Egypt: What Will the Army Do?

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

So far, with a few or a lot of exceptions, the army has remained a buffer between the pro-democracy protesters and the government's security apparatus and mercenary thugs, as Egyptians continue to call for an end of the Mubarak regime, for the 18th day in a row.

After last night's announcement made by Mubarak, and as millions of Egyptians plan to take to the streets today, Egyptian bloggers have a lot to say – about the role of the army and what could happen in their country over the next few hours.

Protestors lie down in front of the Egyptian Army at the head of Parliament Street, Cairo, Egypt. Image from Flickr user Omar Robert Hamilton (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Protestors lie down in front of the Egyptian Army at the head of Parliament Street, Cairo, Egypt. Image from Flickr user Omar Robert Hamilton (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Sandmonkey tries to analyse the situation in this post, entitled Mubarak's gamble. He says:

1) Mubarak is not going to leave Office without bloodshed. Any attempt for a peaceful exit has been discarded by his regime, and they are intending to fight the will of the people until the end.

2) Mubarak has burned the image of Hossam Badrawy and the Wisemen council with his speech. Hossam Badrawy, the secretary general of the NDP, was the face of the NDP that announced Mubarak's intenetion to abdicate power later tonight. Now the man has no credibility. Same goes for the Wiseman Council, since Mubarak's speech was focused on how he has met their demands, which don't include him leaving. If most of them don't quit their posts today, I would be greatly surprised.

3) We are seeing the first possible split in the power structure in Egypt: It seems that the Armed forces are in one camp, and the president, intelligence agencies and the republican guard in another camp. If you add to the equation the Ministery of Interior and the protesters, you have 4 players right now in an intensely unpredictable power struggle. We are now awaiting the second statement from the High council of amred forces to clearify their position once and for all. Whether the Army is with or against the people will determine a lot of today's outcome.

4) Mubarak has now put the US in a corner: He double-crossed the White House, and announced his intentions to fight foriegn intervention. Adding to that the news of the arab aid, he is sending the US a clear message: “I could tell you and your aid to go to hell, and get the money from the arabs instead. Where does this leave your precious Israel? If you don't want us to cause problems on that front, you better shut up about what we will do and get with the program, or else!”

He adds:

If you take all of those factors into consideration, the situation starts looking intensely ominous. If the regime and the army has split, we could see major fighting and bloodshed today. If the Army is with the President, then they will all turn their guns on the Protesters, who are determined not to live under Mubarak rule for one extra day. It also means that he put on the line the future of the transitional government with Omar Suleiman in charge, because Suleiman's fate seems intensely intertwined with the President now. This has become a fight for survival: it's either the regime or the people. The bad news is, the regime has all the weapon and organization. The good news is, the people are determined and increasing in numbers and the army might step in and save us all unnecessary bloodshed.

It all depends on the army's statement now.

Wael Nawara adds:

Do not fall for Mubarak's plan

He already sent the thugs and released the convicts

Now he raised the level of expectations by the leaks

Then came out delivering the most outrageous speech to enrage the protesters and set the stage for violent confrontations between demonstrators and the army

Beware of any infiltrators today amongst us who would start violence – even throwing a rock at the army

This is a peaceful revolution and must remain as such

The Armed Forces said they support the legitimate demands of the people

Now we demand that the Armed Forces would enact these demands

This will not be coup d'etat as long as the Army ensures that the demands of the people are met and that a transition government – perhaps a presidential council – is formed from 2 or 3 civilians and 1-2 Army Chiefs

At The Arabist, Silawa writes:

* Worse is better: Mubarak wanted to stir things up, to provoke a march on the palace and possibly trigger some violence. The regime had its greatest success undermining the uprising when the situation was at its most unstable. The return to normalcy on the other hand this week provided the opportunity for people to come together in the workplace, remember what they really dislike about the stagnant and corrupt status quo, and go on strike. So, he thought he might end the normalcy, rekindle fears of long-lasting anarchy, and put pressure on the demonstrators to quit with what concessions they have already won.

Still at The Arabist, Issandr El Amrani earlier wrote:

When the uprising began in Egypt and tanks deployed on the streets on January 28, the military was initially welcomed. Perhaps many thought it had carried out a coup against Mubarak (in fact it probably partially has), and many more still cherished the myth of the Egyptian army triumphant in 1973 after the defeat of 1967. Things began to turn last week when the army stood and did nothing while pro-Mubarak thugs attacked the crowd in Tahrir. The protestors issued an ultimatum to the army to pick its side: with them, or with Mubarak. The army has still done nothing. Then, over the weekend, military police (and probably military intelligence) were deployed to beef up security on the streets. It then came out that they have been arresting dozens if not hundreds of people, and began raiding the offices of human rights activists and visiting the homes of people asking to poke around their computers.

He continues:

Word of this is going to spread and will begin to counter the dominant narrative in Egyptian media about the people and the army being one. The longer this crisis persists, the more difficult for the army to continue either playing a double game or sitting on the fence. With Omar Suleiman's threats of coups and the protests spreading to work stoppages across the country, decision time will be coming for the protestors to make up their minds about the army (or launch a more pronounced campaign to persuade commanders), for the army's leadership to decide how it will proceed in a context where it is losing control, and for rank-and-file in the military to decide where they stand in all this.

Stay tuned for coverage from Egypt as we enter day 18 of massive protests calling for Mubarak and his regime to leave.

This post is part of our special coverage of Egypt Protests 2011.

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