Obama administration won’t dump Mubarak as protests paralyze Egypt

Speaking before a sea of angry protesters on Cairo’s Tahrir Square Jan. 30, dissident leader Mohamed ElBaradei hailed “a new Egypt in which every Egyptian lives in freedom and dignity.” Empowered by the newly formed National Coalition for Change—bringing together several opposition movements including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood—to negotiate with the regime, ElBaradei said: “We are on the right path, our strength is in our numbers. I ask you to be patient, change is coming.” Government warplanes flew low over the gathered multitudes in a show of force, as the crowd defiantly responded “Mubarak, go to Saudi Arabia!” President Hosni Mubarak meanwhile met with army brass.

There were some signs of compromise in this sixth day of anti-government protests, with parliament speaker Fathi Surour pledging to review the results of last year’s fraud-tainted parliamentary elections. In addition to naming intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his first-ever vice president, Mubarak also appointed a new premier, Ahmed Shafiq, another scion of the military establishment.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an “orderly transition” in Egypt—but stopped short of saying Mubarak should step down. She denied the Obama administration has discussed cutting off aid to Egypt.

“The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years will be the one to implement democracy,” ElBaradei told CBS from Cairo. “You are losing credibility by the day. On one hand you’re talking about democracy, rule of law and human rights, and on the other hand you’re lending still your support to a dictator that continues to oppress his people.”

His demand to President Barack Obama’s administration: “You have to stop the life support to the dictator and root with the people.” A banner in English at Tahrir Square read: “USA, why do you support the tyrant and not the people?”

The death toll in the six days of unrest stands at an estimated 125. A wave of jailbreaks has been reported across the country, arousing fears of lawlessness and prompting citizens to form neighborhood vigilante groups. Looters reportedly destroyed precious artifacts at the national museum. Rumors indicate government agents may have acted in the jaibreaks and looting, to spread chaos and justify a crackdown. The Internet remains effectively shut down, petrol stations are running out of fuel, and ATM machines have been emptied by looting and a run on withdrawals.

News network AlJazeera has been ordered out of Egypt following its aggressive coverage of the anti-government protests. (AFP, Middle East Online, Middle East Online, The Telegraph, BBC World Service, Jan. 30)

See our last posts on Egypt and the Tunisian virus.

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