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News, January 2011
Egyptian Revolution Continues, Demanding Regime Change, Rejecting Sulaiman and Shafiq, Insisting on Deposing Mubarak
Sunday, January 30, 2011, 8:00 am, ET
By the Editor of Al-Jazeerah, CCUN
Following Arabic media, particularly TV stations, indicates that the Egyptian people have continued their protests throughout the country, particularly in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and Ima'iliya. The security establishment has collapsed, police stations have been attacked, and burned down. The Egyptian army has replaced security forces by spreading in the streets but without confrontations with the people. The night curfew is working but protests are resumed in the day time.
Egyptians have formed popular committees to guard private and public property against attempts by looters, some of whom turned to be secret police, such as the attackers who attempted to steal a bank in Alexandria, but were stopped by people committee members in the area, according to Aljazeera TV report at 6: 26 am of January 30, 2011.
The Mubarak dictatorial regime is still resistant to change, as he appointed two of his close aids in two positions, hoping to stop or slow down the revolution. He appointed General Omar Sulaiman, the intelligence chief, as his vice president, in an attempt to convey the message that he will succeed him. He also appointed General Ahmed Shafiq as a new prime minister, hoping to convey a message that the new cabinet will make the changes demanded by the Egyptian people.
The Egyptian government ordered Al-Jazeera TV to stop reporting from Egypt but the TV station is still reporting at 8:53 am and can still be seen in Egypt using new, different signals. However, there are other Arab TV stations, in addition to reporting by the telephone. In addition, there were many reports that security forces have gone underground and still working to spread horror and chaos.
The people have responded with more determination chanting, "The people want changing the regime," not just changing the president, or appointing his aids. They want a transitional government formed by opposition leaders, to supervise new elections.
The National Assembly for Change, headed by El-Barade'i and heads of opposition parties, has come up with a unified position of forming a transitional government which will supervise the new elections. They formed a delegation to negotiate with the regime about how to do that.
Apparently, the revolution will continue until victory against dictatorship, corruption, and poverty.
Scenarios: U.S. walks tightrope between Mubarak, protesters
By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON | Sat Jan 29, 2011, 5:38pm EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
The United States pressed Egyptian Hosni Mubarak on Saturday to make political reforms, walking a fine line between supporting the democratic ideals of protesters without outright abandoning an ally of 30 years.
Having dismissed his Cabinet, Mubarak sought to shore up his rule with two military men, tapping intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as Egypt's first vice president in three decades and former Air Force commander Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister.
Here are some of the U.S. policy options:
BALANCING ACT (MOST LIKELY)
The United States has stepped up calls for Mubarak's government to make political and economic reforms and to restrain security forces from attacking protesters.
But it has also made clear it is not abandoning Mubarak, at least for now, and that it is looking to work with the Egyptian government to undertake reforms.
The result is a balancing act that analysts suggest aims to position the United States to be able to work with whoever prevails -- the Mubarak government or its successor.
"The tightrope that the administration has to walk is that the regime probably is going to survive," said Kenneth Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.
"The history of revolutions is that they only succeed when the government loses the will or the capability to use violence and so far there is nothing that is happening in Egypt that suggests that either one is going to happen."
U.S. President Barack Obama met for just over an hour on Saturday with his national security advisers, and the White House said he stressed "our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform."
It appeared unlikely the White House, or the protesters, would view Suleiman and Shafiq's appointments as steps in the right direction.
"I can't think of a worse appointment than Omar Suleiman as the vice president of Egypt. He is the symbol of the police state," said Council on Foreign Relations analyst Robert Danin. "His appointment is just going to antagonize the protesters,"
However, he said it might be a step to ensure the loyalty of the military and a precursor to Mubarak eventually leaving office.
BACKING MUBARAK TO THE HILT (UNLIKELY)
Mubarak, a former air force officer who replaced assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981, has been a vital U.S. partner because of his support for Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, his backing for a wider Arab-Israeli peace and his help on counterterrorism and other issues.
Mubarak appoints new prime minister, vice president
CAIRO, Jan. 29, 2011 (Xinhua) --
President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday, in response to violent nationwide protests, appointed intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as Egypt's first vice president in 30 years, and also appointed Aviation Minister Ahmad Shafiq as the new prime minister.
"Omar Suleiman has been sworn in as deputy to President Hosni Mubarak," the MENA news agency reported.
Suleiman, 74, has been the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services since 1993, a position in which he played a prominent public role in diplomacy, including in Egypt's relations with Israel and the United States.
As Egypt's intelligence chief, Suleiman was in charge of the country's most important political security files.
Also on Saturday, Mubarak appointed Aviation Minister Ahmad Shafiq as the new prime minister and asked him to form a new cabinet.
Egypt's cabinet officially resigned during a meeting following Mubarak's call for them to step down, Nile television station reported.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians defied a curfew and remained on the streets of downtown Cairo on Saturday, demanding the ouster of Mubarak.
As the protests across Egypt entered a fifth day, the military extended a curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez from 4:00 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) to 8:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) the following day.
However, the overnight curfew in Cairo was being ignored by angry protesters who flooded the streets of the sprawling city of 18 million and chanted "Down, down, Mubarak," and "Don't believe Mubarak" in defiance of the president's promised reforms.
At least 50,000 protesters gathered in the downtown area near the main Tahrir Square, and some 1,000 of them tried to storm the Interior Ministry, Al Jazeera television reported.
The TV station also reported that police opened fire and killed at least three protesters. No immediate confirmation or further details were available.
Profile: Egypt's new prime minister
CARIO, Jan. 30, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday appointed former civil aviation minister Ahmed Mohammed Shafiq Zaki as prime minister.
Shafiq, 69, had held various positions in Egypt's Air Force before serving as the Air Force commander in 1996-2002.
After retiring from the military, Shafiq was appointed to head Egypt Air, where he aggressively pushed ahead reform and turned the national carrier into one of the most important air transportation operators in the Middle East.
In 2002, Shafiq took the job as head of the civil aviation, in which capacity he launched a large-scale reconstructing of Egypt's major airports and turned the Cairo International Airport into one of the most important aviation hubs in the Middle East.
Shafiq is well-known for his management expertise and efficient work style in Egyptian politics.
Editor: Xiong Tong
Profile: Egypt's new vice president
CAIRO, Jan.30 (Xinhua) --
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday appointed intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as Egypt's first vice president in 30 years.
Suleiman was born in Egypt's southern town of Qena on July 2, 1936. He entered Cairo's military academy for studies in 1954 and then went to the former Soviet Union to receive military training.
Suleiman was appointed Egypt's military intelligence chief in 1989. Since 1993, he had served as director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services.
In recent years, Suleiman played an important role in Egypt's diplomacy and intelligence. He drew international attention for brokering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians as well as internal reconciliation dialogue within the the Palestinians.
Editor: Xiong Tong
Egypt's cabinet officially resigns following Mubarak's demand: TV
CAIRO, Jan. 29, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Egypt's cabinet officially resigns during a meeting on Saturday following President Hosni Mubarak's demand early in the day, Nile television station reported.
In a speech early Saturday, Mubarak said he had asked the government to step down and the new cabinet would bring more democracy to the country, in response to nationwide protests.
But Mubarak, who has been in office as president for 30 years, refused to step down.
Also on Saturday, hundreds of protestors resumed their gathering in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, where anti-government demonstrations started peacefully on Tuesday afternoon before turning violent in the following days.
Witnesses said several tanks were parked near the square, but no intervention in the protest was seen so far.
At least several deaths were reported during recent clashes across the country, but no confirmation had been available so far.
Thousands of Egyptian prisoners reportedly break out of prison
CAIRO, Jan. 30, 2011 (Xinhua) --
Around 5,000 Egyptian prisoners broke out of a prison in the Fayyoum Govenorate amid the nationwid riots Saturday night, the Dubai-based Arabiya TV reported.
However, the news cannot be confirmed immediately as the Internet and telecommunications were down in some parts of the country.
According to other media reports, only some 700 prisoners escaped in the prison in Fayyoum, a desert area southwest of Cairo.
Demonstrations turned into riots on Saturday in Cairo and other major governorates, where government buildings have been robbed by looters and clashes between protesters and policemen have led to deaths of many people.
Despite the resignation of the Egyptian government and appointment of a vice president and new prime minister, Egypt still saw thousands of protesters defy the curfew Saturday night.
According to the Egyptian Health Ministry, the nationwide death toll has reached 51 by Saturday afternoon. The number may rise.
Editor: Xiong Tong
Mubarak names deputy, protesters defy curfew
By Edmund Blair and Dina Zayed
CAIRO | Sat Jan 29, 2011, 6:47pm EST
CAIRO (Reuters) -
Egypt's street protesters pushed President Hosni Mubarak into naming a deputy who might in time succeed him, but thousands went on defying a curfew and urging the army to join them in forcing Mubarak from power immediately.
Police shot dead 17 people at Beni Suef, south of Cairo, as pressure mounted on Mubarak from allies in Washington and Europe to restrain his police and speed a democratic transition that would end his 30 years of one-man rule.
Thousands marched in Cairo by day, unmolested by troops who manned tanks on the streets. After dark, police there opened fire in at least one incident, looters roamed for booty, and the national tax office was set ablaze. Recalling eastern Europe in 1989, one analyst called it "the Arab world's Berlin moment."
In naming intelligence chief Omar Suleiman vice-president, many saw Mubarak edging toward an eventual, army-approved handover of power. The 82-year-old former general has long kept his 80 million people guessing over succession plans that had, until this week, seemed to focus on grooming his son Gamal, 47.
Gamal's hopes now seem remote. The promotion of Suleiman, 74, a key player in ties with the United States and Israel, and the appointment of another military man, Ahmed Shafiq, as prime minister pleased some Egyptians worried about looming chaos.
According to various estimates about 100 people have been killed during the week, in the capital and other cities. Medical sources say at least 1,030 people were hurt in Cairo. Among the dead were three policemen killed in the capital.
President Barack Obama met Vice President Joe Biden and national security adviser Tom Donilon to discuss unrest in the Arab power that is a linchpin of U.S. Middle East strategy.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the Egyptian government "can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat."
"He is just like Mubarak, there is no change," one protester said of Suleiman outside the Interior Ministry, where thousands were protesting. The last vice-president was Mubarak himself, before he succeeded the assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Later, police opened fire on a crowd hundreds strong at the ministry. A Reuters reporter saw one protester fall wounded.
"This is the Arab world's Berlin moment," said Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics. "The authoritarian wall has fallen, and that's regardless of whether Mubarak survives.
"The barrier of fear has been removed. It is really the beginning of the end of the status quo in the region."
The prospect of even greater upheaval across the Middle East -- regardless of whether it is the crowd or their rulers who get the upper hand -- is prompting some investors to see risks for oil supplies that could in turn hamper global economic growth.
More immediately, Egypt's vital tourist industry is taking a knock. In prosperous parts of Cairo, vigilantes guarded homes, shops and hotels from looters. Thieves at the Egyptian Museum damaged two mummies from the time of the pharaohs.
Of Suleiman's appointment, analyst Gamal Abdel Gawad Soltan said: "This is the beginning of a process of power transfer."
At the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Jon Alterman said: "I can't see how this is not the beginning of the end of Mubarak's presidency. It seems that his task now is to try and manage the transition past his leadership. I have a hard time believing that he will be the president in a year."
Many saw Mubarak's concessions as echoes of those made two weeks ago by Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Just a day later, Ben Ali had fled his country, deserted by an army which preferred to back less hated figures in his government.
Tunisians' Internet-fed uprising over economic hardship and political oppression has inspired growing masses of unemployed youth across the Arab world, leaving autocratic leaders worried.
With the French and British leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "We call on President Mubarak to renounce any violence again unarmed civilians." The European trio also called for "free and fair elections" -- something that few doubt would end the grip of the establishment build up around Mubarak.
Like other Arab leaders, the president portrays himself as a bulwark against the West's Islamist enemies. But Egypt's banned opposition movement the Muslim Brotherhood has been only one element in the week's events. It lays claim to moderation.
"A new era of freedom and democracy is dawning in the Middle East," Kamel El-Helbawy, a cleric from the Brotherhood said from exile in London. "Islamists would not be able to rule Egypt alone. We should and would cooperate."
A Brotherhood lawyer in Egypt told Reuters that Mubarak's hesitation to meet protesters' demands had increased appetite for change. Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud said Mubarak should step down -- but that an interim government was needed to preserve order for some months until free elections.
On the Corniche promenade alongside the River Nile in Cairo, people stayed out after the curfew deadline, standing by tanks and chatting with soldiers who took no action to disperse them.
At one point, dozens of people approached a military cordon carrying a sign reading "Army and People Together." Soldiers pulled back and let the group through: "There is a curfew," one lieutenant said. "But the army isn't going to shoot anyone."
THE ARMY'S MOMENT
While the police are generally feared as an instrument of repression, the army is seen as a national institution.
Rosemary Hollis, at London's City University, said the army had to decide whether it stood with Mubarak or the people: "It's one of those moments where as with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe they can come down to individual lieutenants and soldiers to decide whether they fire on the crowd or not."
In Alexandria, police used teargas and live ammunition against demonstrators earlier on Saturday. Protests continued in the port city after curfew, witnesses said.
So far, the protest movement seems to have no clear leader or organization. Prominent activist Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Laureate for his work with the U.N. nuclear agency, returned to Egypt from Europe to join the protests. But many Egyptians feel he has not spent enough time in the country.
"Hosni Mubarak has not heard the people," ElBaradei told Al Jazeera, renewing his call for the president to step down.
Banks will be shut on Sunday as "a precaution," Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez told Reuters. The stock market, whose benchmark index tumbled 16 percent in two days, will also be closed on Sunday. The Egyptian pound fell to six-year lows.
(Additional reporting by Dina Zayed, Marwa Awad, Shaimaa Fayed, Sherine El Madany, Yasmine Saleh, Alison Williams and Samia Nakhoul in Cairo, Alexander Dziadosz in Suez, Arshad Mohammed in Washington and Peter Apps, Angus MacSwan and William Maclean in London; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Ralph Boulton)
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