Mubarak baiting protestors or inviting military action?

February 11th, 2011 - 11:27 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 11 (IANS) Embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s “shocking” refusal to resign has been interpreted by analysts as less than adequate to a bait for the crowds to turn violent and an invitation to the military to act.It creates a massive crisis for the Egyptian military whose “goal is not to save Mubarak but to save the regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser,” according to strategic US think tank Stratfor.

“The United States has made clear that Hosni Mubarak staying on as Egypt’s president, even as a figurehead, is not good enough,” said Stratfor Analyst Reva Bhalla.

“It is also not good enough for demonstrators, and the situation has reached a point where it is no longer just about personal wealth or the ego of Mubarak. This now comes to saving the regime, and that is where we look to the military to act,” she said.

Stratfor said the Egyptian military faces three choices:

The first is to stand back, allow the crowds to swell and likely march to the presidential palace and perhaps enter the grounds.

The second choice is to move troops and armour into position to block more demonstrators from entering Tahrir Square and keep those in the square in place.

The third is to stage a coup and overthrow Mubarak.

Thus far, the military has avoided confrontation with the demonstrators as much as possible, and the demonstrators have expressed affection toward the army, Stratfor said.

“It is of course possible that the crowds, reflecting on Mubarak’s willingness to cede power to vice president Omar
Suleiman, may end the crisis, but it does not appear that way at the moment, and therefore the Egyptian military has some choices to make,” it said.

However, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria says this move by Mubarak may be just trying to bait the protestors into more violence.

“I think the Mubarak regime is trying to bait the crowd in Tahrir Square and is hoping for violence and is hoping for some kind of march on the presidential palace that seems to get violent,” he said.

“Then they can step in and in the guise of restoring order, return to the military rule, return to the martial law that they want to consolidate. That’s the danger here,” he warned. “This might be a turn that history will record as the moment things went awry.”

“Mubarak’s speech is far from the needed break with the abusive system of the past 30 years,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“Cosmetic changes are not enough to meet the Egyptian people’s demands for democracy and human rights.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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