In the light of recent events it is legitimate to now ask where the Egyptian army’s true allegiances are. While they have been reluctant to crackdown on the protestors and have even been seen to seemingly take sides with them, they have not taken any steps to help ensure that Mubarak steps down. The army’s call for the demonstrators to end their protests and to return to their ‘normal lives’ is also a significant indication that the Egyptian army is not ready to seek an end to Mubarak’s rule.
When one considers what is necessary to keep an army functioning, which the Egyptian army clearly is, one cannot help but wonder if the army’s seemingly friendly attitude toward the protestors is not some part of a strategy that the government, still headed by Mubarak, has devised to ultimately ride out the revolt.
The army requires food and clothing for its soldiers and, more importantly, fuel and ammunition for its tanks and troop carriers, all of which the government, still controlled by Mubarak, are continuing to supply. One should not forget also that the Egyptian hierarchical elite mostly are drawn from its military.
Yesterday the army stood by and watched the pro-Mubarak ‘demonstrators’, many of who seemed to be police in civilian gear, wade in to anti-Mubarak demonstrators with clubs and knives. While there were some instances where the army attempted to come between the two sides of demonstrators, there was no sign at all of the army actually helping the anti-Mubarak side.
The demonstrations have been going on for well over a week now and seemed to reach its peak on Wednesday when the world witnessed the biggest demonstrations yet seen in the current crisis. Yet Mubarak has offered little to placate the demonstrators that want him out except to promise that he will not run again at the next elections. His change of cabinet offered nothing but more of the same and appointing an intelligence chief who been responsible for the torture of thousands of Mubarak dissenters merely added fuel to the protestor’s fire.
While Obama has called for immediate change, it is only now that he has even suggested that Mubarak should step down but has not indicated who should replace him if he did though presumably it would be the recently appointed vice-President, Omar Suleiman.
Everything hinges on where the army’s allegiances really lie – and, so far, the indications are that they are still in line with the Mubarak bloc status quo even if they accept that Mubarak himself has to go.
If Mubarak does go and Suleiman does replace him without any cast iron guarantees of change then knowing where the army stands will become crucial to the future of Egypt – and the entire Middle East.