January 31, 2011

EDITOR: Mubarak still has one reliable friend…

Below you can read about the one friend who still support Mubarak unflinchingly… it is of course Mr. Netanyahu. If there is one person in the whole world, whose support Mubarak could do without, it is Netanyahu, of course. How bizarre that he should try to shore him up with the very words which will prove fatal to his dear friend in brutality and opression. It seems that Netanyahu is constantly on the phone trying to save Mubarak… What has he in mind? Using the Israeli army to take over Tahrir Square?

Well, maybe he has two fiends left… Peres is also putting the knife in, by declaring unending, eternal love…

Israel urges world to curb criticism of Egypt’s Mubarak: Haaretz

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime.

Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Hosni Mubarak to preserve stability in the region.

Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. The diplomatic measures came after statements in Western capitals implying that the United States and European Union supported Mubarak’s ouster.

Israeli officials are keeping a low profile on the events in Egypt, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even ordering cabinet members to avoid commenting publicly on the issue.

Senior Israeli officials, however, said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries. The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt’s stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible.

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the situation in Egypt at a special session today in Brussels, after which they are expected to issue a statement echoing those issued in recent days by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Obama called on Mubarak to take “concrete steps” toward democratic reforms and to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters, sentiments echoed in a statement Saturday night by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.

“The Americans and the Europeans are being pulled along by public opinion and aren’t considering their genuine interests,” one senior Israeli official said. “Even if they are critical of Mubarak they have to make their friends feel that they’re not alone. Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications.”

Netanyahu announced at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that the security cabinet will convene Monday to discuss the situation in Egypt.

“The peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these relations will continue to exist,” Netanyahu told his ministers. “We are closely monitoring events in Egypt and the region and are making efforts to preserve its security and stability.”

The Foreign Ministry has called on Israelis currently in Egypt to consider returning home and for those planning to visit the country to reconsider. It is telling Israelis who have decided to remain in Egypt to obey government directives.

Gaza-Egypt border sealed indefinitely: Ma’an News Agency

January 31, 2011 – 12:00am
Egyptian authorities have closed the crossing with the Gaza Strip indefinitely as its army deploys in the northern Sinai, a Ma’an correspondent said Sunday.

Egyptian security contacted officials in Gaza to check up on the situation along the Rafah border, and Hamas authorities confirmed that large numbers of security officers were deployed at the crossing.

Authorities in Gaza also confirmed that strict instructions were given to smugglers telling them all tunnels would remain closed to ensure no Palestinians in Gaza were able to enter Egypt.

Gaza border official Ghazi Hamad said Rafah would be closed Sunday in both directions.

“Egyptian officials informed the crossing department in Gaza,” Hamad said highlighting that the terminal could remain closed for several days. He called on the Egyptian authorities to keep the crossing open “because closure harms passengers, especially those who need to travel to Egypt for medical treatment.”

Hamad pointed out that on Thursday and Wednesday, the Rafah crossing operated normally as about 500 people left to Egypt and 200 arrived in Gaza.

Egypt had opened Rafah permanently (five days a week) on June 2010 following an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Before that, the crossing had been closed for three years.

Meanwhile crowds of protesters began massing in central Egypt for a sixth day of angry revolt against Hosni Mubarak’s regime, with over 100 already dead in protests demanding the veteran president quit.

Around 200 civilians spent the night on the central Tahrir square, the epicenter of protests since Tuesday, surrounded by army tanks although troops took no action against those breaking a night-time curfew.

More people began arriving on the square early Sunday, normally the start of the working week in Cairo, with a man waving an Egyptian flag as a military helicopter circled overhead.

Groups of club-carrying vigilantes slowly left the streets that they had been protecting from rampant looting overnight amid growing insecurity as the Arab world’s most populous nation faced an uncertain future.

Youths handed over to the army those they suspected of looting, with the police that has been fighting running battles with stone-throwing protesters in recent days hardly visible.

Many petrol stations are now running out of fuel, motorists said, and many bank cash machines have either been looted or are no longer working. Egyptian banks and the stock exchange have been ordered closed on Sunday.

Netanyahu warns outcome of Egypt revolution could be like Iran’s: Haaretz

Netanyahu meets with German chancellor to discuss Egypt crisis, Mideast peace; Merkel says Israel must freeze settlements to move peace process forward.

What happened in Iran could happen in Egypt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The German chancellor, who arrived in Israel earlier in the day, told Netanyahu during the meeting that it was especially important to move the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians forward in light of the unrest in Egypt.

In Israel’s neighboring Egypt, demonstrations and riots have continued unabated for almost a week straight. Netanyahu and Merkel reportedly spent a large amount of time during their meeting discussing the unrest.

Netanyahu said he feared that a radical Islamic regime like the one in Iran could also come to power in Egypt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before a meeting in Jerusalem on Jan. 31, 2011.

Peace talks initiated by the United States grinded to a halt in September after a 10 month freeze on West Bank settlement building expired. Attempts to restart the talks have since failed, with the Palestinians insisting that they won’t negotiate without a complete settlement freeze. Israel has meanwhile insisted that they are ready to continue negotiations, but they are waiting for the Palestinians to return to the table.

Netanyahu responded to Merkel by saying that settlements were not an obstacle to peace, adding that settlement building under his government has decreased greatly in comparison to previous governments. He also said that it was up to the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table and renew peace talks.

Senior officials in Merkel’s office have said recently during closed door briefings that the chancellor will be very tough with Netanyahu and will use the meeting as a chance to tell him that it is his responsibility to renew the peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Merkel arrived in Israel on Monday as part of the third round of talks in an ongoing dialogue between the two countries.

Peres: Israel has great respect for Egyptian president: Jerusalem Post

01/31/2011 15:48

President Shimon Peres has not abandoned his old friend Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “We always have had and will have great respect for President Mubaraek. Not everything he did was right, but he did do one thing for which all of us are thankful. He was the peace keeper of the Middle East,” Peres told incoming Costa Rican Ambassador Rodrigo Carreras, the first of five new ambassadors who on Monday presented their credentials. The others were Estonia’s Tiina Intelmann, Chile’s Joaquin Montes Larrain, Bulgaria’s Yuri Borissov Sterk and Ethiopia’s Helawe Yosef Mengistu.

Acknowledging that Mubarak had not always taken an ideal course, Peres, alluding to the riots in Egypt and the current regime in Iran, declared “a fanatic religious oligarch is not better than lack of democracy.” He then went on to say that most people think that democracy is only elections. But democracy is much more, he asserted. It is also peace and freedom.

From the front lines of the Egyptian uprising: The Electronic Intifada

Matthew Cassel, 30 January 2011
It’s been a long time coming, but change is on its way to Egypt.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo's Imbaba neighborhood, calling for the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, 28 January 2010. (Matthew Cassel)

In the working-class area of Imbaba in Cairo on Friday, 28 January, I and my companions joined a group of fifty or so protesters marching up and down the street. The crowd shouted “come down! come down!” to neighbors. Without even realizing that others were joining I looked back at one point to see that 50 had become 500, and not long after I couldn’t see the end of the mass marching through the streets.

As we marched, the Egyptian police hiding in their armored vehicles waited until the march got close. When it did they fired tear gas indiscriminately. People fled, and bystanders, including old women and children in their homes, panicked by the suffocating fumes of the tear gas, which was all marked “Made in the USA.”

The crowds dispersed, but only briefly. Moments later the mass was reformed and the march continued. Down one street and then another, it had no direction, no leadership. Just deep anger and frustration at thirty years of what everyone has been describing as a dictator whose corruption has destroyed the country. Despite the fact that they cannot communicate with each other now, nor could they organize freely or have access to a free media for thirty years, Egyptians from across the country have been unequivocal in their one demand: Mubarak must go.

Finally, when the march in Imbaba reached a certain point, the police decided it was enough. They formed a blockade and when the protesters neared, the gas began to fly. Non-stop tear gas — even two days later I can still smell it on my clothes. People fled, and they returned. It was an organic uprising that could not be stopped, the likes of which I had only previously seen in one place: Palestine.

The intifada was an organic uprising when Palestinians said enough was enough. Without even having to think, people took to the streets to challenge the oppressive rule of their Israeli occupiers. They were killed, beaten, arrested — but nothing could stop them. Egypt today is no different.

While it cannot be described as a foreign occupation, the oppression is there. And in both cases, the one supporting and financing the oppression is the same. Without the US government’s billions of dollars to both Israel and Egypt, there would be no intifada. There would be no deaths now, there would be no thugs roaming the streets and reports of bodies being dumped on the side of the road. That’s not to say without the US there would be a utopia, but without the US there sure as hell wouldn’t be this.

Now US State Department officials are calling on the Egyptian government to refrain from violence and making statements that feign concern about Egyptian lives. If that was true, the tear gas would not say “Made in the USA,” and a brutal dictator would not be supported with billions each year to oppress his people.

But US foreign policy that is becoming irrelevant, a failed imperialist ideology that people are standing up to. Resistance is taking over. And like in Imbaba, or Tahrir Square, or anywhere else, it’s not resistance of any one color. Hostile media appear to be hoping, as they did for Tunisia, that it has an Islamist element.

It doesn’t. The resistance is led by the people of this region, whatever their background may be. At Tahrir Square in central Cairo yesterday I saw young communist women chanting for Mubarak’s ouster next to men who minutes later were on the ground praying. Like in Lebanon, resistance against Israel and US intervention has widespread support, even if the military aspect of such resistance is led by Hizballah, a religious movement. You won’t find many Lebanese to tell you that they do not support resistance to Israel’s attacks on their country.

And the resistance is spreading. Here in Egypt, it appears to be unstoppable. After thirty years of Mubarak’s suffocating rule, the people are finally saying enough. There is hardly one place in the entire country where the dictator can go to escape the shouts demanding his overthrow. In response, he’s cut off communication. The Internet is still down, so is SMS. Mobile phones are only working sporadically. Today, Mubarak’s Minister of Information, who was supposedly dismissed on Friday in an attempt to placate demonstrators, came out and revoked Al Jazeera’s press credentials and ordered a shut down of what’s become the world’s most important news organization.

What makes an unstable situation all the more unsettling is that people are not only unable to communicate with the outside world, but also with their friends and loved ones inside the country. And this was the government’s tactic to try and terrorize its people even further and frighten them from going out into the streets in protest. It didn’t work. On Friday hundreds of thousands came out around the country to take their demands for change into the streets.

Yet in Egypt and beyond, resistance is spreading. It’s impossible to say when it started. In Egypt it was the killing of Khaled Said, the young man stomped to death by Egyptian police in June of last year Alexandria that brought protesters to the street on 25 January to protest the police and their dictator. Was it was the popular uprising in Tunisia that ousted that country’s Western-backed dictator of 23 years that sent shockwaves of inspiration throughout the Arab world? Could it have been Hizballah’s defeat of Israel during the latter’s war on Lebanon in 2006? Or the failed war on Iraq that the US cannot escape? Or the Palestinian steadfastness in their decades of struggle to liberate their lands?

Regardless of what sparked the situation that exists today, Arabs are uniting in their resistance to Western interference in the region and its oppressive autocracies. As one Egyptian activist said to me yesterday, “They try to say that we Arabs are all different and we’re disconnected. But look what’s happening now: uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen — even Jordan! We are one, it’s absolutely clear.”

The people in Imbaba, who faced wave after wave of US made weaponry, fought back and refused to give up. After the first few hours protesters grew used to the tear-gas. I know because I was at their side documenting their struggle. I could feel the effects of the stinging gas less and less as time went on. I no longer had to run into alley to breathe fresh air after inhaling the poisonous fumes. The protesters bravely pushed forward until after almost six hours the police retreated.

This wasn’t an isolated protest. It was only one of many happening around the country. Compared to other reports, it was actually one of the smaller ones in Cairo. Now, it’s up to the world and those in solidarity with Egyptians to take a stand and demand that the killing end and the Egyptian people’s grievances be met. The longer we delay, the more Egyptian blood will be spilled. With billions of US support each year, the Mubarak regime has had the resources and the time to develop well-armed and well-trained forces to repress those forced to suffer under his rule.

My taxi driver last night was in tears when he described to me how difficult the last thirty years has been for not only him, but every single Egyptian in every part of this vast country. “We want freedom, that’s it,” he told me. A simple demand, and one that we all have a duty to support.

Matthew Cassel is based in Beirut, Lebanon and is Assistant Editor of The Electronic Intifada. His website is justimage.org.

Arab Israelis back Egyptian protestors: YNet

Protests held across nation; former MK Makhoul: We’re showing solidarity with Arab nations

Arab Israelis held rallies of solidarity with Egyptian protestors across the nation Saturday, expressing their support for ongoing protests threatening to topple President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

In Haifa, dozens of Arab residents accompanied by leftist activists gathered for a protest and held up communist, Palestinian and Tunisian flags. The demonstrators chanted slogans in support of the Egyptian uprising while slamming President Mubarak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Former Knesset Member Issam Makhoul took part in the protest, which he said was meant to “show solidarity with the uprising of Arab nations in general, and with the Egyptians in particular.”

“Now, a new Middle East had truly been born. The struggle aims to return the government in these states to their peoples,” he said. “We are not indifferent to this struggle and we aren’t neutral. We urge the Egyptian people to resist the weak regime, which was associated with American imperialism and its regional interests.”

Another protestor, Dalit, told Ynet that she arrived in order to show solidarity with the Egyptian people.

“This is truly a revolution. It’s a struggle for freedom and for the most basic rights of people living under dictatorial regimes,” she said.

Former MK Makhoul added that while he does not expect a Cairo revolution to affect the peace treaty with Israel, “popular uprisings that weaken America’s hold on the region will clearly affect Israel too.” He estimated that the Egyptian uprising has already succeeded, and that Mubarak is a “dead horse” even if he remains in power for a few more months.

‘Mubarak and Sadat – American dogs’
In Tel Aviv, some 20 people, both Jewish and Arab, protested outside the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv. Some of them held up signs slamming the Egyptian government, whole others waved small flags to show their solidarity with the protests. Some of the demonstrators arrived directly from the rally against “Jewish settlement” in Jaffa held earlier Saturday.

Tunisian, Palestinian flags in Haifa (Photo: Ahiya Raved)

During the rally, an Egyptian embassy official came out and ordered a Ynet photographer to refrain from documenting the protest. A police cruiser also arrived at the scene to maintain the peace. At this time it is unclear whether the embassy will operate normally Sunday.

During the rally, one protestor used a loudspeaker to charge that “(Former Egyptian leader) Nasser left American dogs after his death: Mubarak and Sadat.” Another protestor, Hadash activist Rasul Saada, praised the “heroic Egyptian people,” while expressing his hope for revolutions in more Arab states.

“The time has come for real democracies in Arab states,” he said.

Another rally was held in the northern Israel village Kfar Yassif, where some 200 people gathered to express their solidarity with Arab nations. The protestors included Knesset Members Mohammad Barakeh, Hanna Swaid, Afou Agbaria, Mohamed Naffa and Dov Khenin.

“We support and are excited by each move taken by the Egyptian people in order to remove Mubarak and the Egyptian regime,” Nafa said at the event.

Dead-Enders on the Potomac: MERIP

From the Editors, January 29, 2011
Every US administration has its mouthpiece in Washington’s think tank world, its courtier that will slavishly praise its every utterance. For the blessedly bygone Bush administration, that echo chamber was the American Enterprise Institute and the neo-conservative broadsheets in its orbit. For the Obama administration, it is the National Security Network, an operation founded in 2006 to bring “strategic focus to the progressive national security community.”

With one US-backed Arab despot dislodged and dodging Interpol, and another facing an intifada of historic proportions, many eyes looked to Washington, hopeful that President Barack Obama might reprise his ballyhooed Cairo speech of June 2009, showing the restive Arab masses that he felt and, perhaps, really understood their pain. Instead, Arab populations have heard a variation on Washington’s long-standing theme: “The Obama administration seeks to encourage political reforms without destabilizing the region.” That sentence, taken from the National Security Network’s January 27 press release, says it all: Democracy is great in theory, but if it will cause any disruption to business as usual, Washington prefers dictatorship.

And so it was no surprise, though a deep and indelible blot upon Obama and his “progressive” entourage, when the president took a White House lectern on the evening of January 28 — Egypt’s “Friday of Rage” — and announced his continued backing for the indefensible regime of President Husni Mubarak. In so doing, he ensured that the Arab fury of the winter of 2011 would be directed increasingly toward the United States as well as its regional vassals.

January 28 in Egypt was a rollercoaster of a day. The mass demonstrations following up on the January 25 Police Day uprising turned out to be larger and more vehement than even optimistic observers expected. Police stations and ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters burned to the ground in the middle-class Cairo neighborhoods of al-Azbakiyya and Sayyida Zaynab, as well as in poorer quarters, in Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, Damietta and Damanhour as well as in Upper Egypt and the Sinai. The NDP’s home base in Cairo’s main Tahrir Square itself went up in flames. Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, was overrun by protesters who had overwhelmed the riot police. Tanks rolled in to the cities; a curfew was declared; but the crowds ignored it and the army (for the most part) did not shoot at them.

On Al Jazeera, whose live feeds in both English and Arabic have riveted world audiences, the anchors did not quite know what narrative frame to employ, so rapid was the pace of events and so contradictory were the signals coming from the corridors of power. In Washington, outgoing White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs held a special briefing to discuss Egypt and, to a direct question, said that Obama had not spoken to Mubarak. Gibbs continued that US aid to Egypt, recipient of the second-largest annual packages since 1979, would be placed “under review.” A Pentagon spokesman added that the Egyptian army’s chief of staff, in Washington for consultations, had cut his trip short and returned home. Had the Obama team abandoned the Egyptian dictator to fate? In Cairo, as midnight approached, the speaker of the Egyptian parliament, Fathi Surour, said that he would have an “important announcement” soon. By the Egyptian constitution, like the Tunisian one, the speaker of Parliament is custodian of state in the case of a vacant presidency. Was Mubarak boarding a plane for exile? On the Arabic-language channel, several of the reporters, commentators and analysts could barely contain their jubilation. Not only did it seem that Mubarak would decamp exactly as Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had done; he would do so with Egyptian protesters having died in fewer numbers than Tunisians.

Then the 82-year old Mubarak appeared on Egyptian state television himself. Egyptians must have felt as if they had traveled back in time, to the moment of any minor hiccup in the regime’s 30-year reign: Claiming to carry the protesters’ grievances in his heart, Mubarak vowed to speed up his program of political and economic reforms. Clearly, judging by the scenes in the streets, he had chosen the wrong team of ministers to implement the grand vision. That cabinet would be dismissed and a fresh one empaneled, all under his wise executive guidance, of course. In the meantime, he warned, “setting fires in the streets” was not the way to engage in dialogue with his government. The forces of law and order would prevail.

To this fossil of an oration, this half-debased, half-delusional assurance that all was normal as the capital burned in the wee hours of the morning, Egyptian opposition figures had an immediate, unequivocal response. Amin Iskandar of the Karama Party, a splinter of the Nasserist movement, predicted that Mubarak had delivered his last speech, for the uprising would continue unabated on the morrow. “The Egyptian people will not be fooled again” by droning repetition of past promises unfulfilled, he declared. ‘Isam Sultan, Al Jazeera’s next guest, one-upped Iskandar by saying that the demonstrators would press on without sleep until Mubarak was gone for good. Such, after all, has been the crystal-clear demand of the protests on Police Day and subsequently.

But apparently the Obama administration did not care to listen. Obama strode to the podium just minutes after Mubarak had finished his remarks, leaving little doubt that the timing of the two speeches had been coordinated in advance. First evincing concern to avoid further bloodshed, he then tacitly equated the heavily armed, habitually brutal Egyptian security forces with the weaponless, repeatedly wounded protesters, calling upon the latter as well to “express themselves peacefully.” He echoed the condescension of Mubarak himself in saying of the protesters that “violence and destruction will not lead to the reforms they seek.” He then added injury to insult, clarifying that America’s “close partnership” with Egypt was in fact with Mubarak, who had “pledged a better democracy” and now must “give meaning” to his words.

By all means, the unrest across the region has been occasion for Washington to scold its Arab allies for their unaccountable neglect of the aspirations of youth and their unseemly embezzlement of treasuries. At the Forum for the Future in Doha, Qatar, held on January 13, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exhorted her audience of Arab elites to “build a future that your young people will believe in, stay for and defend.” Invest in vocational education, she urged. Create jobs. Root out corruption. Hold elections whose outcome is uncertain. Drop the reflexive hostility to civic engagement by regular folks. But the regimes remain the political address of record for her administration; having created the present crises through decades of avarice and contempt for the people they rule, they are now to be trusted to resolve the impasse. Vice President Joe Biden was typically clumsy, but most assuredly not off-message when, in response to a direct question from PBS host Jim Lehrer, he declined to label Mubarak a dictator, saying instead: “I think the time has come for President Mubarak…to be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there.”

No, as the Tunisian example showed, and as the Egyptian experience may yet drive home, the US will stand by its favored authoritarian Arab states until the bitter end. From the January 28 performance on the Potomac, it is not clear that the US can even imagine an alternative course.

The reasons for this stance have changed little over the decades since the US became the superpower in the Middle East. Strategic interest number one is the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to the world economy, unimpeded by a rival hegemon or a regional upstart that might raise prices dramatically or deploy the oil weapon to extract political concessions from the West. Number two is the security of Israel. But third — not to be confused with tertiary — is the stability of satrapies that Washington can trust to safeguard its other interests and initiatives, whether the US-sponsored “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians (and the blockade upon Hamas that Egypt helps to enforce) or the campaign to curtail Islamist movements for which Tunisia’s Ben Ali so eagerly signed up. The US rewards its clients with cash and copious armaments, with scant regard for their records on democratization or human rights. After the Yemeni regime canceled elections in 2009, its aid package was quintupled. There have always been numerous dissenters within the US foreign policy apparatus who know the damage that is being done, but they are resolutely kept out of positions of real authority.

That roguish Bush administration, as the National Security Network flacks are fond of repeating, “destabilized” the Middle Eastern order, not just with its rash invasion of Iraq but also its swashbuckling talk of “freedom on the march” through the thickets of US-approved autocracy. The “progressive national security community,” like those to its right on Washington’s narrow political spectrum, is keen to be taken seriously by power, and so generally restricts its judgments of policy ventures to the impact on the US interest. The catastrophic loss of Iraqi life is rarely mentioned as a point against the invasion, for instance, and the sincerity of the Bush administration’s “democracy doctrine” is usually granted arguendo, civility being far more important to American politicos than accountability or, for that matter, decency.

Amidst the hand wringing in the mainstream media over Obama’s “limited options” in Egypt, through whose Suez Canal cruise oil tankers and the warships of the US Fifth Fleet, the truth is that the entire debate over democracy promotion in the Arab world and greater Middle East has been one long, bitterly unfunny joke. The issue has never been whether the US should promote democracy; it has been when the US will stop trying to suppress it. The bargains with tyrants lay a “commitment trap” for Washington, which must solemnly swear allegiance to each strongman lest others in the club have second thoughts about holding up their end. The despots, in turn, assume that the Marines or their equivalents will swoop in to the rescue if need be. Most, like Ben Ali, are mistaken, if nothing else because an ambitious underling is often waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, just as Iranians have not forgotten the Carter administration’s eleventh-hour loyalty to the Shah some 32 years later, neither will Pakistanis soon forgive the US for standing by Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Americans wondered why their country had been targeted. Many, of course, settled upon the solipsistic, emotionally comforting explanation that “they hate us for our values” or resorted to conspiracy theory about Islam and world conquest. Saner sorts looked to the US history of support for Israel in its colonization of Palestine or coziness with certain kingdoms sitting atop vast pools of petroleum. But these factors have never been the whole answer. All who continue to wonder about the rest should ponder this day, January 28, 2011. The words of Obama and his chorus of apologists say it all: When it comes to the aspirations of ordinary Arabs for genuinely participatory politics and true self-determination, those vaunted American values are suspended, even when “special relationships” and hydrocarbon riches are not directly at issue. And the anti-democratic sentiment is bipartisan: On this question, there is less than a dime’s worth of difference between “progressive” Democrats and Republican xenophobes, between pinstriped State Department Arabists and flannel-clad Christian fundamentalists, between oil-first “realists” and Israel-first neo-conservatives. There is none.

Egypt protesters step up pressure: BBC

Jeremy Bowen
The events of the last week will have profound consequences for the Middle East for years to come. Egypt’s role in the region is going to change.

President Hosni Mubarak has been the central pillar of the alliance between Western powers and authoritarian Arab leaders and without him it may not be sustainable.

He has been the only Arab leader the Israelis trusted. Their biggest fear is that without him their cold – but so far resilient – peace with Egypt will be in danger.

The president has been the West’s necessary man in the Middle East for 30 years.

That is why Egypt has continued to receive vast amounts of American aid, as well as political support from Britain and other European countries – despite a deplorable human rights record, crooked elections, the suppression of virtually all organised political opposition and rampant corruption.

Those are some of the reasons why tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets.

Succession question
His allies were already planning for what would come next, because he is 82.

But for them the easiest assumption was that he would be able to bequeath the Egyptian system largely intact to a chosen successor. Favoured names were his son Gamal, or the intelligence chief General Omar Suleiman.

The crowds on the streets have almost as much contempt for Gamal Mubarak as they have for his father.

Gen Suleiman has been the second most powerful man in Egypt for years, the main link with the Americans, the Israelis and the Saudis.

In the eyes of the protesters though, he has been tainted by agreeing to become a vital part of President Mubarak’s survival plan.

The popular uprising makes it unlikely that the current system will survive President Mubarak.

Optimistic Egyptians say free elections, if they ever happen, would produce a vibrant democracy.

Pessimists say that the removal of the police state would lead to chaos – which would be exploited by Egypt’s jihadi groups. These have been suppressed ruthlessly by the Mubarak regime.

The country’s only properly organised mass political movement outside the ruling party is the Muslim Brotherhood, and it would do very well in any free election.

Unlike the jihadis, it does not believe it is at war with the West. It is conservative, moderate and non-violent. But it is highly critical of Western policy in the Middle East.

EDITOR: A new Pan-Arabism?

The Tunisia earthquake has introduced into the region an old political force, in new clothes – virtual Pan-Arabism. With new meidia and with the over-arching channels such as Al Jazeera TV, Arabs everywhere are now listening to each other like never before. As soon as one country’s people have scored a victory, however partial, against their oppressive regime, a whole number of other countries are rising and taking up thir own rotten governements. Beacuse of the great speed of modern communications, the feeling is that the struggles are connected, and indeed they are. This new phenomenon is not understood properly in the west, and especially in the US, where they put all their chips on the corrupt and despotic regimes, while speaking haughtily about democracy. This is also means that the struggle everywhere in the Arab world is against the US and Israel, as much as it is against their own corrupt rulers.

Will this die out through attrition and further oppression? It is dangerous to prpophesize, but the current wave of uprisings is seemingly unstoppable, for ther simple reason that the people have waited so long before rising, that once they have moved, once the great mass of anger and frustration is mobile, once they find their power and shed their fear, they will not go back easily to the status quo ante. One could almost see the viral energy passing from one capital of the region to another, like bright sparks of political thunderbolts.

Behind this, is the question of timinig. Why now? It seems that the cynics, who could see nothing new in the Wikileaks from the US embassies, as well as from the PA in Ramallah (you know the type: “there is nothing new in all this stuff’ and Wikileaks is just a nonsense website living off scandal…”) – it now seems quite clear that, on the contarary, the Wikileaks have paved the way towards a better understanding of the regime’s shenanigans in most Arab countries, and served as a major democratising force in international politics.

Army ‘not to use force’ in Egypt: Al Jazeera online

Explicit confirmation comes before Tuesday’s “march of millions” to force President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The Egyptian army has said it would not use force against citizens staging protests to force President Hosni Mubarak to step down

In a statement on Monday it said “freedom of expression” was guaranteed to all citizens using peaceful means.

It was the first such explicit confirmation by the army that it would not fire at demonstrators who have taken to the streets of Egypt and comes a day before before Tuesday’s “march of millions” to mark the seventh day of the protests as anti-government sentiment reaches fever pitch.

Our producer in Egypt reports on the latest developments

“The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people,” the army statement said.

“Your armed forces, who are aware of the legitimacy of your demands and are keen to assume their responsibility in protecting the nation and the citizens, affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.”

It urged people not to resort to acts of sabotage that violate security and destroy public and private property. It warned that it would not allow outlaws to loot, attack and “terrorise citizens”.

Protesters have called for a massive demonstration and a rolling general strike on Tuesday.

The so-called April 6 Movement said it plans to have more than one million people on the streets of the capital Cairo.

The call came as Mubarak swore in a new cabinet in an attempt to defuse ongoing demonstrations across the country.

But opposition groups say personnel changes will not placate them and have said they will continue until the president steps down.

“The whole regime must come down,” Hassan, a construction worker and protester told the Reuters news agency.

“We do not want anyone from Mubarak’s retinue in the new government, which the people will choose. We want a civil government run by the people themselves.”

Army presence

Our producer in Egypt reports on the latest developments in Tahrir Square

Up to 250,000 people are continuing to demonstrate in Cairo’s Tahrir square after hundreds remained camped out overnight, defying a curfew that has been extended by the army.

There is a heavy army presence around the area, with tanks positioned near the square and officers checking identity papers.

One of Al Jazeera’s correspondents said military attempts to block access to the square on Monday by closing roads was not working as more people were arriving in a steady stream.

“Protesters say they’ll stay in this square for as long as Mubarak stays in power,” she said.

Protesters seem unfazed by Mubarak’s pledge to institute economic and political reforms. Our correspondent said people feel that such pledges “are too little, too late”.

Al Jazeera reporters in Cairo also said police had been seen returning to the streets, directing traffic, after being absent since Friday.

“We are waiting for the minister of interior to announce in what form they are going to come back onto the streets and why they disappeared after Friday prayers, on the ‘second day of rage’,” one correspondent said.

“The absence of police has given looters a free rein, forcing ordinary citizens to set up neighbourhood patrols. Many people are wondering where the police disappeared to.

“There are two schools of thought as far as the police are concerned: One is that many of them decided to join the protesters.

“The other is that the regime was saying to the people, ‘You want to protest. We’ll pull back the police and you feel what anarchy feels like’,” our correspondent said.

After deadly clashes in which around 125 people were killed in Cairo and other cities, protesters complained that police were using excessive force.

But an Al Jazeera correspondent said some locals greeted police as “long-lost friends” on Monday.

“It’s almost as if the population of Cairo is suffering from selective amnesia … We saw one small boy carrying a tray a of tea to a group of policemen. Another man got out of his car, kissed and hugged the policemen.”

Panic and chaos

Meanwhile, many people are reported to be panic buying in Cairo amid the unrest.

“I walked into a supermarket and saw complete mayhem,” an Al Jazeera correspondent said.

“People are stocking up on supplies as much as they can. There are very few rations available in the stores. They are running out of basic supplies, like eggs, cheese and meat. Deliveries have not been coming for days.”

Chaos has also been reported at Cairo’s international airport, where thousands of foreigners are attempting to be evacuated by their home countries.

As the protests continue, security is said to be deteriorating and reports have emerged of several prisons across the country being attacked and of fresh protests being staged in cities like Alexandria and Suez.

Thirty-four leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood were freed from the Wadi Natroun jail after guards abandoned their posts.

How much longer can Mubarak cling on?: Independent

Robert Fisk reports from Cairo on the protests that refuse to die

The old lady in the red scarf was standing inches from the front of am American-made M1 Abrams tank of the Egyptian Third Army, right on the edge of Tahrir Square. Its soldiers were paratroops, some in red berets, others in helmets, gun barrels pointed across the square, heavy machine guns mounted on the turrets. “If they fire on the Egyptian people, Mubarak is finished,” she said. “And if they don’t fire on the Egyptian people, Mubarak is finished.” Of such wisdom are Egyptians now possessed.

Shortly before dusk, four F-16 Falcons – again, of course, manufactured by President Barack Obama’s country – came screaming over the square, echoes bouncing off the shabby grey buildings and the giant Nasserist block, as the eyes of the tens of thousands of people in the square stared upwards. “They are on our side,” the cry went up from the crowds. Somehow, I didn’t think so. And those tanks, new to the square, 14 in all that arrived with no slogans painted on them, their soldiers sullen and apprehensive, had not come – as the protesters fondly believed – to protect them.

But then, when I talked to an officer on one of the tanks, he burst out with a smile. “We will never fire on our people – even if we are ordered to do so,” he shouted over the roar of his engine. Again, I was not so sure. President Hosni Mubarak – or perhaps we should now say “president” in quotation marks – was at the military headquarters, having appointed his new junta of former military and intelligence officers. The rumour went round the square: the old wolf would try to fight on to the end. Others said it didn’t matter. “Can he kill 80 million Egyptians?”

Anti-American sentiment was growing after Mr Obama’s continued if tepid support for the Mubarak regime. “No, Obama, not Mubarak,” posters read. And Mr Mubarak’s face appeared with a Star of David superimposed over his face. Many of the crowd produced stun-gun cartridge cases fired last week with “Made in the USA” stamped on the bottom. And I noticed the lead tank’s hull bore markings beginning “MFR” – at this point a soldier with a rifle and bayonet fixed was ordered to arrest me so I ran into the crowd and he retreated – but could “MFR” stand for the US Mobile Force Reserve, which keeps its tanks in Egypt? Was this tank column on loan from the Americans? You don’t need to work out what the Egyptians make of all this.

Yet there were extraordinary scenes earlier in the day between protesters and tank crews of another unit (this time, the machines were older American M-60 Pattons of Vietnam vintage), which appeared to be about to protect a unit of water cannons sent to clear the streets. Hundreds of young men overwhelmed one tank, and when a lieutenant in sun glasses began firing into the air, he was pushed back against his armoured vehicle and had to climb on top to avoid the men. Yet the crowd quickly became good natured, posed for pictures on the tank and handed the soldiers fruit and water.

When a long line of troops assembled across the road, a very old, hunch-backed man sought and gained permission to approach them. I followed him as he embraced the lieutenant and kissed him on both cheeks and said: “You are our sons. We are your people.” And then he walked down the row of troops and kissed each one and embraced each one and told each one that he was his son. You need a heart of stone not to be moved by such scenes and yesterday was replete with them.

At one point, a group of protesters brought a man they said was a thief – of which Cairo seems full at the moment – and he was trussed up and handed to the soldiers. “You are here to protect us,” they chanted. When one of the soldiers hit the man in the face, his officer slapped him. Then the soldier sat down, shaking his head in despair. All day, an Egyptian Mi-25 helicopter – this time a relic of Soviet ordnance – circled the crowds, six rockets in the pods, but did nothing. Later a French-built Gazelle of the Egyptian air force flew low over the crowds, and the people waved at the place and the pilot could be seen waving back.

And all the time Egyptians walked up to foreigners – and a grey-haired Englishman doesn’t look very Egyptian – and insisted that a people who had lost their fear could never be reinjected with fear.

“We will never be afraid again,” a young woman shouted at me as the jets screamed over again. And a former cop now claiming to be a liaison man between the demonstrators and the army said that “the army will be with us because they know Mubarak must go”. Again, I am not so sure.

And the looting and burning go on. The former policeman – who should know – told me that many of the looters are members of a group which belonged to the Mr Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, whose previous role had been to bully Egyptians to go to polling stations and vote for their beloved leader. So why, we all wonder now, are these men trying to loot and burn, crimes which are being blamed on all those who demand that Mr Mubarak leave the country? Those demands, incidentally, now include the expulsion of Omar Suleiman, his former top spy, who is Vice-President.

Across Egypt, and on almost every street in Cairo, there are now vigilantes – not Mubarak men, but ordinary civilians who are tired of the semi-official gangs who are robbing their own people at night-time. To get back to my hotel last night, I had to pass through eight checkpoints of men, young and old – one was stooped, with a walking stick in one hand and an old British .303 Lee Enfield rifle in the other – who are now attacking thieves and handing them to the army. But this is no Dad’s Army.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, a group of armed men turned up at the Children’s Cancer Hospital near the old Roman aqueduct. They wanted to take the medical equipment, but within minutes, local people ran down the road and threatened the men with knives. They retreated at once. Dr Khaled el-Noury, the chief operating officer at the hospital, told me that the armed visitors were disorganised and apparently frightened of being harmed.

They were right. The reception clerk at the children’s hospital showed me the kitchen knife he kept on his desk for protection. Further proof of fighting power lay outside the gate where men appeared holding clubs and sticks and pokers. A boy – perhaps eight years old – appeared brandishing an 18-inch butcher’s knife, slightly more than half his height. Other men holding knives of equal length came to shake hands with the foreign journalist.

They are no third force. And they believe in the army. Will the soldiers go into the square? And does it matter if Mr Mubarak goes anyway?

Government Offers Talks With Protesters After Army Says It Will Not Fire: NYTimes

There appeared to be more protesters in Liberation Square in Cairo on Monday than on previous days.

CAIRO —Egypt’s new vice president said on Monday that President Hosni Mubarak has authorized him to open a dialogue with the opposition for constitutional and political reforms. The vice president, Omar Suleiman, did not offer any further details.
It was not immediately clear who Mr. Suleiman was addressing his offer to, or whether the opposition would accept. Throughout the protests, the overriding demand of the protesters has been Mr. Mubarak’s resignation.

The Egyptian Army announced Monday for the first time that it would not fire on protesters, even as tens of thousands of people gathered in central Liberation Square for a seventh day to demand the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

The extraordinary announcement — delivered on state TV with no elaboration by the Army’s official spokesman — declared that “freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.” Yet, coming from a government dominated by former military officers, including Mr. Mubarak, it raised as many questions as it answered.

Experts said it could reveal cracks in the ruling elite, or perhaps reflected an evolving strategy to resurrect the police, who were back on the streets Monday for the first time in days. Others took it at face value, as a straightforward promise to abstain from any violence against Egyptians, but others saw a veiled threat to those who would go beyond “peaceful means.”

Whatever the motivation, the opposition was not prepared to celebrate the announcement as the turning point it was in Tunisia, where the regime collapsed after the military refused to shoot at its own people.

The military’s announcement followed a cabinet reshuffle by Mr. Mubarak that the opposition dismissed as window dressing, and as concerns over violence were heightened by the presence of security police officers clustered near the square’s entrances, their first deployment there in three days.

Since the demonstrations began last Tuesday, Mr. Mubarak has stayed mostly out of sight, apparently intent on waiting for the protesters’ passions to cool. But opposition organizers called for the largest demonstrations yet — a “march of millions” and a general strike — on Tuesday, while the Egyptian economy showed more signs of shutting down and one benchmark crude rose to a two-year high of just over $100 a barrel on fears of disrupted flow from the region.

Across the square, trepidation inflected the euphoria. Many protesters suggested that the coming days may be pivotal, as an inchoate movement struggles to maintain the pressure on an entrenched state.

In contrast to previous days in the uprising, which were dominated by the young, the demonstrations Monday included a more obvious contingent of older, disciplined protesters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist organization, outlawed under the Mubarak government, has been playing a steadily larger role in the demonstrations, after holding back at the outset.

The president appeared fatigued in a ceremony broadcast on state television in which he welcomed a new interior minister, Mahmoud Wagdy, a retired general, who will oversee the police. He replaced Habib el-Adly, who had been interior minister since 1997 and came under sharp criticism from human rights advocates for tolerating — or even encouraging — torture and other police abuses.

Mr. Mubarak left several longtime associates in place, including the foreign minister, the minister of information and the defense minister.

With the Internet still broadly disrupted, Egyptians gathered at mosques around the city for noon prayers and then marched by the hundreds and thousands toward Liberation (Tahrir) Square on Monday, passing groups of security police and soldiers, .

“I brought my American passport today in case I die today,” said Marwan Mossaad, 33, a graduate student of architecture with dual Egyptian-American citizenship. “I want the American people to know that they are supporting one of the most oppressive regimes in the world and Americans are also dying for it.”

“Come down, Egyptians!” chanted one group heading to the square, drawing men into their march from the buildings they passed. The group, led by older men, linked hands and kept to one lane of traffic, allowing cars to pass.

At the square, they joined protesters who had stayed all night in defiance of a curfew that the authorities are now seeking to enforce at 5 p.m., an hour earlier. The numbers in the square appeared to exceed those of previous days, despite efforts by the military to corral the protesters into a narrower space.

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