Mubarak Digs In After Building Hopes of Departure
Celebration was in the air today in Tahrir Square as rumors led Egyptians believe that Hosni Mubarak would announce his resignation in a late evening speech. He gave the speech, but the message was a muddled one, offering little more than assurances that the president will step down after elections in the fall.
Mubarak declared that he will transfer some powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman and establish councils to help facilitate the transition that will happen after a new leader is elected.
It wasn't what the hundreds of thousands who'd gathered in the streets of Cairo wanted to hear. The crowd was stunned, and angered, by Mubarak's failure to flee.
"Day after day we will continue the transfer of power until September," Mubarak added. "We have to continue our national dialog that we have started... so that we can take Egypt to the next step and to regain confidence in our economy."
President Obama tried to appear in sync with the flow of events, making remarks that seemed to indicate the the White House believed that Mubarak was going to announce his departure - an impression created in earlier remarks by the head of the CIA, who told congress that Mubarak might be leaving on Thursday.
Obama said the government is "following today's events in Egypt very closely, and we'll have more to say as this plays out," adding, “What is absolutely clear is we are witnessing history unfold. It's a moment of transformation taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change."
It's hard to imagine that Thursday's events will do anything other than enrage the throngs on the streets. Will the military continue to respect the people?
Earlier Thursday, Egypt's foreign minister warned that the army could seize control of the country if protesters do not halt the anti-government demonstrations that have been underway for 17 days, a prospect that he called "very grave."
Demonstrators had called for a "million man" protest Friday.
The mixed messages of the day leave the distinct impression that there is turmoil in the halls of government just as there is on the streets. Egypt, along with other countries in the middle east, is now highly combustible. Will the military bring matches?