DEBKAfile Special Report January 30, 2011, 11:20 PM
Mubarak tells the generals he’s not going
The popular uprising against the Egyptian regime reached a standoff at the end of its sixth day, Sunday night, Jan. 30: President Hosni Mubarak made it clear to the armed forces chiefs whom he met at military headquarters during the day that he has no intention of bowing to the massive popular call to step down .
It is from there that operations to quell the uprising against his regime are being conducted.
Mubarak clearly had not intention of heeding the pressure from Washington and European capitals to listen to the people and their call for an orderly transition to “a democratic government responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people” – reiterated by President Barack Obama Sunday.
The generals then continued to pour divisions into Cairo and Egypt’s main cities in an effort to assume control. However, this tactic is not working: The officers and men on the ground realize they and their tanks are extras in a show of strength to the cities without the power to exert it: they can’t shoot the protesters or exercise any other form of violence.
In Cairo, for instance, vigilantes protecting private property in the suburbs handed looters over to the soldiers who passed them to the police. In Alexandria, Egyptian tank officers were seen directing traffic in the town center.
Against the regime, the opposition groups – of which there are at leas ten – are just as hamstrung by their failure to produce a leader able to stand up and challenge the president. For lack of any representative figure, they picked the retired nuclear watchdog director Dr. Mohamed ElBaradi to speak for them in negotiations over the transfer of power. Hardly anyone in Egypt knows him: He is better known outside the country having spent many years abroad.
DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources report that the Egyptian crisis looks like being in for a protracted period of uncertainty unless the army, which holds the key to breaking the deadlock, decided to step in and pick a side -Mubarak or the people. The generals alone have the clout to force Mubarak to step down and get out, as happened in Tunisia, or smash the street demonstrations. This would mean a massacre, the army’s identification with a repressive regime and the end of its historic acceptance as the people’s army.
It will be noted that the new Vice President Gen. Omar Suleiman, 76, is seen more as a loyalist of the president, whom he served as intelligence minster and strong arm, than the military.
He appears to be behind the steps ordered Sunday, such as sending Air Force fighter jets to swoop over Tahrir Square and building up a military presence in the main towns. None of these steps have broken the back of the uprising or intimidated the protesters. State TV announced accordinglty that the police would return to the streets Monday, two days after they were chased away by the protesters.
The curfew which has been consistently flouted is to be extended: From 1500 hours Monday, Jan. 31, no one will be allowed on town streets until the following morning.