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Battle of Cairo: Monday, Day 14 | The Nation

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Robert Dreyfuss

Bob Dreyfuss

News of America’s misadventures in foreign policy and defense.

Battle of Cairo: Monday, Day 14

5:00 pm: BBC reports: “The Muslim Brotherhood says it will reconsider continuing talks with the government if calls for President Hosni Mubarak and other demands are not met, Reuters reports. A spokesman for the opposition group said some demands had been met but the principal one - that Mr Mubarak leave - had not been.”

Though there were signs, yesterday, of a rift among the anti-Mubarak forces over whether to negotiate with Vice President Suleiman, today it appears that for the time being, anyway, the opposition is once again united in demanding Mubarak’s departure. Reports the Guardian:

“Groups representing demonstrators across Egypt have said they will not end the protests until Mubarak has gone. They also want to see parliament dissolved and the lifting of the oppressive state of emergency among other measures.”

The stalemate continues.

12:10 pm: A German magazine is reporting that Mubarak is headed to Germany for what will be permanent R&R at a clinic in Baden-Baden:

“Will Hosni Mubarak travel to Germany as a patient as part of a graceful exit strategy for the Egyptian president? Plans for a possible hospital stay here appear to be more concrete than previously believed. Spiegel Online has learned that a luxury clinic near Baden-Baden is being favored.

“The United States government's scenario for an end to the political chaos in Egypt appears to be this: President Hosni Mubarak travels to Germany for a ‘prolonged health check’ that would offer the 82-year-old a dignified departure. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that secret talks to that effect were being held between the US government and Egyptian military officials.

“According to information obtained by Spiegel Online, plans for a possible hospital stay in Germany are far more concrete than had been assumed so far. Talks are already being held with suitable hospitals, particularly with the Max-Grundig-Klinik Bühlerhöhe in the southwestern town of Bühl near Baden-Baden, Spiegel Online has learned from sources close to the clinic. The hospital management declined to comment.”

11:45 am: Here’s a partial text of Vice President Suleiman’s account of the reforms that he agreed to in talks with opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course, the departure of Mubarak isn’t one of them:

“First: Implementing the Commitments Announced by the President in Speech to the Nation on February 1, 2011: (1) No nomination for a new presidential term will take place; (2) A peaceful transition of authority within the constitutional framework; (3) The introduction of constitutional amendments to articles 76 & 77, and related constitutional amendments needed for the peaceful transition of authority; (4) Legislative amendments related to the amendments of the constitution; (5) Implementation of the rulings of the Court of Cassation, regarding challenges to the People’s Assembly election; (6) Pursuit of corruption, and an investigation into those behind the breakdown of security in line with the law; (7) Restoring the security and stability of the nation, and tasking the police forces to resume their role in serving and protecting the people.

“Second: In implementation of these commitments the following measures will be taken: (1) A committee will be formed from members of the judicial authority and a number of political figures to study and recommend constitutional amendments, and legislative amendments of laws complimentary to the constitution to be completed by the first week of March. (2) The Government announces the establishment of a bureau to receive complaints regarding, and commits to immediately release, prisoners of conscience of all persuasions. The Government commits itself to not pursuing them or limiting their ability to engage in political activity. (3) Media and communications will be liberalized and no extra-legal constraints will be imposed on them. (4) Supervisory and judiciary agencies will be tasked with continuing to pursue persons implicated in corruption, as well as pursuing and holding accountable persons responsible for the recent breakdown in security. (5) The state of emergency will be lifted based on the security situation and an end to the threats to the security of society. (6) All participants expressed their absolute rejection of any and all forms of foreign intervention in internal Egyptian affairs.

“Third: A national follow-up committee will be established and composed of public and independent figures from among experts, specialists and representatives of youth movements, and will monitor the implementation of all consensual agreements, and issues reports and recommendations to the Vice-President.”

11:40 am: From BBC: “The Muslim Brotherhood says it will reconsider continuing talks with the government if calls for President Hosni Mubarak and other demands are not met, Reuters reports. A spokesman for the opposition group said some demands had been met but the principal one—that Mr Mubarak leave—had not been."

11:30 am: The German government has cut off the sale of military equipment to Egypt.

9:40 am: Robert Fisk of the Independent reports that the special envoy sent to meet with Mubarak was a paid lawyer for the Egyptian government:

“Frank Wisner, President Barack Obama's envoy to Cairo who infuriated the White House this weekend by urging Hosni Mubarak to remain President of Egypt, works for a New York and Washington law firm which works for the dictator's own Egyptian government.”

The firm, Patton Boggs boasts that it advises “the Egyptian military.”

The State Department, according to the BBC, says that it presumes that the Obama administation was aware of Wisner’s conflict of interest.

9:20 am: Partial transcript of Obama with Bill OReilly, that noted expert on the Muslim Brotherhood:

O'REILLY: The Muslim Brotherhood, a great concern to a lot of people. Are they a threat to the USA?

OBAMA: I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt. They don't have majority support in Egypt. They are——

O'REILLY: Are they a threat?

OBAMA: But they are well-organized and there are strains of their ideology that are anti-US. There's no doubt about it. But here's the thing that we have to understand, there are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt, there are a whole bunch of educators and civil society in Egypt that wants to come to the fore as well. And it's important for us not the say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed Egyptian people.

O'REILLY: But you don't want the Muslim Brotherhood...

OBAMA: What I want is a representative government in Egypt. And I have confidence that if Egypt moves in an orderly transition process, that we will have a government in Egypt that we can work with together as a partner.

O'REILLY: I hope so. Those are tough boys, the Muslim Brotherhood. I wouldn't want them anywhere near that government.

February 7, midnight: The stalemate continued past midnight and into Monday in Egypt. The military government, with or without Mubarak, is intent on blunting the protests, perhaps making a deal to liberalize Egypt’s regime (see below at 12:05 pm yesterday) and even lift the state of emergency. Some opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, seem open to the deal, but they’re insisting that Mubarak step down. Others in the opposition reject the talks altogether until Mubarak leaves. Demonstrations continue, including one protest of more than 250,000 in the northern city of Mansoura.

On CNN, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq insists that President Mubarak will not step down until September.

The ferment in the Arab world has spread to Iraq, with street protests in several cities. That’s in addition to Yemen, Jordan, Sudan and elsewhere.

ElBaradei, who didn’t take part in the talks with Suleiman and the Brotherhood, says: “Nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage. The process is managed by the outgoing regime without the involvement of the new opposition...or the rest of the people. It is managed by Vice President Suleiman and it is all managed by the military.”

The New York Times reports in its Monday edition: “The question of whether Mr. Mubarak will yield power willingly — and how and under what timetable he might do so — are driving the Obama administration’s national security team to assess and reassess their strategy in dealing with him. It is being watched intently by the antigovernment protesters in Cairo, much of the Arab world and even by members of his own government.”

And the Washington Post says that the Obama administration is caught between its inability to dislodge Mubarak and the fact that the Tahrir Square protesters aren’t budging:

“Once it was clear they were stuck with Mubarak, administration officials refocused their efforts on encouraging Egyptian government officials and opposition groups to begin work on a blueprint for a transition to a new government. Here, too, U.S. plans collided with the agendas of Egypt's fragmented opposition groups, some of whom balked at participating in any negotiations while Mubarak remained in power.”

The army, which has stuck with Mubarak so far but has tried to signal some support for the opposition, too, may have decided to let the protests fizzle slowly, slowly while trying to divide the opposition—and, at the same time, perhaps greasing the skids under Mubarak, too. The Egyptian military’s stance is fairly opaque. The Los Angeles Times reports:

“The military's allegiances will be tested in coming days in negotiations to form a transitional government as Mubarak, whom officials are looking to nudge aside with dignity, fades as a dominating presence. But opposition groups demanding a wider voice, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood, have for years been regarded as national security threats by Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.”

Secretary of Defense Gates has called Tantawi four times in recent days.

A retired general, Abdel Rahman Abdel Halim, in Egypt tells the LA Times:

“It is obvious that Mubarak has the army's full loyalty. However, this is not unconditional and whether the army is willing to take the people's side or not will only depend on the anti-Mubarak demonstrators' ability to maintain pressure. If their presence in large numbers in Tahrir goes on for a longer period, only then would some army generals get fed up and be willing to strike a deal with the U.S. to oust him as the only solution to the conflict.”

February 6, 12:50 pm: Perhaps the absolute funniest line from the Egypt crisis, from David Letterman, via today’s New York Times Week in Review: “The good news is Hosni Mubarak may step down. The bad news is he’s going to be replaced by his idiot son, Hosni W. Mubarak.”

12:15 pm: ElBaradei, who may have thought he was leading the opposition, may have been double-crossed by the Muslim Brotherhood, which took part in talks with Suleiman. Reports AFP on ElBaradei’s appearance on Meet the Press today: “Leading Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said he was ‘not invited’ to take part in negotiations Sunday on the future of a post-Mubarak Egypt, and criticized the talks as ‘opaque.’ ‘I should start by saying I have not been part of the negotiations. I have not been invited to take part in the negotiations or dialogue but I have been following what has been going on. The process is opaque, nobody knows who is talking to who at this stage.’”

12:05 pm: Following talks between Vice President Suleiman and representatives of the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the government has agreed to lift restrictions on the media, end all restraints on the Internet and text messaging, free political prisoners arrested since the start of the revolt, and appoint a committee to examine constitutional changes. Among those changes: agreement to allow non-official candidates to run for president.

9:30 am: On CNN with Fareed Zakaria, ElBaradei says: “I think—I think what I'm calling for, Fareed, is a presidential council of three people, with—Suleiman or somebody from the army would be one member; the other should be civilian. A year of transition or a government of national unity, of caretaker government that prepares properly for free and fair election. I think any election in the next coming of months before the right people establish parties and engage, it will be again a fake—a fake democracy.”

9:15 am: Protests continue in Tahrir Square, though slightly smaller than earlier, but a schism of sorts seems to have developed in the opposition. Some representatives of the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have conducted preliminary talks with Vice President Suleiman. By doing so, they’ve abandoned their core demand that Mubarak resign before they’d discuss any transition. In the square, many protesters stick with that demand, and they’re starting to blame the United States for backing Mubarak.

The talks with Suleiman also included the Wafd Party and six young Egyptians “representing the youth in the square.” Exactly who those youths are isn’t clear.

Hillary Clinton says that she supports the inclusion of the Brotherhood in the talks.

Ex–Vice President Cheney didn’t help matters by calling Mubarak “a good friend and ally of the United States.”

Mubarak’s departure, sooner or later, seems a foregone conclusion.

Having tried to get Mubarak to step down, and getting rebuffed, the United States has settled on the confusing idea that negotiations and stability are the way ahead, and perhaps they’ve accepted the idea that Mubarak has to remain in power for a while to oversee constitutional and political changes before he departs. Europe is backing the US view. The British foreign secretary said: "I don't think that is for us, in another country, to say, because it is difficult to work out the position. We have the right to say a couple of things very clearly, but I don't think we have the right to choose Egypt's president.” Pro-Mubarak forces in Egypt want the United States and the West to stay out of it altogether.”

Saturday, 10:30 pm: Late on Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s heftiest opposition group, announced that it had conducted a preliminary round of talks with the government o Saturday and that the main event will be held on Sunday. It’s all tentative. The Brotherhood statement said: “We have decided to engage in a round of dialogue to ascertain the seriousness of officials towards the demands of the people and their willingness to respond to them.” It isn’t clear if the Brotherhood is leading the rest of the opposition into the talks, breaking ranks with the opposition, or exploring an opening to see what happens. But the military regime’s interests, with or without Mubarak, is to split the leaders of the uprising.

 

3:30 pm: BBC reports that Frank Wisner, the US envoy sent to Egypt last week, is saying that Mubarak needs to stay in power to oversee the transition, though he isn’t saying, exactly, transition to what. Wisner: “We need to get a national consensus around the preconditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes. I believe that President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical—it’s his chance to write his own legacy.”

Optimists will say that by speaking about Mubarak’s legacy, Wisner—and Obama, too, who used that word—means that Mubarak shouldn’t leave a legacy of using mass violence to perpetuate his rule. Pessimists will say that Wisner means that Mubarak ought to stick around to make that the Egyptian establishment maintains power.

Suggesting that the latter point might be more accurate is this BBC report:

“President Mubarak appears to have adopted a two-pronged approach to save his government and ward off his departure, BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi reports from Cairo. On the one hand, he has got rid of figures who have become, in the eyes of many Egyptians, hated symbols of his long rule, including his younger son Gamal. On the other, he has tightened his grip on the country, with the much-disliked plain-clothes police reappearing on the streets to round up pro-democracy activists, and state media stirring up nationalist sentiment and portraying the protest movement as a foreign plot.”

No comment about whether the entire Egyptian government has been a foreign plot since the death of Nasser in 1970, that is, an American one.

12:48 pm: The Los Angeles Times reports that the army is beginning to take control of the streets around Tahrir Square: "The Egyptian army began Saturday to reassert control around Tahrir Square, while government officials attempted to negotiate an end to the crisis with opposition leaders. Hundreds of soldiers moved into a small side street leading to the square past the Egyptian Museum where the most intense fighting between pro- and anti-government forces has taken place. Angry protesters confronted the soldiers at both ends of the street, but for the first time the army appeared to have sufficient numbers to maintain control."

12:45 pm: Egyptian state TV reports that members of the Politburo of the ruling National Democratic Party—which include Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son and heir-apparent—have resigned from the NDP en masse.

12:35 pm: BBC reports that the Muslim Brotherhood may have agreed to take part in talks with Suleiman, but it’s unclear, and the Brotherhood is sending mixed messages. Some Brotherhood officials say that Mubarak must quit first, and even then it isn’t certain that they’d talk to Suleiman.

12:28 pm: The Obama administration, after days of going this and that on Egypt, has finally made a decision: it supports a transition led by Vice President Suleiman, the general and former intelligence chief. Some, but not all, of the anti-Mubarak forces are at least open to the idea, but others flatly reject it, even if Mubarak quits. And it isn’t clear, yet, if Mubarak will quit, or simply fade away, on leave, for “medical reasons,” or vacation.

In Munich, Secretary of State Clinton said:

“The transition to democracy will only happen if it is deliberate, inclusive, and transparent. The challenge is to help our partners take systematic steps to usher in a better future, where people’s voices are heard, their rights respected, and their aspirations met. Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy, only to see the process hijacked by new autocrats who use violence, deception, and rigged elections to stay in power.”

By “new autocrats,” it isn’t clear if she meant General Suleiman or the Muslim Brotherhood.

February 4, 4:45 pm: President Obama edges closer to calling outright for Mubarak to get out of Dodge, but he’s not there yet: “In light of what’s happened, going back to the old ways is not going to work. Suppression is not going to work, violence is not going to work. The only thing that is going to work is moving to an orderly transition process, right now.”

1:55 pm: USA Today reports: “One member of a group of ‘wise men’ who have met with Egypt’s new vice president and prime minister says the officials do not support forcing President Hosni Mubarak from office, but ‘more likely’ envision making Mubarak an honorary president. Under the arrangement, Mubarak would hand his presidential powers to Suleiman to reach political agreement with the opposition but would serve out his term until fall elections."

1:30 pm: Concerning the increasing role of the Muslim Brotherhood, BBC reports: “This did not start as an Islamic uprising, but the actions of the Mubarak regime have forced many of the middle-class protesters off the street, and what is left is much more hard-line.”

1:20 pm: Mohammad ElBaradei, who’s the nominal leader of a committee established to negotiate Egypt’s transition, said at a news conference that the opposition has already started to draw up a new constitution for Egypt and that they want to create a small council of up to five people, including one representative from the army, to oversee the transition.

12:50 pm: Here’s a big deal. Earlier, I blogged about the fact that Egypt’s Grand Mufti, the head of thousand-year-old Al Azhar mosque and university, had condemned the protests against Mubarak and called them “haram,” or forbidden under Islamic law. Today Al Azhar’s chief spokesman quit, throwing his lot in with the anti-Mubarak forces:“I am participating in the protests and I have issued statements that support the revolutionists as far as they go.”

12:45 pm: Take it with a grain of salt, because Al Jazeera sometimes plays fast and loose with the facts, but the Arab service is reporting that “hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps a million” gathered in Alexandria today. And it reports:

The protesters, a majority of them from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood movement, shouted “Down with Mubarak! Down with the regime!”

Members of other opposition groups were also present, including activists from the Kefaya (Enough) and 6th April movements and supporters of Egyptian Nobel Peace prize winner and leading dissident Mohammad ElBaradei.

12:30 pm: It appears that Frank Wisner, the special US envoy sent to Cairo, was flatly rebuffed when he tried to meet with Mubarak for a second time earlier this week. As I reported below, Wisner left Egypt. Here’s a brief New York Times account, part of along article, including a reference to Vice President Biden’s phone call to Vice President Suleiman:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., spoke by phone to Mr. Suleiman on Thursday, the White House said in a statement, urging that ”credible, inclusive negotiations begin immediately in order for Egypt to transition to a democratic government that addresses the aspirations of the Egyptian people.“

Mr. Biden’s phone call came after a mission by Mr. Obama’s private emissary, Frank G. Wisner, was abruptly ended when Mr. Mubarak, angry at Mr. Obama’s toughly worded speech on Tuesday night, declined to meet with the envoy a second time, officials said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has made three calls since the weekend to Egypt’s powerful defense minister, Field Marshal Tantawi, who served on the coalition’s side in the Persian Gulf war of 1991.

12:10 pm: BBC reports that today’s protests involve "many more Islamists" and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. In watching news accounts of the protests on CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera, it appears that many more protesters are praying in Liberation Square, while earlier in the week when some protesters knelt to pray, few joined them.

12:00: Today’s news from Egypt:

Tens of thousands are back in Tahrir Square in Cairo, and there are demonstrations in Alexandria, Suez and elsewhere on what protesters are calling “Day of Farewell” or “Day of Departure” for Mubarak. Mubarak, so far, isn’t departing. Security is tighter, with men armed with machine guns seen around Cairo, and security forces are blockading some Nile bridges. Graffiti reads: “Pharaoh’s last day.”

Egypt’s health minister told Al Arabiya that 5,000 people have been injured since last week.

Amr Moussa, the veteran Egyptian diplomat and head of the Cairo-based League of Arab States, has joined the protesters in the square. He’s been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.

The government, led by the military, is in full-court press to persuade protesters to stand down, and Egypt’s defense minister is on his way to Tahrir Square. Few, if any, pro-Mubarak people have shown up. But CNN reports that pro- and anti-Mubarak forces are clashing elsewhere in Cairo.

The crackdown on media in Egypt continues, and Al Jazeera reports that its Cairo offices were ransacked and burned.

The Cairo offices of the Muslim Brotherhood’s website were attacked by security forces, who arrested Brotherhood officials there. Vice President Suleiman, the former intelligence chief who was appointed last week, has offered to meet with Brotherhood officials, but so far they’ve turned him down. The Brotherhood is openly calling for the overthrow of the regime now, ending its previous cautious approach.

The Times reports that leaders of the April 6 Youth Movement have been taken into custody.

 

February 3, 8:55 pm: The Times reports:

The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.

The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.

8:30 pm: Very detailed BBC account of today’s events in Egypt here.

7:00 pm: At the State Department, they’ve got their story and they’re sticking to it, namely, that it’s time for the good guys and the bad guys to negotiate with each other, that the military is the bulwark of stability, and that both side need to sit down together. Here’s P.J. Crowley, meeting with reporters:

QUESTION: Well, what is your message to the opposition? Is your message to the opposition that this dialogue needs to begin now, that they can’t wait till he gets—till Hosni Mubarak steps down? Because they’re saying they’re not going to negotiate until he steps down. So you’re saying you’re having all this outreach with various opposition groups, what are you telling them about the imperative of negotiations?

MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador Scobey continued her outreach. I believe she had another conversation with Mr. ElBaradei, among others, today. I mean, our message is the same to both sides: They have to come together, they have to begin a credible process, and they have to take—it has to be broad-based, and there has to be credible negotiations between the government and the opposition.

He went on:

“Well, we are in daily contact with defense and military leaders. I think that, broadly speaking, the military has played a very important and constructive role in being a stabilizing force on the ground, particularly relative to what the situation looked like prior to the weekend. Yesterday was a bad day for Egypt. I think there’s some indications the military is adjusting its movements today in response to that. But we are very impressed with the posture and the professionalism displayed by the Egyptian military.…

“We want to see a transition now. We want to see a credible process where the government, the opposition, other key elements of Egyptian society, they come together as part of a broad-based effort to review what needs to be done and to take specific actions and do so with urgency. We—that is what we’ve been encouraging since the President talked to President Mubarak. And we— President Mubarak has made public commitments to undertake a process of reform and change, and we are just encouraging him, ‘You have no time to waste.’

“What concerns us is the longer this goes on without concrete action that the people of Egypt can see, the greater danger of ongoing confrontations and violence. This is why we continue to encourage the government and the opposition come together, come together now, have a broad-based effort, move forward so that people can see that change is coming and, in fact, that change is occurring. So we continue to encourage that there has to be serious negotiations undertaken now between the Egyptian Government and opposition leaders.”

Crowley did say that the United States had traced the thugs from yesterday’s attacks to the Egyptian government:

“I think we have traced it to elements close to the government or the ruling party. I don’t know that we have a sense of how far up the chain it went.”

And so far, he said, there’s been no contact at any level with the Muslim Brotherhood.

6:50 pm: The Financial Times reports: "As criticism of the Egyptian regime gathers pace, with demands from the US for a swifter transfer of power, Mr Suleiman said Cairo would not accept intervention in its internal affairs. ‘Intervention…is strange, unacceptable and we will not allow it,’ he said on state television."

6:45 pm: Here’s the latest from the White House, from Robert Gibbs’ meeting wth reporters aboard Air Force One:

Gibbs condemned the violence in Egypt, backed calls to hold accountable those who committed it, and sharply criticized attacks on journalists. On the transition, which President Obama says must occur “now” (“now” being last Tuesday evening, already), Gibbs said:

“The time for transition, as the President said, is now. And it is important that the world see some concrete steps toward meaningful change. As I enumerated a minute ago, that change should begin with broad-based negotiations between the government and opposition leaders.”

And there was this exchange:

Q. Anything else that would be a concrete step that you would look at and think of as a good sign?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I mean, obviously the ability to protest peacefully. We continue to call for restraint and nonviolence. I think an immediate step is, as we talk about the individual rights and freedoms that those in Egypt must have, one of those freedoms has to be the rights of journalists to be able to move around and report on the goings-on in the country.

4:45 pm: Mubarak says that he regrets yesterday’s violence. But the headline in the government-run Al Ahram newpaper on Thursday read: “Millions turn out to support Mubarak.”

4:15 pm: Tomorrow, Friday, when large-scale demonstrations are expected following Friday prayers, may be decisive in determining the course of Egypt’s revolution. Writing from Cairo, Emad Mekay of IPS suggests that the authorities’ crackdown against the media may be a sign that Mubarak and Co. are planning something ugly. He writes:

“Friday has been called by the anti-Mubarak movement ‘The Departure Friday’ i.e. a day in which Mubarak will decide to step down. Government supporters and apparently former police force members are searching all those heading towards Tahrir before turning them back. They confiscate food, water and medicine.

“Mubarak may be preparing for something which he does not want the world to see. The government is using all tools it can to thwart tomorrow’s big marches in Tahrir Square and elsewhere. They are sending text messages in Arabic through the local mobile phone companies warning people about ‘getting into trouble.’ One message reads: ‘Oh you young people of Egypt, listen to the voice of reason and be warned of rumors. Egypt is above all.’ Mubarak has always portrayed himself as a wise man and the ‘voice of reason.’ ”

4:00 pm: President Mubarak gave his first interview since the revolution erupted to Christiane Amanpour of ABC, telling her that “chaos” will follow if he resigns. Dribs and drabs of the interview are leaking out. Some highlights:

“I am fed up. After sixty-two years in public service I have had enough. I want to go.… [But] I would never run away. I will die on this soil.… I never intended to run again. I never intended Gamal to be president after me.… I don’t care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country, I care about Egypt.”

Asked about the ongoing assault against pro-democracy demonstators, Mubarak said: “I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other.”

And, asked about President Obama’s phone call, in which the president reportedly asked Mubarak to quit, he said that he told Obama: “You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.”

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