Thursday, February 10, 2011

“I think Suleiman should be on the same plane as Mubarak ...”

".... a dicey situation, post-Mubarak: the Egyptian military will be in charge of the country, and military rule has a tendency to last beyond its expiration date. But if U.S. military officials are to believed, there’s reason for hope. U.S. military-to-military ties with Egypt are broad, deep and “pre-Mubarak,” as a senior U.S. military officer puts it. The officer asked to speak on background, given the fluidity of the situation, before Mubarak gives a speech expected to be his valedictory address. But he said that the wages of that long relationship are “intangible benefits” about how the Egyptian military knows what the U.S. expects of it: to step aside after new presidential elections produce a civilian leader and a democratic transition. “They’re a secular, national force,” the officer says; meaning:they get it. “There’s a common awareness, an understanding with them, and, obviously, we sell a lot to them,” the officer says. That’s $1.3 billion worth of influence, every year. The sheer size of that exchange keeps Egypt as a significant military power in the Middle East — which means the U.S. doesn’t have to threaten to cut off aid to make its desires clear. The Egyptian demonstrators in Tahrir Square “trust the military,” says Sherif Mansour of Freedom Watch, “but there is caution about what happens tomorrow.” Egypt’s democratic revolutionaries are willing to tolerate military rule only in a transitory sense to get rid of Mubarak, revise the constitution and pave the way to elections later this year. But they also want to make sure that Mubarak’s allies go, including Vice President Omar Suleiman. “I think Suleiman should be on the same plane as Mubarak,” Mansour says. Without military backing, “I don’t think he can stay in power.” If the military decides to back Suleiman, the sense of trust with the protesters will be badly damaged: “This will be clarified very soon,” he says, “when the situation with Suleiman ends.”

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