**UPDATE: Mubarak defies the world

UPDATE 10:21 PM: CNN is reporting that the Egyptian ambassador to the United States called in to the network to refute the notion that Hosni Mubarak did not step aside tonight, saying Vice President Omar Suleiman is the “de facto head of Egypt.” According to CNN’s John King, the White House is frustrated both at the lack of specific steps toward change outlined by Mubarak, and at his defiant tone. Per King, the administration wants Mubarak to go back on television and make it clear that he has passed to torch. They also want it made much more clear how the change to democracy will take place, step by step.

Meanwhile, as the international agonistes over Mubarak go on, his appointed vice president is quietly, but very decisively, taking over. This is other Middle Eastern leaders look on nervously.

At TDB, former CIA officer Bruce Reidel fears that Mubarak’s intransigence could create a dangerous security vacuum that groups like al-Qaida could exploit. (Also at TDB: how dictators’ sons often hasten their downfall.)

And Mohammad El Beredei says the army must step in.

UPDATE 10 PM: A defiant Hosni Mubarak refused to step down Thursday, after a day in which nearly everyone, from Washington to Tahir Square, thought the Egyptian revolution had finally reached its zenith.

Al Jazeera English has more on Mubarak’s thumbing his nose at his people, and the world.

The BBC has the full translation of Mubarak’s Thursday address.

Egypt erupts in rage, with even larger protests planned for Friday, including potential marches to the state-run television center, and to the presidential palace. There are widespread fears outside Egypt that a confrontation could be brewing, and disturbing reports that the Army might not be all neutral, and in some instances may be torturing prisoners, per a report in The Guardian.

Suleiman is “the CIA’s man in Cairo,” but that didn’t stop CIA chief Leon Panetta from stepping in it Thursday on Capitol Hill.

How did everyone, including the news media, get it so wrong? In part, because of mixed signals that were coming out of Egypt all day.

From Washington, the Obama administration was not amused. They were expecting more out of Mubarak, and clearly didn’t get it. Now the U.S. faces some tough choices: openly push Mubarak out, or watch him linger, along with increasing impatient anti-American feeling on the streets in Egypt.

President Obama’s full statement can be found here. An excerpt:

“The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient. Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world. The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity.

“As we have said from the beginning of this unrest, the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. But the United States has also been clear that we stand for a set of core principles. We believe that the universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected, and their aspirations must be met. We believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change, and a negotiated path to democracy. To that end, we believe that the emergency law should be lifted.

“We believe that meaningful negotiations with the broad opposition and Egyptian civil society should address the key questions confronting Egypt’s future: protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens; revising the Constitution and other laws to demonstrate irreversible change; and jointly developing a clear roadmap to elections that are free and fair.

“We therefore urge the Egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made, and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step by step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the Egyptian people seek.

“Going forward, it will be essential that the universal rights of the Egyptian people be respected. There must be restraint by all parties. Violence must be forsaken. It is imperative that the government not respond to the aspirations of their people with repression or brutality. The voices of the Egyptian people must be heard. …

So now, what next?

UPDATE 4:03: The mood in Tahir Square turned angry as people yelled, chanted and shook their shoes in the air as a defiant Hosni Mubarak said he will not take dictation from foreign countries. Mubarak said he previously laid out a path to a peaceful transition in Egypt, and repeated some of the themes he has talked about previously, including vowing never to separate from Egyptian soil. But during a speech that lasted several minutes, often rambling and defiant, Mubarak said he would transfer undefined powers to vice president Omar Suleiman. He also said constitutional changes would pave the way to lifting the state of emergency, and vowed to “punish” those responsible for recent violence during the protests — violence largely thought to have been instigated by the Mubarak government. The speech was vague and defiant, and Mubarak seemed to indicate he would not exit power. But Al Jazeera English reported that within the speech, he did indicate a transfer of power would occur. The reaction to the speech in Tahir Square was angry, and loud.

UPDATE 3:47 PM: Hosni Mubarak addressing the Egyptian people on state television expressed sorrow over the deaths of “martyrs” saying “the blood of those killed in the violence” in Egypt “will not be wasted. A defiant Mubarak said he is “committed to fulfilling the demands of the youth” of Egypt, saying he was addressing his nation “as a father to his children.” Mubarak said “I can not find any embarrassment at all in listening to the voice of the youth” and responding. But he said he “cannot accept being dictated orders from outside.” Mubarak then reiterated that he said he would not run for re-election, and said he “laid out his vision for a peaceful transition of power,” saying he would see to its implementation.

As people continued to chant in Liberation Square in Cairo, Mubarak appeared to lay out a timetable no different from what his government has previously promised — with the timetable ending in September, when elections are scheduled to occur. And he said a constitutional process would take place in the interim that would ensure the “peaceful transfer of power.” Mubarak said he has ordered investigations into the violence that has taken place — largely believed to have been at the behest of his government.

UPDATE 3:09 PM: Egyptian state television is now showing live pictures of the protests in Tahir Square in Cairo, a marked change from the previous weeks of the protests, when state television showed only skewed images designed to minimize or propagandize the demonstrations. Earlier, Al Jazeera reported that the building where state TV is house in Cairo was being evacuated, and Jazeera reports that Mubarak will speak to the nation on state TV shortly. NBC News is reporting Mubarak is expected to announce he is stepping down — a remarkable development that would mark a sweeping overthrow of a government that has ruled under martial law for 30 years.

UPDATE 11:59: The following statement was issued earlier Thursday by Egypt’s Higher Council of the Armed Forces:

Statement Number One, issued by the Higher Council of the Armed Forces,

Stemming from the armed forces’ responsibility and committing to the protection of the people, safeguarding their interest and security, and keen on the safety of the homeland, the citizens and the achievements of the great Egyptian people, and asserting the legitimate rights of the people,

The Higher Council of the Armed Forces convened today, Thursday, 10 February 2011, to deliberate on the latest developments of the situation and decided to remain in continuous session to discuss what measures and arrangements could be taken to safeguard the homeland and its achievements, and the aspirations of the great Egyptian people.

Peace, mercy and the blessings of God.

This was only the third public statement ever issued by Egypt’s armed forces agency. The head of Egypt’s ruling party has said he would be surprised if Hosni Mubarak was still president after tonight. And NBC News is reporting Mubarak will make a statement confirming he will stand down, which could happen as soon as tonight, and that power could be handed over to his newly named vice president, Omar Suleiman.

UPDATE: 11:29: Al Jazeera is reporting that state TV in Egypt is being evacuated at this hour.

UPDATE 11:16: Al Jazeera English is reporting that Hosni Mubarak has traveled to his home in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm-el-Sheikh with cabinet members to discuss the future of his presidency. There are conflicting reports over whether Mubarak plans to step down or not. Al Jazeera is saying that the head of the ruling party, the National Democratic Party in Egypt, is telling the media that it is the “right thing” for Mubarak to step down, but Egypt’s prime minister has told state television that Mubarak is still in place.

WATCH: Al Jazeera English LIVE stream

According to Egypt’s constitution, if Mubarak were to step down, power would pass to the speaker of Parliament, not to the vice president, Omar Suleiman. According to retired army general Mahmoud Said, an Egyptian military expert speaking on Al Jazeera moments ago, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces reportedly met without Mubarak’s presence, and since the president is the head of the armed forces, that is seen as an indication that he is “no longer in power.” The Egyptian army has said that it has “stepped in to ensure the safety of the country.”


NBC News is reporting that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will step down, as early as tonight. After 17 days of mass demonstrations in Egypt, democracy activists stepped up the pressure yesterday, with general strikes taking place across the country. And intense pressure from the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama may also be playing a role in pushing Mubarak out. Developing…

From NBC News:

CAIRO — Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarakis to step down, two sources told NBC News on Thursday.

Following an all-day meeting of the country’s supreme military council, the army said all the protesters’ demands would be met and a further statement was expected to be made later Thursday, clarifying the situation.

Mubarak was also due to address the nation.

NBC News said a high-ranking source inside the president’s office said that Mubarak would step down and the newly appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, would take over. This was then confirmed by a second source.

NBC’s Richard Engel reported last night that while the protests in Tahir Square had rattled the Mubarak government, it was the labor strikes, which have paralyzed the country’s already battered economy, which may have turned the tide. Engel said if such strikes spread to the crucial Suez region, adjacent to the canal, it could break the country’s economy. Engel said that with tourism gone in the wake of the uprising, and everything from doctors to lawyers to journalists to general industry workers striking across the country, with the labor movement emptying into the streets, and then 6,000 workers from the Suez Canal striking on Wednesday, the Mubarak government probably could not withstand much more.

Reuters is reporting the story more cautiously, saying a decision on whether Mubarak will remain in power will be made “within hours.”

From the BBC:

A senior member of Egypt’s governing party has told the BBC he “hopes” that President Hosni Mubarak will transfer power to Vice-President Omar Suleiman.

Hossan Badrawi, secretary general of the National Democratic Party (NDP), said Mr Mubarak would “most probably” speak to the nation within hours.

It comes on the 17th day of protests against Mr Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

The Egyptian military has said it is ready to respond to the “legitimate demands of the people”.

In a statement on Egyptian state TV, it said the safety and security of the people was paramount.

State television carried footage of a meeting of the Higher Military Council.

State news agency Mena said the military council was in a state of continuous session “to protect the nation, its gains and the aspirations of the people”.

Earlier, Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq told BBC Arabic that the scenario of President Mubarak stepping down was being discussed.

The BBC’s Lyse Doucet, in Cairo, says the fact that President Mubarak’s departure is even being talked about is a huge development.

Our correspondent, who spoke to Mr Badrawi, says the 25 January movement – the day when the protests began – will see this as a great victory.

11:01 a.m.: Al Jazeera is reporting that the CIA is indicating that Mubarak’s exit from power seems imminent.

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