February 03, 2011
The Mubarek Gamble: The Counter-Rev.
Mubarak's speech to the nation on Tuesday night was widely misinterpreted. The president was, by turns, angry, defiant and unrepentant. He offered no apologies, proposed no new initiatives, gave no promise that his son Gamal would not succeed him, and instead lectured Egyptians on the importance of order and stability (which he alone could assure).
He appeared not to have learned anything from the past week. And his one "concession" – that he would not seek re-election – was no concession at all. After all, he had never said he would.
This was not the performance of a defeated man. Mubarak may be down but he's not out. And judging by today's events in Tahrir Square, he and the military-dominated clique around him clearly feel they have done enough, for now, to get the Americans off their backs, flex their still considerable muscle, and reclaim the streets for the regime. All the talk about reform and elections and negotiations can wait, whatever Barack Obama says.
Today's immediate message to the people from an unvanquished, still vicious regime: it's over – go home, or else.
There's a good to middling chance the counter-revolution strategy will work, given time. "Imagine yourself as Hosni Mubarak, master of Egypt for nearly 30 years. You're old, unwell, detested and addicted to power," wrote Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens.
"You could have orchestrated a graceful exit by promising to preside over free and fair presidential elections later this year – elections in which the Mubarak name would not be on the ballot. Instead you gambled that you could ride out the protests and hold on. It's a pretty good gamble ..."
It is a good gamble. He need only have more stamina, and be willing to kill. He has shown he lacks neither.
As further noted
Reasons for believing Mubarak can not only survive the next eight months but also exert decisive, possibly fatally obstructive influence over Egypt's new direction are plentiful. As matters stand now, the regime is unreconstructed, the opposition is split, and the Americans are undecided. Despite his insistence on a swift, orderly transition, Obama has not withdrawn his personal support. In Brussels today, the EU also declined to demand Mubarak's immediate resignation. David Cameron said reforms must be implemented faster.
All of them got a dusty brush-off. In an official statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry, still led by an old Mubarak crony, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, rejected US and European calls for the transition to start now. Calls from "foreign parties" were "aimed to incite the internal situation," it said. In other words: get lost.
The US so far has not been able to get through.... the statements of support for Stablility in a transition is read in Egypt as Mubarek support, although doubtless it is not so intended.
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It is quite clear he didn't budge an inch, changes were merely deck reshuffling, and that at most he was considering this at most just a very large Bread Riot. His tone is subtly threatening but still clearly so.
I think my ten day metric holds. We shall see.
The wild card in the mix: cholesterol wins. In the middle of all this, with age and extra stress exertion, nature suddenly calls the Big Guy home. Interesting what would happen then, aside from conspiracy theories and attributions of divine intervention.
Posted by: matthew h at February 3, 2011 09:44 AM
Ben Ali did not panic by the way. You had half a million people at the interior ministry and they were ready to march on Carthage. That was the level of hatred and the momentum.
What I'm not seeing in Egypt is that. The neecessary rage to march over Heliopolis.
Mubarak stood firm but it's not clear that the army is 100pc behind him. That, I think, is the crux of what happens next.
To backtrack a bit - the police (Interior Min people) fought back the protests, but lost the initiative. They then disappeared, whether on orders or not we can't confirm. WSJ reports it was fit of pique by al Adly, but that could be regime spin (given al Adly was relieved of his duties).
The army, meanwhile, has made a point of not intervening, except to try to prevent violence - which has put it at odds of the thugs who were brought back out again today (Thursday). (Reports suggest that at least around Tahrir they have foiled the pro-Mubarak protestors).
So it seems to me that Mubarak is gambling that he can out-wait Obama and the protestors and the army will hold strong.
But the question of the army is, to me, very much up in the air.
Posted by: matt aka yinshuisiyuan at February 3, 2011 08:58 PM