Dispatch: Egypt's Tipping Point

MIN READFeb 11, 2011 | 03:13 GMT

Analyst Reva Bhalla explains the current situation in Egypt and what STRATFOR is looking for next. Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. The United States has made clear that Hosni Mubarak staying on as Egypt's president, even as a figurehead, is not good enough. It is also not good enough for demonstrators, and the situation has reached a point where it is no longer just about personal wealth or the ego of Mubarak. This now comes to saving the regime, and that is where we look to the military to act.   U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a statement Feb. 10 in which he acknowledged there was a transition of authority in Egypt, but he said that transition was not immediate, meaningful nor sufficient. Obama's statement follows a meeting he convened of the U.S. National Security Council, and it follows a speech that Mubarak made in which he said that he is not stepping down as president, but he would be transferring his presidential powers to his vice president — the former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. Even staying on as a figurehead is clearly insufficient for the opposition and Suleiman is seen as "one and the same" as Mubarak. Therefore, we are looking at a situation where in the coming hours, Egypt is about to see some of its largest demonstrations. People are extremely enraged following Mubarak's speech, and now the military in Egypt has to make some very difficult decisions.  The military has three choices.  First, it could sit back and allow the demonstrations to swell. There are plans in the works for demonstrators to go to the presidential palace. That is a situation that could turn very ugly very fast. The second option is for the army on the streets to actually confront the demonstrators. That is the last thing the United States in particular wants and is probably not what the military wants right now.  Remember there has been a very positive perception that the opposition has had of the military thus far in which they see the military as the gateway to a post-Mubarak Egypt. The third option — one that STRATFOR is paying particularly close attention, is that of a direct military intervention. We saw hints of this just earlier Feb. 10 when the army was issuing a statement saying that the military was here to safeguard the motherland.  All indications were that Mubarak would step down. That was the message transmitted in Washington with Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta telling Congress he has heard that Mubarak would step down. Somewhere along the line that understanding unraveled. So now it is up to the military elite whether they are actually going to be able to step in, follow through and force Mubarak out to pre-empt a very ugly situation on the streets with the demonstrators. If that were to happen, now would be the time.  There are some very heavy and complex negotiations underway. These negotiations are not just about titles or positions. There is also a lot of money involved, a lot of assets at stake, a lot of political careers on the line, and that has resulted in a lot of confused signals and messages that we have seen going back and forth throughout the day. Despite all of this, the military has a very difficult decision to make, and that is why we are going to be watching to see if the military actually follows through, steps in and forces Mubarak out.
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