Egypt UPDATE 5: Mubarak clinging to power, appoints new deputy, crowds unmoved; Israelis fear further isolation

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak names his former top spy, Omar Suleiman as his vice president

UPDATE 5: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, hanging on to power despite nearly a week of mass protests against his rule, took steps toward appeasing the protesters on Saturday by appointing a new deputy.

From the BBC:

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has named intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his first ever vice-president as he struggles to regain control of the country. Aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq has also been appointed as prime minister.

Tens of thousands of protesters remain on the streets in Egypt, defying a curfew and army warnings. There have been clashes in Cairo, Alexandria and Ismailiya, while the death toll has risen to 45 at least.

In Cairo, police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas in clashes with protesters at the interior ministry, but the army has yet to step in. Injuries have been reported.

Per Al Jazeera, the entire Egyptian cabinet has also formally resigned, but the moves have not calmed the demands for change among the huge crowds still on the streets in Egypt.

From Ha’aretz, more signs that the Army may not stand by Mubarak in the end, and further emphasis that it is Mubarak that the crowds want gone, not just his underlings.

Also per Ha’aretz, this reality: without Mubarak, and with its relations with Turkey in tatters, Israel would be very much alone in the region. This as Israeli nationals flee Egypt in droves.

From Stratfor.com: what the West fears most.

And a good backgrounder from Globalsecurity.org.

From Foreign Policy: whose side is the Army on?

The Guardian has live updates on the continued protests, including widespread looting in Cairo.

Meanwhile the London Daily Telegraph has a Wikileaks-based report that both the Bush and Obama administrations have been secretly backing the opposition groups thought to be behind the Egypt uprising. (Read the full document here.)

UPDATE 4: from the BBC live twitter feed on the Egypt uprising:

To be bluntly honest, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo, Mr Mubarak’s words will likely provoke more demonstrations. Firstly, says our correspondent, demonstrators will be angry their president has accused them of inciting violence. Secondly, they will see that their actions so far have brought some concessions from the leader, and will reckon that if they keep pushing they may be able to get rid of him altogether.

5:30 p.m. EST: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak broke his silence Friday, addressing the protests and violence that have torn through the country in recent days. A defiant Mubarak took to a podium backed by the state seal and flag, decrying “looting” and violence, and said that he is “fully aware of the aspirations” of his people and “of their sufferings.” But he added their goals cannot be achieved through “violence or chaos,” but only by “national dialogue and conscious, constructive effort.”

“I have always taken the side of the poor people,” Mubaak said strangely, even attempting to chalk the protests up to “political freedom” in Egypt. But after that, Mubarak announced that while he will now sack the current cabinet, it is he who will appoint a new one. Said Mubarak: “I have ordered the government to step down, and I will name a new government tomorrow.” The country’s defense, interior and other ministers have each been in office for more than a decade. Mubarak sought to distance himself from the country’s problems, including high unemployment and rising food prices, blaming them on the cabinet members he now says he’s dismissing.

The televised address did not appear to alter the mood of the protesters who remained in the streets despite an Army enforced curfew. And the Obama administration is now reviewing the $1.5 billion in annual aid the U.S. sends to Egypt — the third largest sum after Iraq and israel. **Watch the Al Jazeera English live feed for Egypt coverage here.

Meanwhile, conservative Jeffrey Goldberg urges President Obama to urge Mubarak to step down.

3:30 p.m. EST: Al Jazeera is reporting that gunfire has been heard near some key government buildings, this as fires were seen earlier today (tonight in Egypt) at the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party. Meanwhile, it appears that members of the Egyptian Army are siding with the protesters, poking their heads out from their vehicles and waving flags, to the cheers of the crowds. The Independent on why the Army holds the key to Hosni Mubarak’s fate.

President Obama received a briefing on the uprising in Egypt, and condemned the violent crackdown on protesters by that country’s government. He also made it clear the U.S. has no plans to intervene. Story at the BBC. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also made a statement earlier today calling on the Egyptian government to respect its citizens’ rights.

The BBC also reports the situation is growing much more dire for Hosni Mubarak, as the people in the streets are quickly losing their fear of his regime.

Where is Mubarak? He still has not been seen publicly, and an analyst on Al Jazeera just said that his prolonged absence indicates “the game is probably over for him.”

Meanwhile, similar though smaller protests have broken out in Jordan, where people are pouring into the streets and demanding that country’s prime minister step down. This as supporters of the Egyptian protesters rally worldwide.

Important piece on how new media has played a role in the upheavals: The Day That Egypt Unplugged the Internet

A bit about why Egypt matters in a way that, for all its drama, Tunisia did 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.

Even now, with so much that is uncertain, that state and its basic structures may survive – with or without Hosni Mubarak, the country’s president for the last three decades.

Islamist wild card

If there is a power vacuum, who is likely to fill it?

Will the powerful military intervene to restore stability?

If they did, would the protesters accept such a scenario – or would they, like their Tunisian counterparts, keep up the pressure for radical change?

And – the wild card that troubles Western policy-makers most – could the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s Islamist opposition movement, somehow exploit the protests to come to power?

Right now, that scenario seems far-fetched. The Brotherhood is trying to jump on the bandwagon of a youthful and largely leaderless protest movement.

They are not in front. They are trying to catch up.

But the situation is volatile. New leaders – nationalist or Islamist, civilian or military – could emerge if the country is engulfed in chaos.

And from Robert Fisk: Egypt’s day of reckoning

11:36 p.m.: Al Jazeera is streaming live pictures of the Egyptian national party headquarters on fire even as police try to enforce a nighttime curfew. **WATCH THE LIVESTREAM**

ORIGINAL POST:

The uprising in Egypt got worse on Friday, as police fired rubber bullets into the teeming crowds, and place former U.N. weapons inspector Mohammed ElBeredei under house arrest.

NBC’s Richard Engel filed this on-the-ground report earlier today:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It’s night in Egypt now, and the Army is trying to enforce curfews in Cairo and other major cities.

Latest news from the BBC.

And from The Guardian.

Al Jazeera is reportedly being targeted by the government and told to turn their cameras off, per MSNBC a few minutes ago (11:01 EST).

It will be interesting to see how the response from the west, including the American right, evolves amid reports that the protests are becoming increasingly Islam-focused. The Muslim Brotherhood is the strongest opposition group in Egypt right now, and President for Life Hosni Mubarak is an ally of the U.S. Mubarak is slated to finally address the crisis sometime today or tomorrow.

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One Response to Egypt UPDATE 5: Mubarak clinging to power, appoints new deputy, crowds unmoved; Israelis fear further isolation

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