Egypt: News, Who Paid for the Military, Oil, and the Social Network’s Newest Revolution

from The Guardian, a page updated by the minute:

Protests in Egypt – live updates | News |

from The New York Times:

In Washington, President Obama held a news conference to say he had spoken to Mr. Mubarak immediately after his televised comments and pressed the Egyptian president to live up to his promise to guard both security and freedom for the Egyptian people. “He has a responsibility to give meaning to those words,” Mr. Obama said, adding that his administration has stressed that Mr. Mubarak must enact political reforms.

In a short, but strongly worded speech, Mr. Obama also called on Egypt to cease blocking access to the Internet and urged protesters to refrain from violence. Earlier in the day, his spokesman said America’s $1.5 billion aid package for Egypt would be reviewed if demonstrators were dealt with harshly.

Mubarak Orders Ministers to Resign but Backs Armed Response to Egypt Protests –

A map of some of the places where protesters rioted and clashed with the police on Friday.

Locating the Protests in Cairo –

Alexandria was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the country on Friday as riot police officers fired tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets and protesters hurled paving stones in more than two hours of pitched battle.

In the end, the police capitulated in the face of too many protests around the city with too many determined demonstrators for them to contain. The police retreated, leaving the city in the hands of protesters for several hours, as police cars, the regional party headquarters and the provincial government office burned.

In Egypt, Alexandrian Protesters Rout Police, for Now –

Slate reminds us (boldface emphasis added) who payed for the military now besieging its own people–we did:

Obama administration is flat-footed here, sure, but it’s only acting out the role we’ve been playing with Egypt for decades. It continued sending $800 million in direct economic aid and $1.3 billion in military aid that’s the military on your TV now, trying to break up riots. Mubarak has been an incredibly resilient and effective strongman who has kept us from worrying about a fundamentalist takeover of the country. It’s worth reading the WikiLeaked cable our ambassador wrote in 2009:

He is a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals. Mubarak viewed President Bush (43) as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran,s regional influence.

On several occasions Mubarak has lamented the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the downfall of Saddam. He routinely notes that Egypt did not like Saddam and does not mourn him, but at least he held the country together and countered Iran. Mubarak continues to state that in his view Iraq needs a “tough, strong military officer who is fair” as leader. This telling observation, we believe, describes Mubarak’s own view of himself as someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people.

Weigel : Obama, Mubarak and Egypt

Mother Jones makes the same point, in this frequently updated blog:

Why is this more complicated for the US than Tunisia was? The Tunisian regime was a key ally for the US in the fight against Al Qaeda. But the US government’s ties to Tunisia’s Ben Ali pale in comparison to American ties to Egypt. Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank, explains

Predictions that a Tunisia-like uprising will soon topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are premature—the Egyptian regime, with its well-paid military, is likely to be more unified and more ruthless than its Tunisian counterparts were… The U.S. is the primary benefactor of the Egyptian regime, which, in turn, has reliably supported American regional priorities. After Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel, Egypt is the largest recipient of U.S. assistance, including $1.3 billion in annual military aid. In other words, if the army ever decides to shoot into a crowd of unarmed protestors, it will be shooting with hardware provided by the United States. As Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations points out, the Egyptian military is “not there to project power, but to protect the regime.” [Emphasis added.]

What’s Happening in Egypt Explained (UPDATED) | Mother Jones

And behind it all, of course, is oil. Salon:

Oil tanker stocks surged Friday, on fears that Eygptian unrest could lead to a possible closure of the Suez Canal, forcing ships to go the long way around Africa to deliver their cargo. The worry may be overblown, but the government’s response to the protests is making it hard for shipping companies to find out what’s going on. One of the region’s biggest shipping logistics companies, GAC, reported that “Due to Internet and mobile telephone connection problems in Egypt, GAC Egypt’s Suez Canal Coordinating Office is unable to receive messages by e-mail.”

Also on Friday, oil prices spiked to near $100 a barrel, generated not only by concerns about the canal but also by the prospect that the wave of protests that began in Tunisia and is now crashing over Egypt might set off a domino effect of popular uprisings throughout the Mideast. And as we have come to expect when the world gets scary, investors everywhere fled to the safety of the dollar.

Will Egypt ignite the next big oil shock? – Egyptian Protests –

from BBC:

If Egyptian unrest turns into an Egyptian revolution, the implications for the Arab world – and for Western policy in the Middle East – will be immense.

Egypt matters, in a way that tiny Tunisia – key catalyst that it has been in the current wave of protest – does not.

It matters because its destiny affects, in a range of ways, not only Arab interests but Israeli, Iranian and Western interests, too.

Egypt, the most populous Arab state, can help determine the thrust of Arab policies – whether towards Israel or Iran or in the perennial quest for Arab consensus on issues that matter.

Above all, the Egyptian state has traditionally had a strength and solidity that made its collapse seem unthinkable.

BBC News – Analysis: Why Egypt matters

from CNN:

Just three days after a State of the Union Address that President Obama’s own aides say was 80 percent devoted to the economy and domestic issues, the pressing national security issue of unrest in Egypt has suddenly vaulted to the top of the commander-in-chief’s agenda as he struggles with how closely he wants to stand with a longtime U.S. ally, President Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian protests rising to top of Obama’s agenda – CNN Political Ticker – Blogs

Embattled President Hosni Mubarak said early Saturday that he asked the country’s government to resign after thousands of angry Egyptians defied a government curfew and faced stinging police tear gas as they marched for change.

“I asked the government to resign today and I will commission a new government to take over tomorrow,” Mubarak said in a national address on Saturday shortly after midnight.

Mubarak gave no indication that he would step down or leave the country.

Egypt cracks down on mass protests as Mubarak dissolves government –

As in Tunisia, the protest movement in Egypt is taking advantage of social media to communicate, inform and organize.

Despite attempts to block Twitter, Facebook and other sites (the government denies it was responsible), a Facebook page devoted to Friday’s planned protests had more than 80,000 followers as of 2 p.m. ET Thursday, compared with some 20,000 the previous day.

Social media @ the front line in Egypt –

To combat social media, another important weapon for the demonstrators, outside experts and people living in the country say the government has coordinated a blockage of certain communications websites and unplugged internet access entirely to parts of the country.

On Thursday, protesters active on Twitter and Facebook, publicly documenting demonstrations on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, went quiet. Around the same time, many websites centralized on servers in Egypt disappeared.

Reports say Egypt Web shutdown is coordinated, extensive –

No Twitter, no protests? Not quite:

JK: I read your piece a couple of days ago on how the demonstrators are using social media. Has the black-out changed your views?

JY:  You can say,  “Wow, it’s a ‘Facebook revolution’ or a ‘Twitter revolution’, but as soon as these are cut off, it will be interesting to see what the success of this is without social media. It’s early to judge, but from what we’ve been seeing, it seems that people are still out there and still organizing despite this. They definitely seemed prepared for what happens when the Internet gets shut off.


from Time:

As a 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. curfew was imposed, word went out that Mubarak would soon be addressing the nation. But it was hours before he appeared — and just as the capital was quieting down. … When he finally spoke, most Egyptians were stupefied. The speech could have been a carbon copy of ones that he delivers at the annual NDP conference. He did ask for the government to step down but many saw that as a ploy to buy time which simply changes the faces that ran the same regime. He did not acknowledge the calls for him to step down. The immediate public reaction was anger — one that observers felt would provide more momentum for protests.
Egypt Protests: President Mubarak Appears but Does Not Appease – TIME

Egypt Protests: TIME Eyewitness Report of Tumult in Cairo – TIME

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