UPDATE at 5:10 p.m.: Well.
Hosni Mubarak isn’t stepping down now after all. He is trying to get by with a plan to hand over powers to his new vice president, the former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, while retaining the title of president. Or, at least, he will hand over those powers in name and appearance.
Needless to say, if Mubarak still has enough support within the military to hold on even under pressure this tremendous, there’s no reason to believe he’ll follow through on his promise to step down in September, transfer his powers to Suleiman, etc. Referring to the U.S. as “outsiders” who are trying to dictate to him means our leverage with him is down to nil, especially with the Saudis poised to pick up the slack, so who’s left to push him out?
Certainly, the assumption behind what everyone thought to be Mubarak’s ever-more-hasty departure from power was that the army had decided to cast its lot without him. This turn of events suggests that isn’t true. And if so, we may be back to square one in terms of figuring out where the country is headed.
Here’s what does seem pretty certain: We can pretty much discard the idea that, after days of sending mixed signals to Mubarak and the Egyptian people about where the U.S. government stood, the Obama administration had firmed things up and exerted some meaningful influence in Cairo.
Washington seems to have been completely blindsided by Mubarak’s stubbornness — not for the first time in this episode — and Mubarak’s criticism of “outsiders” is pretty plainly a middle-finger salute to his American “allies.” Perhaps he felt the Obama administration hadn’t stood firmly behind one of its “allies” over the past few weeks. Whatever his reasons, it’s clear Mubarak is telling us to butt out.
A possible silver lining is that we may now be able to curry some favor with the anti-Mubarak protesters. But then we’re right back to that debate about promoting our national interests versus promoting our principles. We’ll see where that leads this time.
Given this development, it feels like a lot more than an hour ago that people on Twitter were poking fun at Mubarak. Nevertheless, the original post about said levity remains below.
Hosni Mubarak is expected to announce — anytime now — that he is stepping down as Egypt’s president after almost 30 years. Three weeks ago, this would have been unthinkable. But by today, the development had become so inevitable that Egyptians and their sympathizers around the world have taken to Twitter, the social-networking tool that has played such a big role in this people-power revolution, to mock Mubarak’s delay in making the announcement.
While a few people on the #reasonsmubarakislate trending topic have warily suggested the delay might mean Mubarak isn’t really going to step down. But most people are having fun with it, taking the chance to kick him on his way out the door. Some of my favorites:
@drfessel: Have you ever tried to pack up 70 billion dollars? (and along those lines: @KABOBfest: You think it’s easy packing gold bullion bars into vintage Louis Vuitton luggage?)
@skalamander: Sacha Baron Cohen can’t get his Mubarak make-up right.
@MohammedHamad: Guys, chill. Arabs Got Talent is on.
kurtismarsh: #ReasonsMubarakIsLate doesn’t want to be confused with #jaycutler
@AdamWeinstein: Wants to update status on Facebook first, but damned Egyptian internet connection keeps kicking out.
@KABOBfest: When you’re a hated former dictator, getting a cab is a lot harder than you’d think.
@EthanZ: Still on hold with Egypt Air customer service.
@AdamWeinstein: Ahmadinejad keeps calling w/advice and just. Will not. Hang UP.
@awienick: Listening to the live version of “November Rain”
@ianschuler: Still in de Nile.
Now is one of those times I’d like to be able to read Arabic.
As for the actual importance of the occasion: I’ll stick with the thoughts in my post earlier this week anticipating the practical impact of the army keeping control as Mubarak was replaced. Admittedly, however, I didn’t think he would be out before week’s end.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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