Obama Riding on Middle East Roller Coaster

There was a whole different mood in Egypt today, as pro-Mubarak crowds mixed it up with the protesters.

There is a revolutionary situation in Egypt, but there has not yet been a revolution. In the wake of Hosni Mubarak's pledge not to stand again for the presidency next September, gangs of government loyalists were today let loose on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria.

After today's events, it's clear that the Egyptian regime will try to bludgeon or divert the popular movement for change into a phoney transition. If that is seen to happen with US or Israeli connivance, the radicalisation western leaders fear will only be greater. Whatever now happens, the forces that have been unleashed, in Egypt and beyond, cannot be turned back.

Just days ago, following the "successful" lame duck session and an on-pitch speech in Tucson, Obama was riding high. This week, he's riding with Mubarak.