A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Man Who Never Speaks, Speaks

Vice President ‘Omar Suleiman has gone on Egyptian TV to say that he has been entrusted to begin negotiations with the opposition in the next days. The man whose face never appeared in newspapers till a few years ago is now the apparent face of the government, as Mubarak remains wherever he may be. (Sharm al-Sheikh?, surrounded by those troops the Israelis approved deploying?)

Combined with the Army statement, I suspect the beginning of a transition, in which General Suleiman and perhaps the Army command discuss with the opposition's representatives what comes next.

I don't think Suleiman would be accepted by the opposition as a long-term leader, but as someone the Army would trust he could be used to usher in a transition.

If not the beginning of the end, at least, to steal from Churchill, also addressing an Egyptian subject (El Alamein), today's events may be the end of the beginning.

But tomorrow may be tense. Amid talk of a huge demonstration assembling from all over the country tomorrow, the government has halted train service throughout Egypt. After shutting down the Internet, the phones (now back), the banks (and the ATMs are out too, perhaps due to the Internet), Egypt has now committed itself to guaranteeing the trains won't run on time.

No comments: