Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics
This is the Arab world’s Berlin moment. The authoritarian wall has fallen – and that’s regardless of whether Mubarak survives or not. It goes beyond Mubarak. The barrier of fear has been removed. It is really the beginning of the end of the status quo in the region. The introduction of the military speaks volumes about the failure of the police to suppress the protesters. The military has stepped in and will likely seal any vacuum of authority in the next few weeks. Mubarak is deeply wounded. He is bleeding terribly. We are witnessing the beginning of a new era.
The looting has prompted residents in some neighbourhoods, including the upscale Zamalek district in central Cairo, to set up vigilante groups to protect private property. Outside some apartment blocks, guards armed with machine guns had taken up posts.
In the Maadi area south of Cairo, neighbourhood mosques called on young men over loudspeakers to come down to the entrances of building and homes to ward off looters.
Naglaa Mahmoud, a Maadi resident, told the Associated Press that thugs were breaking cars and threatening to get into homes. She said even the ambulance service in the neighbourhood had abandoned their offices and accused the regime of planning the chaos by pulling out all of its police forces.
“All this seems to be prearranged. They are punishing us for asking for this change,” she said.
“What a shame he [Mubarak] doesn’t care for the people or anything. This is a corrupt regime.”
The military also urged local residents throughout the country to defend themselves from looters.
The Lede Blog at the NYT has more on ElBaradei’s early call for Mubarak to resign including a video of his interview. There are also some interesting quotes from Egyptian bloggers. This particular outcry to CNN changed their frame of the protests and the protesters. Propaganda any one?
Less than an hour after Mona Eltahway, an Egyptian blogger and journalist, appealed to CNN to stop focusing on looting and security problems in Egypt following the government’s decision to withdraw the police from the streets, the broadcaster has changed its onscreen headline from “CHAOS IN EGYPT” to “UPRISING IN EGYPT.”
Less happily for Egyptians who want to oust the Mubarak regime, and are tired of the argument that his government is a necessary bulwark against Islamist extremism, the network just aired a report that asked the question “What Happens if Mubrak falls?” that featured video of Ayman al-Zawahri, the Egyptian militant who is now Al Qaeda’s second in command.
Mohamed ElBaradei writes A Manifesto for Change in Egypt at The Daily Beast.
Then, as protests built in the streets of Egypt following the overthrow of Tunisia’s Idictator, I heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assessment that the government in Egypt is “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people”. I was flabbergasted—and I was puzzled. What did she mean by stable, and at what price? Is it the stability of 29 years of “emergency” laws, a president with imperial power for 30 years, a parliament that is almost a mockery, a judiciary that is not independent? Is that what you call stability? I am sure not. And I am positive that it is not the standard you apply to other countries. What we see in Egypt is pseudo-stability, because real stability only comes with a democratically elected government.
f you would like to know why the United States does not have credibility in the Middle East, that is precisely the answer. People were absolutely disappointed in the way you reacted to Egypt’s last election. You reaffirmed their belief that you are applying a double standard for your friends, and siding with an authoritarian regime just because you think it represents your interests. We are staring at social disintegration, economic stagnation, political repression, and we do not hear anything from you, the Americans, or for that matter from the Europeans.
So when you say the Egyptian government is looking for ways to respond to the needs of the Egyptian people, I feel like saying, “Well, it’s too late!” This isn’t even good realpolitik. We have seen what happened in Tunisia, and before that in Iran. That should teach people there is no stability except when you have government freely chosen by its own people.
Breaking news: 19 private planes have just arrived in Dubai. These are businessmen fleeing Egypt. (4:30 pm cst) These are tycoons that have played an important role propping up Mubarak and his party and have profited from his iron fist rule. This might be another sign that the ruling class is seeing the end.
Al Jazeera: Amongst the business tycoons who have fled are Hussein Salem, a huge NDP thug industrial investor in Sharm El Sheikh (corrected)
Al Jazeera: Also reports that (now) former NDP part thug & Gamal Mubarak confidant Ahmed Ezz has fled Egypt in a private jet.
This is kewl … do you suppose we can get Jeffrey Immelt out of the country to Dubai, some how too?
NPR has put up ‘A primer on Following Egyptian Protests on Twitter’. The relevant hash tags are #egypt and #jan25.
Under the category ask me why I hate the MSM:
weeddude Weed Dude
No wonder every one was so easily suckered on Iraq.
The protests were the top story on every major news outlet in the Middle East, but the day belonged to Al Jazeera. The station was the first to report that the governing party’s headquarters were set on fire. Breathless phone reports came in from Jazeera correspondents in towns across Egypt. Live footage from Cairo alternated with action shots that played again and again. Orchestral music played, conveying the sense of a long-awaited drama.
Al Jazeera kept up its coverage despite serious obstacles. The broadcaster’s separate live channel was removed from its satellite platform by the Egyptian government on Friday morning, its Cairo bureau had its telephones cut and its main news channel also faced signal interference, according to a statement released by the station. The director of the live channel issued an appeal to the Egyptian government to allow it to broadcast freely.
Other broadcasters, including CNN, said their reporters had been attacked and their cameras smashed by security forces.
Two major news items right now. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has called for Hosni Mubarak to step down and says that Egyptian state is in collapse. He’s asking for a unity government.
“People are desperate and anxious for change to happen overnight,” ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in the London-based monthly’s February edition. “I see that approaching. People say Egyptians are patient, but you go around the streets of Cairo and you’ll see that the tipping point coming.”
The West is “losing every ounce of credibility when it comes to convincing people here that it is serious about their basic values: democracy, freedom, justice, rule of law,” said ElBaradei, 68. “That fuels extremism. The West doesn’t realize that stability is not based on shortsighted security measures; stability will only come when people are empowered, when people are able to participate.”
There is looting by thugs on motorcycles and it appears to be thugs from the Mubarak’s political party. The Department of Interior’s police force appears to have melted away. There’s no visible presence of the police, only the military. There are reports that the National Museum with its incredible collection of antiquities has experienced looting and damage.
The museum in central Cairo, which has the world’s biggest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party that protesters had earlier set ablaze. Flames were seen still pouring out of the party headquarters early Saturday.
“I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night,” Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Saturday.
“Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies,” he said.
AJ also continues to update it’s live blog for the day. Here are three entries:
7:38pm Ayman Mohyeldin reports that eyewitnesses have said “party thugs” associated with the Egyptian regime’s Central Security Services – in plainclothes but bearing government-issued weapons – have been looting in Cairo. Ayman says the reports started off as isolated accounts but are now growing in number.
6:50pm As protesters continue to defy curfew, a bystander in Cairo tells Al Jazeera that there are no police left in the capital. Formerly omnipresent traffic police are nowhere to be found. Reports suggest that private property is being seized in locations throughout Egypt.
6:43pm Some of the rarest antiquities in the world are found damaged by looters at famed Cairo musuem.
There are marches on the street. People are dying and being hurt. At least 25 people have been killed in Cairo. Suez reports 38 deaths. Alexandria reports 36 killed. Women are being threatened with sexual assault. The Children’s Cancer Hospital has also been the target of looting. Again, it appears that may of the looters are the party police in plain clothes. AJ has been reporting that some were caught trying to loot richer areas and were found to be carrying ID cards from the State Security forces. People are still ignoring the curfew.
Probably the most disturbing announcement is that Egypt’s Head Spy is now the VP of the country. This is the man that has handled torture of US detainees.
In December, the Wall Street Journal’s Jerusalem correspondent pronounced Suleiman “the most likely successor … President Mubarak’s closest aide, charged with handling the country’s most sensitive issues.
“He also has close working relations with the U.S. and a lifetime of experience inside Egypt’s military and intelligence apparatus,” Charles Levinson wrote.
Likewise, the Voice of America said Friday, “Suleiman is seen by some analysts as a possible successor to the president.” “He earned international respect for his role as a mediator in Middle East affairs and for curbing Islamic extremism.”
An editorialist at Pakistan’s “International News” predicted Thursday that “Suleiman will probably scupper his boss’s plans [to install his son], even if the aspiring intelligence guru himself is as young as 75.”
Suleiman graduated from Egypt’s prestigious Military Academy but also received training in the Soviet Union. Under his guidance, Egyptian intelligence has worked hand-in-glove with the CIA’s counterterrorism programs, most notably in the 2003 rendition of an al-Qaeda suspect known as Abu Omar from Italy.
This thread will continue to update during the day.
Category of I know how they feel:
SultanAlQassemi Sultan Al Qassemi
Zuwail “There has been a shrinking in the middle class in Egypt while an elite group has become excessively wealthy” cc Ahmed Ezz/Gamal
SultanAlQassemi Sultan Al Qassemi
Zuwail “Education has been the issue in every household in Egypt. Science & research has reached the lowest levels, Egypt deserves better”
What you are seeing here is very interesting. These are Egyptian Muslims praying. Behind them are Egyptian Christians Guarding the neighborhood so they can pray safely.
You may remember that Wonk the Vote wrote a post with a similar theme in Egypt a few weeks ago when Egyptian Muslims surrounded Christian Churches who could celebrate Christmas with out fear of suicide bombers..
US President Barack Obama is preparing for a press conference and statement following Egyptian President’s Hosni Mubarak’s earlier TV appearance on Nile Television. No questions for Mubarak. How about Obama?
markknoller Mark Knoller
Pres. Obama willl be making his statement with the famous portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the wall behind him.
Other US reactions:
Crude oil prices spiked Friday as anti-government protests in Egypt sparked concerns over regional stability.
Prices settled just shy of $90 a barrel, for an increase of more than 4%.
The Obama administration is ramping up pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to address the grievances of the Egyptian people and said the government’s response to protests may affect U.S. aid.
“The people of Egypt are watching the government’s actions, they have for quite some time, and their grievances have reached a boiling point and they have to be addressed,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in Washington. The U.S. will be looking at its “assistance posture” toward Egypt, Gibbs said.
Starting with an early afternoon statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. today toughened its criticism of Mubarak’s methods in suppressing protests that pose the biggest challenge to his 30-year rule over the Arab world’s most populous country.
“For the U.S., any effort on our part to provide support for Mubarak is going to be read in Egypt as support for a crackdown and support for an undemocratic regime,” said Steven Cook, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “We need to be forward looking for this.”
More than 80 percent of U.S. aid to Egypt, or $1.3 billion, is in the form of military assistance, according to data supplied by the U.S. State Department. With President Barack Obama in power, military aid has stayed unchanged and economic assistance has been cut to $250 million from $411 million in 2008 with the phasing out of democracy-linked programs.
The amount of money Egypt receives from the U.S. is exceeded only by Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel, based on the State Department’s budget request for the current fiscal year.
Senator John Kerry is talking on AJ right now. He’s encouraging Mubarak to make changes. He’s also saying it’s not constructive right now to focus on negatives but positives. He’s saying Mubarak has opportunities. Wonder if this will be what Obama says …
ON NOW … 6:31 EST. It’s on CNN, etc.
AJ has a front row seat to this via a bureau there. BTW, take a look at how many silly Americans are leaving best wishes comments to Egyptians on this media outlet that is headquartered in Doha, Qatar and run/owned by folks from there. Such a geography #FAIL. On top of that, Egypt can’t get access to the internet right now. (Palm meet forehead!)