Egypt protests fizzling out?

posted at 8:16 pm on February 7, 2011 by Allahpundit

Still plenty of people in Tahrir Square, but the crowds have thinned and stalwarts have taken to poetry readings and even the occasional wedding celebration to keep themselves busy. One reason is simply economic: Banks have been closed and food staples were already running out a week ago, so life in Cairo has necessarily had to move on. But another reason is crafty negotiating tactics from Mubarak and company. Time explains the wedge strategy:

The regime appears to have adjusted itself to a daily outpouring of civil disobedience and dissent that would not have been tolerated three weeks ago; it now seems intent on playing for time and testing the endurance of this inchoate movement.

One of the great strengths of the protest movement has been the diversity of its ranks, but the regime is clearly trying to exploit the absence of a united organizational leadership by engaging in talks with various opposition elements, offering only minor concessions, but hoping to find enough takers to eventually isolate those in Tahrir Square who reject negotiations as long as Mubarak remains in power. The core element in the protest camp opposed the talks conducted on Sunday between Vice President Omar Suleiman and opposition elements over the terms of a transition. And divisions are becoming more apparent as it becomes clear that the regime is unlikely to collapse in the way that Tunisia’s did last month.

The tactic’s working: Late news is that the Muslim Brotherhood’s now threatening to quit talks because their core demand, i.e. no more Mubarak, hasn’t been met. (They had dropped that demand earlier, but I guess the rank-and-file insisted that they pick it back up.) According to the Independent, though, the rift inside the opposition isn’t so much ideological as it is generational and cultural:

But there were also signs of splits within the negotiating committee that represents [the protesters]. Some within the 25-strong “wise men” group of prominent Egyptians argued that the protesters should take the regime’s promises of reform at face value and that Mr Mubarak should stay for the six-month departure period he outlined last week.

Naguib Sawiris, a prominent business tycoon and one of the 25 negotiators, yesterday used a BBC interview to call on protesters to allow Mr Mubarak to stay until a clear mechanism for transition was in place. Mr Sawiris said Mr Mubarak had lost his legitimacy but that a big segment of the country did not want to see the President – a war hero – humiliated. He also warned protesters that chaos could ensue along with increasing exploitation by religious movements, and possible moves by the army.

Mr Sawiris’ comments followed similar remarks by other senior negotiators. On Sunday the popular Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian-American scientist Ahmed Zweil said that while there were some who wanted Mr Mubarak to go immediately and there was a problem of “trust” in the talks, others felt that Egypt respected “the elderly” and that Mr Mubarak should be allowed to stay for the “relatively short time” before the planned presidential election.

Whether these are sincere concessions or fig leafs being used by negotiators as a pretext to back down, I leave for you to judge — but do read the Time piece in full, as the author reports an ominous conversation with an army officer who insists that they will clear the streets if given the order to do so in the name of stability. Meanwhile, as I write this, the Jerusalem Post is out with a new story noticing that it’s not just in Egypt where the spirit of Tunisia is suddenly sputtering out. In Jordan, Yemen, and Iran, things are now quiet too. Which makes me wonder: Outside Tahrir Square, is the biggest hotbed of democracy fever now located in … the White House? We’ve gone all-in on the “orderly transition” talking points, so even if the protests dissolve, we’re obliged to keep pushing Mubarak. Backing off would prove that our democracy rhetoric was hollow and it’d send a signal to regional leaders that Obama will tilt whichever way the wind blows at any given moment. So we’re stuck, at least for the time being, which explains Gibbsy’s tough “words are not enough” shpiel below. The good news for O, though? A new poll from Gallup shows 66 percent of Americans think political change for Egypt will be good for Egypt — and 60 percent think it’ll be good for America too.


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I shouldn’t laugh, but…

SouthernGent on February 7, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Just how long can any one person continue to throw rocks?

Knucklehead on February 7, 2011 at 8:21 PM

Welcome back AP, you saucy little minx. Personally, I think it’s great that CNN didn’t get to televise its r*volution. I bet fewer people will get their heads busted and what will be, will be anyway…

Fortunata on February 7, 2011 at 8:21 PM

How important is it what the dunce, Gibbs, says about what the irrelevant-to-Egypt Obama thinks, or feels, or wants, or is sure of, or is certain of, or is absolutely not mistaken about?

GaltBlvnAtty on February 7, 2011 at 8:32 PM

How inept does our President look if change doesn’t happen “now”?

Prediction: If Mubarak holds on to power, or transfers to his new VP with little election fanfare, the story will go un-covered by the MSM. Too obvious?

BKeyser on February 7, 2011 at 8:38 PM

A new poll from Gallup shows 66 percent of Americans think political change for Egypt will be good for Egypt — and 60 percent think it’ll be good for America too.

And 52% thought Obama would be good for America. When the price of gasoline goes to $8.00, there may be some defectors.

SlaveDog on February 7, 2011 at 8:39 PM

Backing off would prove that our democracy rhetoric was hollow and it’d send a signal to regional leaders that Obama will tilt whichever way the wind blows at any given moment.

ain’t it great to be king?

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 8:39 PM

I wish freedom to all.

Democracy is not freedom. Look what it brought Iran and Venezuela.

I’ll miss Gibbs, terribly. He so aptly represents the inept Obama administration.

On Egypt, as on all things, Obama proved to be a man without convictions and sans cojones.

The world must be afraid.

On a smaller scale, who has given the Muzzie Brotherhood and Al Jezeera so much relevance?

Schadenfreude on February 7, 2011 at 8:40 PM

A new poll from Gallup shows 66 percent of Americans think political change for Egypt will be good for Egypt — and 60 percent think it’ll be good for America too.

but ‘change’ for the sake of ‘change’ is an incomplete end-state. If you tell me that I’m getting some ‘change’ coming my way, how does anyone know that ‘change’ is something that I’d agree with? What if it’s sucky change? Less freedom and liberty is certainly ‘change’….and it ain’t good change that’s fo’ sho.

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 8:42 PM

so even if the protests dissolve, we’re obliged to keep pushing Mubarak. Backing off would prove that our democracy rhetoric was hollow and it’d send a signal to regional leaders that Obama will tilt whichever way the wind blows at any given moment.

This secret may already be out. It is called the weak horse strategy

a capella on February 7, 2011 at 8:43 PM

Dick Cheney calls Hosni Mubarak a good friend and ally. Suddenly, the street riots stop. Coincidence? I think not.

Cheney/Rumsfeld 2012

Terrie on February 7, 2011 at 8:44 PM

“Backing off would prove that our democracy rhetoric was hollow and it’d send a signal to regional leaders that Obama will tilt whichever way the wind blows at any given moment.”

You are forgetting who is sitting in the Oval Office…

Seven Percent Solution on February 7, 2011 at 8:47 PM

Why no blog on the Christian scheduled to be hung in Afghanistan in 2 days? And where is that sorry excuse for a human being, David Petraues? He is the American military commander in Afghanistan. Why isn’t he demanding that this man be immediately released into his custody to be flown out of Afghanistan? Oh that’s right, he’s probably too busy making American Women troops wear Islamic wear. Probably inspecting them right now. Maybe his buddy Karzia will let him watch the hanging.

Murphy9 on February 7, 2011 at 8:49 PM

Any movement that has ElBaradei as its putative leader is bound to fail at some point. Good thing, too. The guy’s a stooge for the Iranian thugocracy.

hillbillyjim on February 7, 2011 at 8:51 PM

Humorous photo. You have a young woman or girl in the corner on a laptop and the sign is in english.

Blake on February 7, 2011 at 9:01 PM

Obama’s people’s rev0lution is not the solution?

(He just hates that he didn’t get a Mu before his Barack.)

profitsbeard on February 7, 2011 at 9:02 PM

Free and clear election…..broad cross section…..economic reform……incremental and orderly….yada yada yada.

Cut…..that’s a wrap.

BL@KBIRD on February 7, 2011 at 9:09 PM

I thought this was BS from jump street. Think about it like this–if someone is standing in the street yelling at you in your palace to GTF outta Dodge, and he’s out there with a few hunnert thou of his homeys, then what’s a dictator to do? Well, enjoy his harem, his palace, his servants and let the rock chuckers chuck rocks for a week or two and just wait ‘em out. Seems like that’s working? What’s that about ‘NOW’ again, Obama?

w.e.a.k.

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 9:18 PM

Mubarak 1, Obama 0.

gh on February 7, 2011 at 9:28 PM

Mubarak is the region’s new Saddam Hussein. He’s just told the POTUS to pound sound with his “NOW” talk. Arabs know one thing–and that’s force. They also perceive weakness from POTUS poopoo pants. The Arabs feared Reagan because they knew he had stones–so much so that the mullahs released the hostages the day he was inaugurated. Reagan followed up by punching Khadafi in the face and bombing the hell out of Libya.

Mubarak ain’t going anywhere right now.

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Christians fear life without Mubarak

Murphy9 on February 7, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Obama, the president who was humiliated by men on camel back (literally). Last western leader to suffer the same fate was probably Emperor Constantine XI–off the top of my head.

Demosthenes on February 7, 2011 at 9:54 PM

Backing off would prove that our democracy rhetoric was hollow and it’d send a signal to regional leaders that Obama will tilt whichever way the wind blows at any given moment.

More likely, backing off means Obama understands that his support of the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to help his 2012 campaign.

Connie on February 7, 2011 at 9:55 PM

FTA: Outside Tahrir Square, is the biggest hotbed of democracy fever now located in … the White House?

Hardly ‘democracy fever’, more like socialist/islamist r-word fever.

slickwillie2001 on February 7, 2011 at 10:42 PM

Mubarak isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon…

“Smart Power” in action… Or is it “Smart Power inaction”…

Khun Joe on February 7, 2011 at 11:03 PM

Seen Hillary’s flip? Hillary Clinton Refutes Obama – Says Mubarak May Need to Stay On

slickwillie2001 on February 7, 2011 at 11:24 PM

Seen Hillary’s flip? Hillary Clinton Refutes Obama – Says Mubarak May Need to Stay On

slickwillie2001 on February 7, 2011 at 11:24 PM

Obama’s foreign policy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5ffxyRFYHQ

pedestrian on February 8, 2011 at 12:09 AM

Obama needs to get over there right away for a face-to-face with Mubarak — given that he’s open for 1-1 negotiations with anyone.

unclesmrgol on February 8, 2011 at 12:27 AM

Sounds like Obama is more extreme in his demands that some of the demonstration leaders. Kind of scary to imagine what these left wing loonies in the White House and State Department are saying behind closed doors.

DaMav on February 8, 2011 at 1:37 AM

Poor Mr. Potato Head Barry and Company….. out played at every turn by a tinpot DickTater

roflmao

donabernathy on February 8, 2011 at 2:01 AM

Way to Win The Future Barry

roflmao

donabernathy on February 8, 2011 at 2:03 AM

…The Arabs feared Reagan because they knew he had stones–so much so that the mullahs released the hostages the day he was inaugurated…

ted c on February 7, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Iranians aren’t Arabs :)

cartooner on February 8, 2011 at 8:38 AM

Unless you live in San Francisco, eventually you have to stop protesting and get back to work to feed your family.

Alden Pyle on February 8, 2011 at 9:15 AM

Naguib Sawiris, a prominent business tycoon and one of the 25 negotiators, yesterday used a BBC interview to call on protesters to allow Mr Mubarak to stay until a clear mechanism for transition was in place. Mr Sawiris said Mr Mubarak had lost his legitimacy but that a big segment of the country did not want to see the President – a war hero – humiliated. He also warned protesters that chaos could ensue along with increasing exploitation by religious movements, and possible moves by the army.

I never heard of Naguib Sawiris before, but he seems to have seen the danger of “exploitation by religious movements”–probably code words for “imposition of Sharia Law by the Muslim Brotherhood”–and figured that a period of slow reforms by Mubarak and the regime would be preferable to chaos.

Cooler heads need to prevail in Egypt, and Sawiris seems to be one of them. Let Mubarak hang on for another six months, until a credible and non-radical opposition movement can be organized that can win an election over both Mubarak’s regime and the Muslim Brotherhood. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but the “sputtering” of the protests could be a precious time of reprieve, which the CIA (if it was smart) could use to organize a “moderate” Egyptian opposition behind the scenes.

Steve Z on February 8, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Part of me can’t help but root for Mubarak to use the Army to crush the whole protest movement. In a perfect world, I’d like to see Egypt become a secular, democratic, free market powerhouse. In the real world, I long for the ‘good old days’ when the CIA propped up ‘our’ dictators and kept stability in these $#!thole countries that aren’t ready for democracy. I’d like to see Mubarak use the Army to annihilate the Muslim Brotherhood. Then let’s press for gradual democratic reforms. One of our big mistakes in Vietnam was expecting democartic traditions, a la our own, to just take root and blossom quickly. Overcoming centuries of corruption and authoritarian rule. We never seem to learn from our own history.

JimP on February 8, 2011 at 1:40 PM