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Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt Update: Hosni Mubarak Refuses To Step Down, Then Does

The Washington Post has the entire Hosni Mubarak speech, where despite rumors to the contrary, the President of Egypt did not step down and relinquish his title. Instead he indicated he would delegate more power to his VP.

CBS News reports Mubarak immediately left Cairo after the speech, with sources making it clear it was only a temporary exit.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has temporarily left Cairo, a day after transferring some power to Vice President Omar Suleiman in an effort to quell weeks of protests, CBS News has confirmed.

The embattled ruler left the capital for the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. He is not expected to stay there indefinitely but will return to Cairo. Reports that he has fled the country for a safe haven elsewhere in the Arab world - or for medical care in Europe - are inaccurate, sources told CBS News.

Mubarak reportedly left during or immediately after his speech to the nation last night, which was taped in advance. Anger has flared on the Egyptian streets following the speech.

Mubarak was widely expected to announce he was stepping down Thursday. Instead he said he would transfer some unspecified powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman and remain president until elections in September. As Mubarak's speech was broadcast, premature victory celebrations among protesters in central Tahrir Square turned to bafflement, dismay, and rage.

Protesters were not mollified according to the NYT.

Angry protesters, who had swarmed by the thousands into the streets here Friday morning, were hardly mollified by the news of Mr. Mubarak’s exit and an accompanying statement by the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces over state television and radio. They said they would not believe he was gone until he had formally relinquished his title as president, and until Mr. Suleiman, his handpicked successor, had been ousted as well.

The protesters did let out a cheer at news on state radio that Naguib Sawiris, a wealthy and widely respected businessman, has agreed to act as a mediator between the opposition and the authorities in carrying through the political reforms.

WSJ reports that the White House, who also thought Mubarak was going to fully step down, was in a state of disbelief after the speech and wondering what the next public step should be. Quotes also show that Obama's handling of the situation could have added to the instability in the Middle East.

After Mr. Mubarak's speech, the White House was consumed with a sense of "disbelief," one U.S. official said.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, at the same hearing on Capitol Hill as Mr. Panetta, acknowledged the difficulty of predicting fast-moving events, comparing it to foreseeing "earthquakes in California."

The White House is now squeezed between Arab and Israeli allies, who have complained that Mr. Obama was pushing Mr. Mubarak too hard to step down, and lawmakers who accuse the White House of not pushing hard enough. Now, the White House finds itself largely a bystander.

"This is really bad," a senior U.S. official said after Mr. Mubarak's address. "We need to push harder—if not, the protests will get violent."


Arab and Israeli diplomats said Mr. Obama's decision to throw his full support behind the opposition after eight days of protests has likely broken ties with Mr. Mubarak beyond repair.

The move also had the effect of pushing Mr. Mubarak closer to regional allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have urged Mr. Mubarak to hold his ground.

As a result, said one Arab diplomat, Washington's influence in dictating events in Cairo could be limited.


"I don't think Mubarak trusts too many people from the U.S. anymore," the Arab diplomat said. "It looks like Omar Suleiman is the right point of contact, but they're all ticked off with the U.S. position, which they view as throwing Mubarak under the bus."

In talks with American counterparts in Washington Thursday, top Israeli officials accompanying Defense Minister Ehud Barak made a similar case, warning that the upheaval could be the start of a broader "earthquake" that could sweep the region, said officials briefed on the exchange.

They questioned Washington's wisdom in appearing to push for Mr. Mubarak's ouster and whether the military can keep chaos and Islamist forces at bay, a participant said.

Israeli officials also told the U.S. Thursday that right-wing parties in Israel could gain strength in future Israeli elections as a result, complicating efforts to advance peace talks with Palestinians.

The NYT:

The chaotic events on Thursday called much of the administration’s strategy in dealing with the Egyptian crisis into question. For days, the administration has pinned its hopes on a transition process managed by the Egyptian vice president, Omar Suleiman. But Mr. Suleiman followed Mr. Mubarak on television, aligning himself squarely with his boss, urging the protesters to decamp, go back to work and stop watching foreign satellite TV channels. That extravagant show of loyalty may doom any chances for Mr. Suleiman to function as an honest broker in the transition — something on which the administration had been counting, in part because it has good relations with Mr. Suleiman, a former head of Egyptian intelligence.

More from The Politico on the Obama administration counting their chickens before they were hatched.

In a speech in Michigan, President Barack Obama seemed to feed the narrative that dramatic change in Egypt was imminent. “What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold,” an upbeat Obama said. “It’s a moment of transformation that’s taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change.”

But by evening, the Obama team’s hopes for an “immediate” transition seemed to have been dashed as Mubarak took to the airwaves in Egypt to say he planned to stay as president until September but cede an unspecified degree of authority to his hand-picked vice president, Omar Suleiman.

Responding to the day’s events in a statement that did not mention Mubarak, Obama said that while a “transition of authority” has been promised the Egyptian people, “it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient.”

The lesson Obama should learn from this is that America's "influence" is no longer what it once was and the fate of Egypt is in the hands of their people, their Army and their leaders.

The White House should have worked behind the scenes but publicly stuck to the issue of condemning violence. Instead they publicly inserted themselves and it just made their lack of influence all the more public.

Rumor has it that the speech was simply face saving on the part of Mubarak as well as a highly visible FU to "foreign dictations", then it will be announced that he has resigned the office completely in the near future.

That was quick.

To clarify, many news agencies were so overwhelmed by the news of the resignation itself that they didn’t say how it was communicated. It’s simple: a few minutes ago, Vice President Omar Suleiman appeared on State TV for a scheduled speech. He said, “President Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of president, and has asked the armed forces to take charge of the country’s affairs.” It was an exceedingly terse speech. I will try to have a full transcription soon.

[Update #2] USA Today confirms:

Update at 11:08 a.m. ET: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators erupted in jubilation in Tahrir Square as vice president Omar Suleiman announces that President Mubarak has resigned and called on the army to "run the affairs of the country."


“Mubarak has decided to relinquish the office of the presidency,” said Vice President Omar Suleiman in a statement on state television today. “He has instructed the Supreme Council of the armed forces to take over the affairs of the country.”

More to come as this unfolds.