4:45 pm: The Guardian reports: “Talks between the Egyptian government and opposition have all but collapsed after the regime balked at surrendering power to a transitional administration in the hope that mass protests would die down this week.”
It could get ugly, fast, if the army decides to crack down hard. (See below on VP Suleiman’s threatening remarks.)
2:00 pm: The neoconservatives—many of them, anyway—and the GOP’s hawks in Congress are hammering Obama for not backing their radical version of regime change, Egypt-style. At a hearing today, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, where Elliott Abrams demanded that Obama threaten to suspend US aid to Egypt, the new chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, thundered:
“In both Egypt and Lebanon, we have failed to effectively leverage US assistance in support of peaceful, pro-democracy forces and to help build strong, accountable, independent, democratic institutions as a bulwark against the instability that is now spreading throughout much of the region. Instead of being proactive, we have been obsessed with maintaining short-term, personality-based stability—stability that was never really all that stable, as the events of recent weeks demonstrates…. The administration failed to seize the opportunity to press for reform to address the demonstrators’ frustrations and prevent chaos and violence.”
Gary Ackerman, a Democrat in thrall to AIPAC, said: “In Egypt I fear we are snatching failure from the jaws of success.”
Note to Ackerman and Ros-Lehtinen: We don’t own Egypt, and we don’t control events there.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, cooler heads are prevailing.
12:10 pm: Egypt’s Vice President Suleiman, the former intelligence chief is making some threatening noises, talking about a “coup” and muttering about the “dark bats of the night” coming out to do violence. Exactly what he’s referring to isn’t clear, and in the quotes below, taken from an AP dispatch, Suleiman tries to explain what he meant.
Nevertheless, AP reports: “For the first time, protesters were calling forcefully Wednesday for labor strikes, despite a warning by Suleiman that calls for civil disobedience are ‘very dangerous for society and we can’t put up with this at all.’ ”
“We can’t bear this for a long time. There must be an end to this crisis as soon as possible…. We don’t want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.”
He then referred to “the dark bats of the night emerging to terrorize the people.” Bats?
Asked what he meant by a “coup,” he indicated that he was referring to any sort of extra-legal takeover of Egypt, by the protesters, by the army, by the Muslim Brotherhood: “I mean a coup of the regime against itself, or a military coup or an absence of the system. Some force, whether it’s the army or police or the intelligence agency or the Brotherhood or the youth themselves could carry out ‘creative chaos’ to end the regime and take power.”