I received the following message this morning from a close friend in Egypt, who is very much engaged in the events now consuming the country. Since I received this note, some new dramatic events have transpired. President Obama's special Egypt envoy, Frank Wisner, a former U.S. Ambassador there and a close friend of President Mubarak, spoke at the Wehrkunde conference in Munich, and announced that Mubarak had to remain in office to steer the transition to a new government, etc. This is a 180 degree turn, after Obama's own "out now" demands, that were very impolitic, unless they had been already pre-negotiated. As a precondition for Mubarak staying on, his son Gamal, and the head of the ruling party, Sharif, were both forced to resign, which they did this afternoon. A reform-minded figure has been named as the replacement for both men, a good sign. In the Tahrir Square, there are growing indications that the Army may attempt to clear out the demonstrators, which could rile things up as bad as the Wednesday-Thursday hooligan attacks, organized by the Interior Ministry and the "oligarchs" behind the looting of the country under the radical privativation of post-1996. So things are in flux, and the U.S. Administration's involvement now seems to be in the hands of some people who know the Egyptian situation alot better than the White House circles around the President. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are handling the contact with Omar Suleiman, the VP; and Gates and Mullen are dealing continuously with their counterpart. Here is my friend's status report:
"The protests in Egypt have reached an impasse and seem now ,one day after the "departure Friday" to be turning in a circle..The population is slowly loosing steam and some sectors are turning to a neutral position or to worst. The kids in Tahrir SQ are determined and they still have quite a bit of support but the wind is turning slowly to an unfavorable direction. Mubarak showed an unexpected ability to hold on. and the morale among his aids are improving.
The question now is what will happen in the day after. In similar circumstances the defeat of such an uprising pave the road to a much more authoritarian regime. There are certain consequences to the "explosion" that happened. One important factor that needs to be examined is the position of the Muslem Brotherhood (MBs). While many in and out of Egypt are coming to terms with the fact that it is a political force that should not be ignored, there are two developments that place simultaneously right now. The first is the split in the leadership with the old guard taking a cautious position on the issue of participating in the protests, the other is the younger generation which resulted from the movement in the universities during the 70s which sided with full participation. The first couple of days there was no participation as the intensive debate was going on inside the two wings of the leadership. The continuation of the protest and its intensity settled the debate in favor of full participating. Due to the total lack of experience among the young men who caused this spark, the MBs were increasing gradually their role. The situation was developing - and still is - to a peculiar configuration where the kids (secular and opened) were becoming the junior partner. But the MBs were sensitive not to challenge them in their role of leadership so far as the slogans do not contradict their platform.
The other development on the circle of the the MBs is not related to the leadership but rather to the bases. The younger generation of membership may split after the failure of the uprising and resort to more radical means and ideologies.Contrary to the 70s generation of the the membership the current one is shaped by the general social and economic deterioration of Egypt. They come from lower classes with much less relation to culture or sophistication. Both the MBs leadership and the society overall will face a generation of young member of the movement which tends to more radical positions that may lead them to leaving the MBs and forming new small and radical groups as similar to what happened in the late 80s and 90s.
Overall. the tendency of the regime in the "day after" to be even more authoritarian could enhance the development to violence particularly when all hopes of peaceful reform, or any reform for that matter, disappear in their minds.
The regime will be tempted to crack down. The hated police force will be tempted to increase the dose of humiliation to a population that dared to burn all police stations. The relatively small margin of debate that was there could disappear. This will be one of the worst consequences because simply it will terminate any attempts to get a real economic development plan without which this country will be doomed to decades of instability.
Could the regime introduce a real economic development plan?. It depends on the level of understanding of the gravity of what happened and its latent and obvious consequences. The momentum of the "victory" of the regime if it could achieve a real victory may not leave room to restrain or reflection and understanding. Therefore, I believe that the fate of this country for decades to come will be hanging on what the Mubarak regime will do in the coming few months." Yusuf al-Misry (Joe the Egyptian)