Today after hours of speculation fueled by senior Egyptian Army officers demonstrators in Tahrir Square believed that Hosni Mubarak was about to leave office. The Army High command convened without Mubarak present and issued statement which said:
“In the name of God, Statement No 1, issued by the Higher Council of the Armed Forces, stemming from the armed forces’ responsibility and committing to the protection of the people, safeguarding their interest and security, and keen on the safety of the homeland, the citizens and the achievements of the great Egyptian people, and asserting the legitimate rights of the people, the Higher Council of the Armed Forces convened today, Thursday 10 February 2011, to deliberate on the latest developments of the situation and decided to remain in continuous session to discuss what measures and arrangements could be taken to safeguard the homeland and its achievements, and the aspirations of the great Egyptian people. Peace, mercy and the blessings of God.”
It appeared that the Army was forcing Mubarak’s hand as earlier in the day General Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander went to Tahrir Square and told protesters in the square that “everything you want will be realized.”
It was announced that Mubarak would address the nation in the evening and other reports indicated that he would step down. Mubarak announced his intention to remain as President while handing over the some responsibilities to Vice President Omar Sulleimen. His tone was defiant although he said that he is “totally committed to fulfilling all the promises” that he has earlier made regarding constitutional and political reform. Both Mubarak and Sulleiman addressed the crowd saying that they understood them and promised justice for those martyred. After the initial shock wore off the demonstrators began to shake their shoes a sign of disrespect and some broke away from the main demonstration heading in the direction of the Presidential Palace. The Egyptian Ambassador to the United States Sameh Shoukry said “The vice president is the de facto president.”
None of this has swayed the demonstrators and the expectation is that even larger demonstrations will occur tomorrow. Some believe that Mubarak is baiting the protestors hoping that they will become violent so he has reason to use massive force against them. The Vice President is also in charge of the Interior Ministry which controls the Police, the Secret Police and a vast network of paid informants with an estimated one million men at his disposal. Mohammed El Baradei tweeted “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now.” Despite their chants for Mubarak to “go” the other chant was “peace.” It does not appear that the protesters will resort to violence with the mood still upbeat.
The question mark is still the Army which appears to have been blindsided by Mubarak’s announcement. Unlike those under Sulleiman’s command the Army contains large numbers of young people who likely have very similar sentiments to the protestors. I am sure that the Army High Command understands that fact. It is very possible that the Army is at loggerheads with Mubarak and Sulleiman.
Tomorrow will be critical. We do not know what will happen. As mysterious as the Sphinx itself the situation in Egypt remains a mystery to many observers. Will the Army take control? Will it stand by and do nothing? Will the Police take action? Will a civil war break out between the Army and the Interior Ministry forces?
We don’t know. However one thing can be certain if there is a crackdown on the demonstrators, which decapitates the movement the only benefits the Moslem Brotherhood which has been conspicuously absent from the demonstration and would be poised to take over leadership of the revolution should the Mubarak-Sulleiman government fall quickly. I do not expect the Army to lead any such crackdown but it is conceivable that the same thugs who attacked last week could do so again.
This was a very dangerous situation. I pray that the end will be peaceful.