Egypt: Fighter Jets Military Show of Force, Al Jazeera Banned, and Protests in Sudan

Events in Egypt continue to move at break-neck speed: fighter jets ominously swooped over Cairo in a military show of force…Al Jazeera, which is to events in Cairo what the young CNN was to the first military invasion of Iraq, has been banned…and protests have now broken out in Sudan.

Which raises some questions as events swiftly unfold: is the government of embattled President Hosni Mubarak about to issue an order for the military to unleash a bloody crackdown and, if so, will the military obey? If there are signs of protests in Sudan, is what started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt about to spread to other Arab counties as well?

Events are moving swiftly and some sites are carrying constantly updated pages. Here’s a roundup of some events, comments and developments occurring as you read this:

The military offers a show of force:

The Egyptian military has staged an apparent show of strength in the capital Cairo during a sixth day of anti-government protests.

Two air force jets and a helicopter are repeatedly flying low over Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the main gathering point for demonstrators.

A column of tanks arrived there only to have its path blocked by demonstrators…

….The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen, in Tahrir Square, says there is a mood of defiance among the anti-government protesters there, who are accusing the military of trying to intimidate them.

Earlier, despite the presence of armoured vehicles, the protesters appeared to have free rein in the city centre, with no sign of the riot police with whom they have clashed violently in recent days.

At one point, an army officer was carried aloft on the shoulders of cheering protesters.

Sky News offers this footage:

Tweets are raging on the issue. Read some selected ones HERE. And here is the ongoing, constantly updated Tweet page on “Egypt.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls for an orderly transition of power but is not (yet) asking for Mubarak to step down:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday called for an end to the destructive and deadly political protests in Egypt and called for an “orderly transition” of government to advance democracy and improve the economy.

Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration is not calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign and called for an end to the rioting, in which roughly 74 people have died…..

“Clearly, what we don’t want is this chaos,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Al Jazeera has been banned, AFP reports:

Egypt’s official MENA news agency said the outgoing information minister, Anas al-Fikki, ordered Al Jazeera’s closure in Cairo after its blanket coverage of anti-government protests sweeping the country.

The Doha-based Al Jazeera slammed the move as an attempt at “censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.”

In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard,” the Arab satellite news channel said.

On Saturday, it broadcast an appeal from Yusef al-Qaradawi, a popular Egyptian-born television preacher and mentor of Egypt’s officially banned Muslim Brotherhood, urging President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

In Tunisia, a wave of protests earlier this month led to the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power, inspiring demonstrations in various other countries around the region, including Egypt.

“Arab governments accuse Al Jazeera of mobilising the street, and they are right, but this accusation is an honour for the channel,” said Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, a professor at United Arab Emirates University.

“There’s no doubt Al Jazeera was an important actor in the Tunisian revolution and in the events in Egypt,” he said.

Read more about Al Jazeera HERE.

Iran makes it clear it is backing the demonstrators:

Iran on Sunday praised Egypt’s “revolution of the noble” and slammed Western governments’ “backward” reaction to the uprising in the Arab nation, state media reported.

“The voice of the brave people of Egypt is the voice of revolution. The start of this revolution has astonished the despotic regimes of the region,” parliament speaker Ali Larijani was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

“The parliament supports the uprising of the Tunisian and Egyptian people,” Larijani said, describing the protests as “the revolution of the noble.”

Iran’s new foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi also hoped that Egyptians’ “high aims, national demands and resurrection of their glory could be achieved in the very near future.”

Larijani likened the Western states’ position on Egypt to “supporting the Shah during the Islamic revolution” which toppled the US-backed monarch in 1979.

“Their analysis of Islamic countries is still backward,” he said at the beginning of an open session of the parliament.

Mubarak meets with his military commanders:

- President Hosni Mubarak, clinging to power despite unprecedented demands for an end to his 30-year rule, met on Sunday with the powerful military which is widely seen as holding the key to Egypt’s future.

Mubarak held talks with Vice President Omar Suleiman, whose appointment on Saturday has possibly set the scene for a transition in power, Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Chief of Staff Sami al-Anan and other senior commanders.

An earthquake of unrest is shaking Mubarak’s authoritarian grip on power and the high command’s support is vital as other pillars of his ruling apparatus crumble, analysts said.

ABC notes that the protests are growing angrier:

The U.S., Turkey and other governments (more being added to the list as you read this) are urging their nationals to get out of Egypt:

The United States and Turkey on Sunday offered to evacuate citizens wanting to leave Egypt, where violent protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak have given way in some parts of Cairo to looting.

Other governments advised their citizens to leave the country or avoid travelling there if possible, although Russian and German tourists at Red Sea resorts made no move to cut short their holidays.

Witnesses said some businesses were starting to evacuate their staff and reported scenes of chaos at the airport, where many people, including Egyptians, were trying to fly out.

“The U.S. embassy in Cairo informs U.S. citizens in Egypt who wish to depart that the Department of State is making arrangements to provide transportation to safe haven locations in Europe,” the statement said, describing the evacuation as voluntary.

National flagship airlines including Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS), Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and Air India [AIN.UL] said they would dispatch additional planes to Egypt to bring home citizens stuck in Cairo and Alexandria.

Britain hardened its advice to Britons, advising them to leave Cairo, Suez and Alexandria “where it is safe to do so”.

Germany’s Federal Foreign Office was advising against trips to major cities but excluded the Red Sea holiday regions from its advisory.

In his first TV interview since joining the Obama administration, White House Chief of Staff William Daley says Mubarak must respect human rights — setting the scene for a possible break with Egypt if there is a repressive bloodbath:

In his first television interview since joining the Obama administration, White House Chief of Staff William Daley called for Egyptian President Mubarak to “support basic human rights” among the people of Egypt – but emphasized that the matter was one to be taken up by “the people of Egypt.”

“The determination of Egypt will be done by the people of Egypt,” Daley said, in an exclusive interview for CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The U.S., again, can stand by, we can support, we can support the basic human rights of the people of Egypt.”

“President Obama has spoken with President Mubarak, expressed to him directly his concern about the issues on the street, the violence on the street, and has called for restraint by the government,” Daley continued. “He has also called for restraint by the people who have been out on the street. But it’s very fluid situation and so we’re – the president is monitoring it very closely, and we hope that it works itself out for the people of Egypt.”

European leaders also urge Mubarak to show restraint:

The governments of Germany, France and Britain appealed Saturday to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to refrain from using force against anti-government demonstrations currently sweeping the country.

“There must be full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms,” a joint statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy read.

That included “freedom of expression and communication including use of telephone and internet, and the right of peaceful assembly”.

Mubarak should “avoid at all costs the use of violence against unarmed civilians,” the three leaders said…….

Merkel, Cameron and Sarkozy wrote on Saturday that they recognized “the moderating role President Mubarak has played over many years in the Middle East.”

“We now urge him to show the same moderation in addressing the current situation in Egypt,” they continued.

T. Boone Pickens on the economic impact:


Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei says it’s time for Mubarak to go:

Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei on Sunday called for embattled President Hosni Mubarak to “leave today and save the country.”

“This is a country that is falling apart,” ElBaradei told CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

The view from the streets: An AP raw video shows police demonstrator confrontations in Cairo:
YouTube Preview Image

The Independent’s Robert Fisk has a must read
from Cairo. Here are a few portions from this piece that must be read in full:

The Egyptian tanks, the delirious protesters sitting atop them, the flags, the 40,000 protesters weeping and crying and cheering in Freedom Square and praying around them, the Muslim Brotherhood official sitting amid the tank passengers. Should this be compared to the liberation of Bucharest? Climbing on to an American-made battle tank myself, I could only remember those wonderful films of the liberation of Paris. A few hundred metres away, Hosni Mubarak’s black-uniformed security police were still firing at demonstrators near the interior ministry. It was a wild, historical victory celebration, Mubarak’s own tanks freeing his capital from his own dictatorship.

In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself – and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington – the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters – Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman’s appointment, they burst into laughter…


Mubarak’s feeble attempts to claim that he must end violence on behalf of the Egyptian people – when his own security police have been responsible for most of the cruelty of the past five days – has elicited even further fury from those who have spent 30 years under his sometimes vicious dictatorship. For there are growing suspicions that much of the looting and arson was carried out by plainclothes cops – including the murder of 11 men in a rural village in the past 24 hours – in an attempt to destroy the integrity of the protesters campaigning to throw Mubarak out of power. The destruction of a number of communications centres by masked men – which must have been co-ordinated by some form of institution – has also raised suspicions that the plainclothes thugs who beat many of the demonstrators were to blame.

AND:

It was deeply amusing to Egyptians that Obama – in Cairo itself, after his election – had urged Arabs to grasp freedom and democracy. These aspirations disappeared entirely when he gave his tacit if uncomfortable support to the Egyptian president on Friday. The problem is the usual one: the lines of power and the lines of morality in Washington fail to intersect when US presidents have to deal with the Middle East. Moral leadership in America ceases to exist when the Arab and Israeli worlds have to be confronted.

And the Egyptian army is, needless to say, part of this equation. It receives much of the $1.3bn of annual aid from Washington. The commander of that army, General Tantawi – who just happened to be in Washington when the police tried to crush the demonstrators – has always been a very close personal friend of Mubarak. Not a good omen, perhaps, for the immediate future.

So the “liberation” of Cairo – where, grimly, there came news last night of the looting of the Qasr al-Aini hospital – has yet to run its full course. The end may be clear. The tragedy is not over.

Read it in full

Meanwhile, is Egypt’s and Tunisia unrest spreading to Sudan?

Sudanese police clashed with students Sunday as anti-government protests broke out in the capital, Khartoum.

Hundreds of students took part in the protests, shouting slogans that criticized high prices, the government, and President Omar al-Bashir.

At least three demonstrations took place, one in central Khartoum and two at local universities. Witnesses say at one of the schools, students threw stones at police, who in turn beat them with batons.

Authorities have reported five arrests.

The students were responding to Internet pleas for peaceful, anti-government rallies. Organizers said they were inspired by the protests that toppled Tunisia’s president and the ongoing demonstrations in Egypt.

A CROSS SECTION OF BLOG COMMENTS ON EVENTS:

Juan Cole:

The Nasserist state, for all its flaws, gained legitimacy because it was seen as a state for the mass of Egyptians, whether abroad or domestically. The present regime is widely seen in Egypt as a state for the others– for the US, Israel, France and the UK– and as a state for the few– the Neoliberal nouveau riche. Islam plays no role in this analysis because it is not an independent variable. Muslim movements have served to protest the withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities, and to provide services. But they are a symptom, not the cause. All this is why Mubarak’s appointment of military men as vice president and prime minister cannot in and of itself tamp down the crisis. They, as men of the System, do not have more legitimacy than does the president– and perhaps less.

--Sister Toldjah:

The United States has huge stakes in Egypt and the region, but I fear our ability to influence events is limited by our lack of knowledge and by, quite simply, the fact that revolutions, once ignited, are almost impossible to direct. The winners are not always the largest force, but usually the most organized and disciplined, such as the Bolsheviks in 1917.

And speaking of disciplined forces, former UN Ambassador John Bolton sees the situation becoming more dangerous, as the Muslim Brotherhood has become openly involved and the military wonders about its own survival…Only a fool (Or a TV talking head) pretends to be able to predict with certainty what will happen in Egypt, but Andrew Bostom reminds us of a University of Maryland survey showing that a disturbingly large number of Egyptians want a sharia-ruled state…

National Review Online:

Nina, Hamas’s overt intervention in Egypt is an alarming development, although a predictable one. It is worth pointing out that Hamas is not merely colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood. That, of course, will not be what you hear from our foreign-policy experts, such as Obama adviser Bruce Riedel, who are busily sculpting their narrative about how the Brotherhood — the font on modern jihadist terror — has renounced violence and is really nothing for us to be very concerned about. But the stubborn fact is that Hamas is the most prominent of the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branches, whose operations long predated Hamas and brought Hamas (a/k/a, the Islamic Resistance Movement) into being.

Don’t take my word for it (although I covered the topic in some detail in The Grand Jihad). Don’t even take the word of the Justice Department, which amply demonstrated during the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing prosecution that the Muslim Brotherhood’s top project in the U.S. has been to drum up support for Hamas. Look, instead, at some relevant sections of Hamas’s 1988 charter (“The Charter of Allah: The Platform of the Islamic Resistance Movement”), announcing the terrorist organization’s existence..

Think Progress:

As ThinkProgress reported today, former Bush administration official and U.N. Ambassador John Bolton abandoned his supposed belief in “democracy promotion” and told right-wing radio host Mark Levin that the Egyptian pro-democracy protests are a “big opportunity” for jihadists, siding with the Mubarak dictatorship.

Now, yet another high-profile Republican is disparaging the protest movement and openly siding with Egypt’s dictator. In a statement posted on his website last night, GOP Conference Chair Rep. Thaddeus McCotter wrote that “the Egyptian demonstrations are not the equivalent of Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution” and that “America must stand with her ally Egypt to preserve an imperfect government capable of reform.” He even went as far as to say that “freedom’s radicalized enemies are subverting Egypt” with the demonstrations:..

–Pajamas Media looks at three possible outcomes.

Dave Mataconis:

[T]he United States is in a difficult position. I don’t think there are any clear answers here, and little ground to criticize the Obama Administrations response to what is clearly the most difficult foreign policy crisis they’ve dealt with to date. However, it’s worth noting that we may be nearing a point where U.S. influence over Mubarak is not nearly as strong as we thought it might be and that it’s time to start considering what the Egyptian people will think of how we’ve acted here when the government finally does change.


The copyrighted cartoon by Frederick Deligne, Nice-Matin, France, is licensed to run on TMV. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.

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