Tags: airport | fleeing | americans | egypt | cairo

50,000 Americans Trapped, Fleeing Egypt Eruption

By    |   Monday, 31 January 2011 01:02 PM

Chaos has broken out at the Cairo international airport as thousands of Americans try to flee a country where growing anarchy could be pushing the military to the brink of a brutal crackdown — a deadly scenario global diplomats are working desperately to avoid.

Increasingly, the angry demonstrations are taking on an anti-American tone, due to what protesters see as Obama administration support for Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. This is despite the strong signals sent Sunday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the Obama administration expects an “orderly transition” to a new government.

Demonstrators’ plans for a million-man, anti-government march on Tuesday, combined with the ongoing refusal of Mubarak to give up power over a nation he’s ruled with an iron fist for three decades, have added urgency to the push to relocate U.S. citizens.

“We’re going to do everything we can to move our citizens out of harm’s way,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told Fox News on Monday.

Scattered fist-fights reportedly broke out in the Cairo airport as exhausted passengers tried to jam their way onto departing aircraft.

“It’s an absolute zoo, what a mess,” Justine Khanzadian, 23, a student at the American University of Cairo, told The Associated Press. He said he was leaving because “the government here is just not stable enough to stay.”

The State Department issued an updated travel warning Sunday to the estimated 50,000 Americans in Egypt, urging them to exit the country as soon as possible.

State Department officials confirmed Monday they chartered seven jetliners so far to help Americans get out of Egypt. Two of the jetliners have already left Egyptian airspace. The thousands of U.S. citizens trying to leave Egypt are being relocated to Cyprus, Athens, and Turkey. Other Americans are making their own arrangements to leave via commercial airlines, whose service has been sporadic since the disruptions began.

U.S. military aircraft ferried 42 embassy personnel and their families out of Egypt on Sunday. Several other nations are reportedly evacuating diplomats and citizens as well.

The State Department says it expects to evacuate 1,000 Americans on Monday. But that still leaves behind thousands of students, business people, and tourists.

Complicating the evacuation now underway: The apparent breakdown of the most basic services in Egyptian society.

Egyptians have to stay awake at night to protect their homes from marauding looters. They then sleep during the day. As a result, most Egyptian businesses remain shuttered and do not open. Only a fraction of Egyptians are showing up to their jobs to work during the crisis, and the Egyptian economy has all but ground to a halt, sources say.

A prolonged interruption in the flow of tourism dollars, the primary source of Egypt’s revenue, would have devastating effects on Egypt’s economy. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Egypt’s bond rating from stable to negative Monday, citing the country’s escalating political tensions.

U.S. citizens in Egypt are largely incommunicado, unable to reach concerned family members in the United States because of the Mubarak government’s interruption of all cell phone communications. His government also has yanked the plug on about 85 percent of the nation’s Internet capability, in an effort to keep the uprising from spreading via social media.

Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski warned on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program Monday that the ongoing standoff could “eventually lead to a very, very intense explosion, with pressures pent-up erupting … and that’s inherently unpredictable, with guns confronting increasingly hungry, tired, restless, frustrated crowds. An incident sparks a flame, which erupts into really large-scale urban violence, and probably then a massive repression. Those are the dangers.”

Christopher Hinn, a Middle East expert and former TSA official whose parents are both of Middle East origin, tells Newsmax that a downward spiral into violence is a strong possibility, despite the peace-loving nature of Egyptians generally.

The protesters, he said, “are getting desperate.”

“Looting is a reality,” Hinn says. “When you don’t have food to feed your family, you will be forced to get it. In the Arab world, we are taught to take care of our families first and everything else is secondary.”

Some analysts see a military crackdown as unlikely. They point out that the Egypt fields an army of conscripts, which would put soldiers in the position of opening fire on crowds that might contain their own friends or neighbors.

“The longer the protests continue to rage, the more danger there will be that the army will splinter and troops will dissolve into the crowds,” states the Heritage Foundation’s The Foundry blog. “To avert such a disaster, military leaders are likely to be increasingly inclined to ease President Mubarak out of power, in order to maintain the viability of the military as an institution.”

Hinn says that the Obama administration must convince Mubarak to leave the country immediately. He predicts civil order could be restored within a few days after Mubarak’s departure.

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Chaos has broken out at the Cairo international airport as thousands of Americans try to flee a country where growing anarchy could be pushing the military to the brink of a brutal crackdown a deadly scenario global diplomats are working desperately to...
Monday, 31 January 2011 01:02 PM
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