy police presence.

AJ story on disparate reaction to renewed police presence:

"There are two schools of thought as far as the police are concerned: One is that many of them decided to join the protesters.

"The other is that the regime was saying to the people, 'You want to protest. We'll pull back the police and you feel what anarchy feels like'," our correspondent said.

After deadly clashes in which around 125 people were killed in Cairo and other cities, protesters complained that police were using excessive force.

But an Al Jazeera correspondent said some locals greeted police as "long-lost friends" on Monday.

"It's almost as if the population of Cairo is suffering from selective amnesia ... We saw one small boy carrying a tray a of tea to a group of policemen. Another man got out of his car, kissed and hugged the policemen." [#33]

No doubt both are true.

12:58PM [Bad connection, RL, and an amazing spate of posting material elsewhere are conspiring to prevent me from doing the minute-by-minute deal here. --lambert]

1:00PM Top of the hour: West scrambles to evacuate nationals. People still "pouring into" TS ignoring curfew in place for latst 5 hours [#196]. Mub still in power. New cabinet on state TV. Military presence heavy. Police on streets directing traffic. Banks and business closed. Million man march calls tomorrow:

Rep TS: Standing in crowd, thousands, many sitting. Big banner: Es want Mub to step down [#8]. Chants heard calling for march tomorrow [#7]. Very popular atmosphere. Humor: "Pres Mub demands a new country" Sign on garbage bag: "This is the new party HQ" [#35] People confident, sharing, but also people waiting. Army has absolutely sealed TS off with concrete blocks. Presence of concrete slabs is worrying, dangerous because people cannot flee.

Anch: Statement from Army "considering demands of people legitimate." Have you heard? Rep: Saw statement on state TV, army guarantee sec, will not use force. It's not the army people are worried about, but the police. [Rep did not answer question, that I heard.] Anch: How about travel restrictions? Rep: Train service suspended. But people can still demonstrate in home cities. People are coming here on foot in Cairo. Square is one huge pedestrian, a campsite. Constant helicopters. [Reminds me of LeGuin novel on The Dispossessed And see Kristof below.] Anch: Countermarch? Rep: Not heard ourselves [terrible connection from rep].

Kristof [!!] flew in from Davos [!!!]:

The atmosphere in Tahrir is festive and exhilarating. The army has tanks and armed soldiers, but they are friendly to the protesters, and many people take photos with them. At night, long after curfew, the mood is especially celebratory: people have campfires and sing songs, and everybody wants to give interviews and denounce Mubarak.

The people I talked to mostly insisted that the army would never open fire on civilians. I hope they're right. To me, the scene here is eerily like that of Tiananmen Square in the first week or so after martial law was declared on May 20, 1989, when soldiers and citizens cooperated closely. But then the Chinese government issued live ammunition and ordered troops to open fire, and on the night of June 3 to 4, they did - and the result was a massacre.

Both China and Egypt are ancient empires with autocratic history, but China is not a client state, either.

In the past, the army famously refused President Sadat's order to crack down on bread riots, and maybe they won't crack down this time. But I've seen this kind of scenario unfolding before in Indonesia, South Korea, Mongolia, Thailand, Taiwan and China, and the truth is that sometimes troops open fire and sometimes they don't. ...

One troubling sign is that the government isn't showing signs of backing down. It used fighter planes to buzz Tahrir, in what surely seems an effort to intimidate protesters. It moved the curfew even earlier today, to 3 pm. It has sent the police back into some areas. The Internet remains shut off. And the state media continue to be full of lies. None of that sounds like a government preparing to bow to the power of the people.

1:14PM Anch million? Int from MB: Two marches, one Alexandria, one Cairo. [Implies train shutdown not so important.] Anch: Police? Int: Saw none. Only army in the Street.

1:18PM Int: New cabinet stocked with military, just 1952. Anch: US pick miltiary over MB? Int: Would be a decisive break in US policy to support the aspirations of the poeple. Opp for US to re-evaluate failed policies. Ten years since 9/11, we are no better off. Anch: Thought Ahmenijaad would lose, now Tunis Int: Also Leb, PA. What's next? Jordan? Yemen? Int: Waves coming in, chickens coming home to roost. Politics have changed forever in E. A matter of time before the top brass step in and reconstitute themselves. We are at a critical juncture, opp patriotic and natioanlist, unfortuatnely, I think events are taking ant-democratic turn, more militarized politics if that were possible.

[If there's one thing we know, it's that Versailles doubles down on fail. --lambert]

1:19PM Anch: US has a big meeting. DC Rep: Were expecting to hear press briefings, but they have been delayed. Many closed door meetings. Do not expect O in public. Also notable that State D calls for free press not just social media. AJ playing in the White House [and why not?! --lambert] What we're watching is "calibration in real time." E long-time ally, so have diplomatic, economic, military concerns. Also has to be mindful of Middle East ["]peace["] process. And E controls Suez.

Izvestia on DC today:

After emerging from a White House meeting on Egypt on Monday, Marc Lynch, a foreign policy expert who blogs on the Middle East as Abu Aardvark, wrote on his Twitter feed: "as usual a lot of what you're hearing about the administration's policy is wrong."

He then responded on the social network to a plea from the Cairo-based blogger and journalist Issandr El Amrani – who wrote: "@abuaardvark Since they can't explain themselves clearly, perhaps you can translate for us!" – by summing up the Obama administration's current stance in this simple Twitbite:

@arabist U.S. Egypt policy translated: keep army from using violence + get transition to a post-Mubarak real democracy, but not sure how.

One of the experts at the meeting told Politico:

While the administration is considering various options -- including the possibility of at some point telling Mubarak privately it's time to leave -- "I don't think they are there yet."

1:30PM Int from London: E Chamber of Commerce: Banks are closed to prevent a run, Stock Exchange is 25% down. "Country cannot go like this." Agree could be a "vacuum," if Mub steps down, but not in if he does in favor of his "acceptable" VP.

Anchor cuts away to Catherine Ashton Foreign Policy Chief of EU: Freeze assets from people who embezzled public funds in EU. Measures against flawed elections in Belarus

Q: ElB a viable alternative?

Ashton: Not role of EU determine what happens? ElB appears to play a leading role, important govt enter into dialog. Absolutely essential to see dialog and not violence

Ashton: Plan to visit Tunisia in next few weeks [and not E].

1:40PM Int: Don't know who opposition can engage with, not the generals. Wash won't engage with MB or Kefiyya activists. Wash has problems negotiating with them. Anch: Parallel to Iran 1979, relied on one man? Int: No, break that, billions of tax dollars spent to buy the military. We are seeing that play out now. This is about support for an institution. "Breaking up is hard to do." The only people they can transition through are the military. Anch, chant: "Civilians, not military." [#7] Int: Mub could have put Suleiman in place 5 years ago. Now, not people are not only chanting Down With Mub, they're chanting Down With Mub and Sul. The longer this goes on, the less willing the people are to be ruled by the military.

[I'm reminded that like so many other neo-liberal policies, the "peace process" was put in place thirty years ago. Perhaps tectonic plates are shifting beneath it, too. --lambert]

1:49PM Ibrahim Arafat Qatar: Recent statement by military... Anch: Protect people, "support the aspirations of the people." Who can tell Mub to go? Int: Don't know what's behind the scene? Anch: Sul? Int: Could, he loves Mub. [Reminds me of "the wise men" telling Nixon to go] Int: An exceptional moment, street boiling, if tomorrow mass violence, army could itself become afraid for the unity of the army.

1:54PM Celebrities call for Mub to go: Omar Sharif, E top football star.

1:57PM [Tony Blair clip. He really does look like a weasel. You can almost see the nose hair twitching. --lambert]

1:58PM Presser upcoming. [Pre-game analysis of "orderly transition." Will Gibbs expand on that? What about military relations? $1.5 billion in aid -- cheap!!!! And here's Gibbs. Can't believe I'm watching a WH presser on AJ]:

G: Not up to us to determine when the grievances of the E people met by the E govt. Need for freedom to associate, comm, assemble, speech must be addressed in a substantive way. "Not picking between those on the street and those in the govt."

Q: Transition not through "toppling"?

G: No hypotheticals. "Orderly." Negotiations with broad segments including opposition groups. Pres spoke in Cairo. Free and fair elections in Sept [Feh! TX-2008 --lambert] Constitutional changes

Q: What is US doing rather than calling for it?

G: Let you report on that. Pres brief including "readouts" [?] from embassy. PDB mostly E. Deputies Commmittee standing meeting, Pres updated. Not about appointments, this is about actions. That's what people here and around the world need to see.

Q: Define "orderly transition"

G: What I just said. Include: A process of negotiation with broad cross section including the opposition. Have to address the freedoms E people seek. Changes in the Constitution to facilitate more open and democratic process. All must happen in the country to transition to something more democratic.

Q: Mub doing that?

G: Obvious "more work to be done"

Q: Military?

G: Contacts happen our govt and E govt. Thus far pleased at restraint and encouraged, even as we see "increased participation by protesters tomorrow" hope that "calm carries the day."

Q: Admin contact with ElB?

A: Embassy, in past. Along with host of non-governmental voices, whether opposition or business, we are in touch with. Will reach out to civil society figures.

Q: In last week?

G: Not aware.

Q: Make sense?

G: [Answered above]

Q: How about the MB?

[Anch broke in!!! This is the answer I wanted to hear!!! --lambert]

[Anch cuts away to expert]

Anch: [Is it all BS from Gibbs?] Int, Martin Indyk former amb to Israel: WH does not want to be seen to lead the charge. Anch: Understandable, but certainly people say that US could support protesters Int: Make clear no violence against protesters, cannot under American law use weapons against E people. Also signal of "reform" to "transition" is key. Anch: Does US want to see free and fair elections? Int: [blah but yes] Anch: O on the campaign trail, I opposed elections with Hamas on ballot, but Bush went ahead and Hamas controls. Int: O moved to "building blocks" approach, stuff of democracy, but events in TS are moving at a dizzying pace. What is the best way to achieve a peaceful transition? Anch: Quotes Indyk "All our interests will be harder if we lose E." Why is a democratic outcome a loss and not a gain? Amb: [Inexplicably andsuddenly a test pattern appears on the Amb screen. HA HA HA --lambert]

Anch: What does "broad cross section" mean? Rep: Quite notable.

[Good live Q&A with Hossam el-Hamalawy here? --lambert]

London: What does "diffusing the revolution" mean for you? What is the aim of this revolution if not an interim leader and then a properly and freely elected new government?

Hossam el-Hamalawy: The revolution for me is about radical redistribution of wealth and a government that will represent the will of the Egyptian people when it comes to civil liberties in addition to a pro-resistance stand vis a vis the U.S. hegemony on the region and Israel. ElBaradei is not the man for that.

2:31PM Int: NDP members are starting to criticize each other. "Rainbow coalition" needs study. Organization, funding... Scholars will study for years.... [True, that. --lambert]

2:38PM Int: Unconfirmed "Revered" Nobel prize winner Ahmed Zewail, Chemistry, 1999 [not ElB] going to meet with Mub? Anch: Don't want to jump the gun.

3:14PM Anch: Not intervene? Int with retired General [!!]: Statement very clear, reiterates that the army is joining the side of the people. 1. Demands lawful 2. Army and people are keen on avoiding destruction of property 3. Army with the people have their own spirit. 4. Army will not use force, which is in harmony with spirit of people. Anch: Statement made on TV, which Pres controls. Means army not support Mub? Int: Military does not exercise caution while addressing interests of the poeple. Statement was released on many stations, not just state TV, the stone is studied. Anch: Encourage protesters? Int: Cannot say. Based on military experience, tell people I will take your side, legitimate, with you, no force so long as I support lawful demand. Anch: How affect security forces? Int: Obvious mil is in control of security. Will protect people and lawful demands. Will protect the institutions and property of the state.

No votes yet


Valley Girl's picture
Submitted by Valley Girl on

Hi Lambert,

I've been a bit confused by the times you use.

Are they E time?

Oh, and the Al Jazzera blog is worth following. All times are local. Cairo is 8 hours ahead of those of us in EST.

(All times are local in Egypt.)

5:15am Protesters are still camped out in central Cairo. "The army has to choose between Egypt and Mubarak," one banner reads in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where demonstrators share food with soldiers.

Submitted by lambert on

Have to be, I can't be doing arithmetic from GMT....

Yes, I check AJ's blog. There's a lost in one of the previous posts; the Guardian's is excellent. They have audio reports, too.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

Which is, conveniently, located right next to Al Jazeera on my TV service, is also sending out excellent coverage--and I think they have a bit of an edge over AJ on the coverage of (Francophone) Tunisia, not surprising.

They have a live feed online.

I have been flipping back and forth between the two networks, but I find France 24 to be a bit easier on the eyes--better designed sets, better quality video.

France 24 has taken over from the Beeb as my 24 hour news network of choice.

MoveThatBus's picture
Submitted by MoveThatBus on

She's lived there for 4 years now. Works for USAID. She has absolutely no intentions of evacuating. I can't wait until her next trip home when she can share the details of her front row seat to such a huge event. Doesn't stop me from the anxiety of her safety, of course. She managed to get a call out yesterday, but not much information was shared.

MoveThatBus's picture
Submitted by MoveThatBus on

She has a very interesting position to observe, and participate from. She's staying because "it is what [she] was trained for." I found that to be a most curious comment. Also makes me wonder just how much she will be able to tell.

Submitted by lambert on

Although that is a "curious" comment indeed.