Mubarak Shocker Creates Crisis for Egypt's Army

Thursday, 10 Feb 2011 07:59 PM

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The following analysis of the crisis in Egypt was provided by Stratfor, the global intelligence firm based in Austin, Texas. It is reprinted here with permission.

The decision by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak not to resign on Thursday seems to have shocked both the Egyptian military and Washington.

CIA Director Leon Panetta spoke on Thursday morning as if his resignation was assured, and a resolution to the crisis was guaranteed.

Sources in Cairo spoke the same way.

How the deal came apart, or whether Mubarak decided that transferring power to Vice President Omar Suleiman was sufficient cannot be known. What is known is that Mubarak did not do what was expected.

This now creates a massive crisis for the Egyptian military. Its goal is not to save Mubarak but to save the regime founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser.

We are now less than six hours from dawn in Cairo. The 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 armor 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.

The first strategy opens the door to regime change as the crowd, not the military, determines the course of events.

The second creates the possibility of the military firing on the protesters, which have not been anti-military to this point. Clashes with the military (as opposed to the police, which have happened) would undermine the military’s desire to preserve the regime and the perception of the military as not hostile to the public.

That leaves the third option, which is a coup.

Mubarak will be leaving office under any circumstances by September. The military does not want an extra-constitutional action, but Mubarak’s decision leaves the military in the position of taking one of the first two courses, which is unacceptable.

That means military action to unseat Mubarak is the remaining choice.

One thing that must be borne in mind is that whatever action is taken must be taken in the next six or seven hours.

As dawn breaks over Cairo, it is likely that large numbers of others will join the demonstrators and that the crowd might begin to move. The military would then be forced to stand back and let events go where they go, or fire on the demonstrators. Indeed, in order to do the latter, troops and armor must move into position now, to possibly overawe the demonstrators.

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

To continue that policy, and to deal with Mubarak, the options are removing him from office in the next few hours or possibly losing control of the situation. But if this is the choice taken, it must be taken tonight so that it can be announced before demonstrations get under way Feb. 11 after Friday prayers.

It is of course possible that the crowds, reflecting on Mubarak’s willingness to cede power to 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.

This article was republished with the permission of STRATFOR. Click here for more from STRATFOR on the Egypt situation.

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