Wednesday, February 02, 2011


"Egypt’s political crisis escalated on Wednesday as supporters of Hosni Mubarak, the embattled president, fought running battles with demonstrators calling for his immediate departure.

Sporadic gunfire echoed across Tahrir Square, the epicentre of nine days of protests against Mr Mubarak’s 30-year reign, as men hurled rocks at each other and fought with clubs and steel bars. At one stage, pro-Mubarak supporters on horses and camels galloped into the crowds brandishing whips, only to be dragged off their mounts and beaten.

According to state television, health ministry reports said three people had died and more than 600 had been injured.

The clashes erupted after thousands of people took to the streets in support of Mr Mubarak for the first time since the crisis began. The army – the only security force in the square on Wednesday – did little to intervene. It was not clear if the gunshots were from soldiers firing into the air or groups fighting for control of the square.

Clashes continued past midnight, with anti-Mubarak protesters concerned that violence against them might escalate. The protestors alleged police in civilian clothes were involved in the violence, but the interior ministry denied the claims.

Amnesty International called on the Egyptian authorities to protect the right to peaceful protest, saying the violence appeared to be orchestrated in part by the authorities to suppress continuing protests calling for political reform.

The human rights group also questioned why the army had not done more to prevent the clashes. “The fact that such violence is allowed to continue as the army stand there begs the question whether they have orders not to interfere,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui at Amnesty....

The violence will exacerbate concerns about the stability of the Arab world’s most populous state. The protests have forced businesses and banks to close and created a climate of fear and suspicion. Curfew hours were, however, reduced and an internet blackout lifted for the first time in days.

The US State Department condemned the violence. “These attacks are not only dangerous to Egypt; they are a direct threat to the aspirations of the Egyptian people. The use of violence to intimidate the Egyptian people must stop.”

Anti-Mubarak protesters continued to pour into Tahrir Square. Omar Suleiman, the new vice-president, called on both protesters and Mubarak supporters to leave the square, saying their messages had been received".

Heba Saleh, Andrew England, Michael Peel & Cara Mishkin, "Egypt divided by Violence," The Financial Times, 2 February 2011, in

To-day's violence by pro-Mubarak elements in Cairo seems to indicate that while Mubarak's speech of yesterday in which he disclaims any intention of running for re-election in September, would indicate that the Egyptian President is on the way out, to-days violence I believe puts paid to that notion. At least in a very straightforward fashion. Going back to one of my prior posts, it would still appear that there are three possible scenarios that can be played out in Egypt in the next seven to eight months. They are: i) the entire, 'deep-state' regime, and not just Mubarak himself crumbles in short order. Say by the end of the current month if not sooner. With all of the elements associated with Egyptian state apparatus since 1952 being ousted. Something akin to what happened in Persia in 1978-1979. How likely is this to occur? As of to-day, especially with the violence instigated by Mubarak's supporters, it seems somewhat difficult to imagine. Especially, since the army appears to have quietly remained on the sidelines the whole while to-day. So unless, the army hierarchy loses control `a la St. Petersburg in 1917 or Baghdad circa 1958, I for one do not see any likelihood of a complete collapse of the existing regime. Merely at worse Mubarak being given an airplane ticket to London or Saudi Arabia in a week, two or three. Let us label this the 'Petersburg scenario'. Of course with this scenario the end-result is utter chaos and something akin to perhaps civil war, between opposing elements (parts of the military versus say the extremist elements in the Muslim Brotherhood, et cetera). Once again, this is only likely to occur if the army command completely or almost completely loses control; ii) the second scenario involves the deep state apparatus, sans Mubarak, either now or by September, defusing the crisis, and engaging fraudulently in elections if there are any elections at all, and ensuring that the regime's own candidate wins. If state violence is needed for this purpose, then it is engaged in. The most pertinent examples are Algeria in 1989-1990 and Burma in the same time period. The violence that erupted to-day being of course quite likely to be employed again to arouse fears of chaos and instability by the general population. The end result being that the 'deep state' apparatus remains in power, with perhaps at best a few cosmetic changes. Let us label this the 'Algerian scenario'. How likely is this scenario? I believe that it is quite likely, however no one at this time can tell of course; iii) the final scenario is the most optimistic one: Mubarak is forced to leave the country within a month. There is a transitional 'national-unity government' which remains in power until the constitution is amended and Presidential and parliamentary elections are held in September-October of this year. A 'moderate', non-Islamist, government gains power. Ties with the West are retained, if not quite as close as in prior years. The 'cold peace', with Israel remains in intact. How likely is this scenario? Well something akin to this did occur in Indonesia back in 1997-1999, which is also a majority-Muslim country, which at that point was emerging from the thirty-two years reign of General Suharto. Indonesia having experienced in the past (1965-1966), violence vastly greater than anything that we have seen even in Algeria, much less Egypt in the past. And as of to-day Indonesia is a pluralistic, democracy albeit with tensions and a certain degree of instability, but certainly nothing worse than what one sees in say India or even for that matter Mexico...We can label this the 'Indonesian scenario'. It is this scenario of course that the West in general and the United States in particular hopes and indeed dreams for. And while this is indeed the best of all possible outcomes, I do have an inkling that one does indeed need to be something akin to Dr. Pangloss to really believe that anything of the sort will in fact occur. As Candide's author nicely puts it: "dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles...tout est au mieux". At least in the short to medium-term for Egypt and its poor people.


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