The only thing keeping Hosni Mubarak in power this morning, are tanks on the streets of Cairo. There is no way back for a President who has lost credibility not only with the people of Egypt but also with the US and Western powers that have kept him in power so long.
After a week of popular protest against the regime of Hosni Mubarak across Egypt, the violent repressive police force have been harassed off the streets leaving groups of vigilantes to guard their homes and businesses against looters. The army has been called in to cower the population with a show of force but have been made ineffective by the goodwill shown towards them by the protesters. They are after all the sons and brothers of the people on the streets, obliged for the most part to be on there as part of their National service.
Mubarak is in a double bind. If he orders the troops to use military force against the protesters, he will further offend the United States and the Western powers, that have stated that he needs to use restraint against the demonstrators and address their genuine grievances. If he does not use the military to bring order to the streets, both his remaining supporters and the protesters will see him as ineffective, leaving the protesters in a stronger position and weakening his already crumbling power base.
As thousands of American are airlifted out of Egypt the southern suburb of Maadi, popular with foreign residents descends into chaos. The main shopping street of Road Nine has been looted and the main shopping centre [the Grand Mall] is in flames.
“We will keep running the charter flights until we get [all] people out,” said Assistant Secretary of State Janice L. Jacobs to CNN earlier today.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth office states on their website that “we recommend British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez leave by commercial means where it is safe to do so.”
The protest movement now has a focus in the form of Mohamed ElBaradri, former head of the UN nuclear inspection term and Nobel peace prize-winner but Mubarak is unlikely to want to meet with him in the near future to negotiate his way out of the impasse. In these circumstances, the only force in Egyptian society with the power to cause regime change is the military, specifically the army.
In 1952 it was a group of middle ranking army officers including future president Nasser that masterminded the coup that eventually drove Kind Farouk from power. The generals of Mubarak’s army were appointed by him and will remain loyal but the frustrated middle ranking officers, frustrated by years of being passed over for promotion are ripe for revolt.
As tensions mount on the streets of Cairo, watch the tanks. If they head towards the Presidential palace, then the Mubarak regime will be heading towards the history books