Troops, demonstrators fraternize as Mubarak's regime totters

Rick Moran
There is a temptation to read a lot more into every scrap of news that is coming out of internetless Egypt and apply an inordinate amount of importance to it.

But taken together, these scraps and tidbits, and hint all point to the probability that unless something dramatic - and bloody - happens in the very near future, President Mubarak may find himself with no choice but to flee for his life.

A very bad sign - protestors and the military troops sent to crush them appear to be fraternizing in many places. The New York Times:

Egypt was engulfed in a fifth day of protests on Saturday but an attempt by President Hosni Mubarak to salvage his 30-year rule by firing his cabinet and calling out the army appeared to backfire as troops and demonstrators fraternized and called for the president himself to resign.

While some protesters clashed with police, army tanks expected to disperse the crowds in central Cairo and in the northern city of Alexandria instead became rest points and even, on occasion, part of the protests as anti-Mubarak graffiti were scrawled on them without interference from soldiers.
"Leave Hosni, you, your son and your corrupted party!" declared the graffiti on one tank as soldiers invited demonstrators to climb aboard and have their photographs taken with them.

"This is the revolution of all the people," declared the side of a second tank in downtown Cairo. Egyptian men all serve in the army, giving it a very different relationship to the people from that of the police.

The feared security police had largely withdrawn from central Cairo to take up positions around the presidential palace, with their places taken up by the army. 

If Mubarak can't trust the army, his regime is gone. If that's the case, the only question that remains is whether he takes the opportunity to leave, or whether he hunkers down in the presidential palace, willing to bring about some kind of Gotterdammerung that would make him a martyr in his own eyes.

There is still a chance for massive bloodshed on a scale that would far exceed the Iranian crackdown. And God knows what would happen if Mubarak were to leave. Would the street protests stop? Unknown. I suspect that history would repeat itself and that like Iran, there would be a short term interim government of moderately inclined technocrats (think Iran's first president after the Shah was overthrown Banisadr) followed by an election that elevated Islamic radicals to power.

That frightening scenario might actually happen unless the international community (the West) takes a strong hand and guides post-Mubarak Egypt to some rudimentary form of democracy.But unless the US takes the lead in such an effort - a dubious possibility given the cluelessness exhibited by Obama and our State Department to date - the Muslim Brotherhood appears more than willing to move into the void.




There is a temptation to read a lot more into every scrap of news that is coming out of internetless Egypt and apply an inordinate amount of importance to it.

But taken together, these scraps and tidbits, and hint all point to the probability that unless something dramatic - and bloody - happens in the very near future, President Mubarak may find himself with no choice but to flee for his life.

A very bad sign - protestors and the military troops sent to crush them appear to be fraternizing in many places. The New York Times:

Egypt was engulfed in a fifth day of protests on Saturday but an attempt by President Hosni Mubarak to salvage his 30-year rule by firing his cabinet and calling out the army appeared to backfire as troops and demonstrators fraternized and called for the president himself to resign.

While some protesters clashed with police, army tanks expected to disperse the crowds in central Cairo and in the northern city of Alexandria instead became rest points and even, on occasion, part of the protests as anti-Mubarak graffiti were scrawled on them without interference from soldiers.

"Leave Hosni, you, your son and your corrupted party!" declared the graffiti on one tank as soldiers invited demonstrators to climb aboard and have their photographs taken with them.

"This is the revolution of all the people," declared the side of a second tank in downtown Cairo. Egyptian men all serve in the army, giving it a very different relationship to the people from that of the police.

The feared security police had largely withdrawn from central Cairo to take up positions around the presidential palace, with their places taken up by the army. 

If Mubarak can't trust the army, his regime is gone. If that's the case, the only question that remains is whether he takes the opportunity to leave, or whether he hunkers down in the presidential palace, willing to bring about some kind of Gotterdammerung that would make him a martyr in his own eyes.

There is still a chance for massive bloodshed on a scale that would far exceed the Iranian crackdown. And God knows what would happen if Mubarak were to leave. Would the street protests stop? Unknown. I suspect that history would repeat itself and that like Iran, there would be a short term interim government of moderately inclined technocrats (think Iran's first president after the Shah was overthrown Banisadr) followed by an election that elevated Islamic radicals to power.

That frightening scenario might actually happen unless the international community (the West) takes a strong hand and guides post-Mubarak Egypt to some rudimentary form of democracy.But unless the US takes the lead in such an effort - a dubious possibility given the cluelessness exhibited by Obama and our State Department to date - the Muslim Brotherhood appears more than willing to move into the void.