Breaking: Mubarak to Step Down Tonight? *updated*
Not sure what to make of this, whether it’s speculation or not, but something seems to be going on:
The Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces has met to discuss the ongoing protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak, the president.
In a statement televised on state television, the army said it had convened the meeting response to the current political turmoil, and that it would continue to convene such meetings.
“Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation… and in support of the legitimate demands of the people [the army] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people,” the statement, titled “Communique No. 1” said.
Thurday’s meeting was chaired by Mohamed Tantawi, the defence minister, rather than Mubarak, who, as president, would normally have headed the meeting.
The army’s statement was met with a roar of approval from protesters in Tahrir Square, our correspondent reported.
Earlier, Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander, told protesters in the square on Thursday that “everything you want will be realised”.
Protesters have demanded that Mubarak stand down as president.
Hassam Badrawi, the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party, told the BBC and Channel 4 News on that he expected Mubarak to hand over his powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president.
Ahmed Shafiq, the country’s prime minister, also told the BBC that the president may step down on Thursday evening, and that the situation would be “clarified soon”.
UPDATE: On a related note, sage advice from Steve Clemmons over at the Washington Note:
…the failure to secure the Arab Peace Plan in the region that would have led to normalization between Israel and 57 other Arab and Muslim nations has also preempted security infrastructure discussions along the lines of an ASEAN Regional Forum for the Middle East. There has been a serious cost to the paralyzed Israel-Arab peace process.
James Goldgeier writes:
In 2011, the United States does not have the same standing in the Arab world with opposition movements that it did in 1989 in Europe, nor do these countries seek to join Western institutions.
The West has not promoted a Helsinki-type process in the Middle East that might have built ties with opposition forces, nor fostered a broader regional security framework that could promote peace. Although Hosni Mubarak won’t be around past September, President Obama doesn’t have the kinds of carrots for reform that his predecessors had in the 1990s. And even if Egypt makes a peaceful transition to democracy with a supportive, rather than oppressive, military, it is not inevitable that other Arab countries follow suit.
Secondly, as Goldgeier indicates, we have a weak record of reaching out to and even knowing the political opposition in these countries. We should know all sides of the equation — and yes, including the Muslim Brotherhood who themselves in many parts of the Middle East are the biggest advocates for democratic practice and principle.
It’s time that the US deal with all groups in these regions — and at least have interaction with and communications with key leaders. The Muslim Brotherhood is automatically part of that list, and it is in American interests — as well as in the interests of Israel and Arab states in the region — to begin to normalize discussions about democratic political norms with the rising political Islam movement.
So true. But sadly, our foreign policy establishment is incredibly resistant to this sort of change, which is ironic given it would allow us to stand behind our oft-stated principles while being less dependent on dictators in the region. It would also help promote Israel’s security.
UPDATE II: This article is about the alleged divisions in the administration over what to do with Egypt. If Sulieman is in charge doesn’t this just entrench the military dictatorship under the guise of a transition to democracy? Sulieman’s harsh, revealing and at times conspiracy-laden comments over the past few days have made clear he doesn’t really think the unwashed masses in the streets are ready for democracy and he’s willing to use his police powers to combat the protesters soon. The WH said the comments were “unhelpful.” I think they were very helpful, at least to anyone who wants to know what a transition under Sulieman will look like. They were only unhelpful to the WH because they exposed the weakness of their narrative that Sulieman could be the one to help Egypt transition to democracy.