Egypt: Mubark hangs on, Washington sends more mixed signals

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with his new government Feb. 5, as the executive committee of his ruling party stepped down in a purge evidently aimed at appeasing protesters who have now been taking to streets for 12 consecutive days. Tahrir Square remains occupied by demonstrators, who rejected the cabinet and party changes as inadequate and continue to demand Mubarak's resignation.

Washington equivocates
At a summit in Munich of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the crisis in Egypt, speaking of the need for democratic transition—but stopping short of calling for Mubarak to step down, and praising the "restraint" of Egypt's security forces.

A more openly pro-Mubarak stance was taken by Frank Wisner, the US diplomat who was dispatched to Cairo earlier this week. "You need to get a national consensus around the preconditions of the next step forward, and the president must stay in office in order to steer those changes through," Wisner said. "I therefore believe that President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical—it's his opportunity to write his own legacy."

Wisner later said he was speaking as an individual, not on behalf of the Obama administration. Bloggers noted that Wisner is in the employ as a "foreign policy advisor" to the PR firm Patton Boggsamong whose clients is the Egytpian government.

France said it has suspended sales of arms and riot police equipment to Egypt. (AFP, AP,Mideastwire Blog, Feb. 5)

Who was behind Sinai pipeline blast?
A gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula was hit by an explosion early Feb. 5. The pipeline runs through Israel and also supplies Jordan. The Israeli-Egyptian gas company, East Mediterranean Gas, said attackers blew up a measuring station in the town of Lihfen, near the Gaza Strip. The pipeline has been shut down as security forces beef up their presence in the area. Egypt supplies about 40% of Israel's natural gas, and in December four Israeli firms signed 20-year contracts worth up to $10 billion to import Egyptian gas. Militant Bedouin groups have apparently threatened to blow up the pipeline before, but no-one has claimed credit for the blast. (Ma'an News Agency, Feb. 5)

Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardawil dismissed reports in the Egyptian daily al-Akhbar linking Hamas to the explosion, saying such charges aimed "to export the crisis to Gaza." (Ma'an News Agency, Feb. 5)

See our last posts on Egypt and the struggle for new Arab uprisings.

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  1. Frank Wisner: CIA scion
    Well, well. It appears that Frank Wisner is a veteran of both the Enron board of directors—and (surprise!) the CIA. SourceWatch quotes Vijay Prashad:

    Frank Wisner, Jr. was a big catch for Enron Corporation. His lineage is impeccable, since his father, Frank Wisner Sr., was a senior CIA official (from 1947 until his suicide in 1965) who was involved in the overthrow of Arbenz of Guatemala (1954) and Mossadeq of Iran (1953). Wisner Junior was well-known in the CIA and he worked as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs…

    It should be noted that the Obama administration has now distanced itself from Wisner’s remarks. (AFP, Feb. 6)

  2. Frank Wisner and Omar Suleiman: birds of a feather
    Vice President Omar Suleiman, as Mubarak’s chief of intelligence, was of course deeply involved in the US “rendition” program. In addition to the notorious Abu Omar case, ABC News reveals that a brother of purported al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was apparently dismembered in Suleiman’s torture chambers:

    Ron Suskind, author of the book The One Percent Doctrine, called Suleiman the “hit man” for the Mubarak regime. He told ABC News that when the CIA asked Suleiman for a DNA sample from a relative of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Suleiman offered the man’s whole arm instead.

    “He’s a charitable man, friendly,” said Suskind. “He tortures only people that he doesn’t know.”