A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, January 31, 2011

Day Seven

The high drama of last Friday seems to have been replaced with a sort of continuing tension as the two sides in Egypt are eyeball to eyeball waiting for someone to blink. I think so far I'd read today as a day of mixed signals. The return of police to the streets seems to have been well handled: they deployed the traffic police, a whole different matter than the Central Security Forces. It provides a presence, but not a confrontational one. Meanwhile, the spread of the neighborhood committees may be the real revolutionary movement, since locals providing their own security are, in effect, creating government from below.

The new Cabinet isn't all that new, the major development there being the replacement of Interior Minister Habib al-Adly with Mahmoud Wagdi. Reports I've seen say he once headed the Prison Bureau, which doesn't make him sound very much of a reformer, but he's said to have had a falling-out with Adly, so the President may consider him a symbol of change, though I doubt the demonstrators will agree.

A commenter noted yesterday the potential importance of the decision by many Azhar faculty, key judges, and other prominent representatives of civil society to join the demonstrators in Tahrir, further broadening support for the protests. In fact, I gather many Egyptian celebrities — sports stars, TV personalities, etc. — are now showing up. Midan al-Tahrir is the place to be. That is a sign that many pillars of Egyptian society are now joining what they may see as the right side of history, or at least the one likely to win.

Meanwhile, the government crackdown on Al Jazeera led to the confiscation of their cameras and arrest of six journalists, though the six have now been released. Al Jazeera English for the past couple of days has been talking to their reporters without naming them, for safety reasons. Both their Arabic and English services are reporting thoroughly despite the difficulties. So, once again, the live-streaming Al Jazeera English coverage:


McDevite said...

You seem to have a sentence fragment at the end of the penultimate paragraph: "That is a sign that many pillars of Egyptian society are now" so, yeah.

I think today's big catch, comes from the BBC: "The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says: "The announcement by the Egyptian army that it will not use force against their own people, and that it considers the demands of the protesters "legitimate", could be a devastating blow to President Mubarak. To regain control of the streets, he would need the use - or at least the threat - of force from the army. It comes after a call by the opposition for a million-strong demonstration on Tuesday in central Cairo. It now seems increasingly likely that the 30-year rule of Mr Mubarak is drawing to a close."

That came on the heels of reports that the Army was using trucks to bring bread to the poor. It's no a "no confidence" vote in Mubarak yet, but it's headed that way.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Post on the army being written as I read your comment. I was in a radio interview when the story broke.

McDevite said...

Ah, well. You may want to hang on to that. Vice President Omar Suleiman, thug spectacular, is about to make an address to the nation on Nile TV.

Parts of the new cabinet appear to have been in contact with the opposition coalition throughout the day.