City of Brass

Far from dying down, the protests in Egypt have only grown – there’s a million marching upon Mubarak today:

About 1,000,000 people have gathered for the planned “march of a million” in the Egyptian capital, calling for Hosni Mubarak, the embattled Egyptian president, to step down.

[…] Thousands of demonstrators began gathering from early on Tuesday morning in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which has been the focal point of protests in the capital and served as the meeting area for the march to begin on the eighth day of an uprising that has so far claimed more than 125 lives.

Another “million-strong” march is planned in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, as national train services were cancelled in an apparent bid to stymie protests. Protest organisers have also called for an indefinite strike to be observed across the country.

A critical development – the Egyptian Army has ended speculation about whether it will fire upon protestors. They will not:

In a statement on Monday, the army said “freedom of expression” was guaranteed to all citizens using peaceful means.

“To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people,” stress that “they have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people,” said the statement.

It was the first such explicit confirmation by the army that it would not fire at demonstrators who have taken to the streets of Egypt and comes a day before Tuesday’s “march of millions”.

Hosni is feeling the heat. He sent out feelers for negotiation, but was rebuffed by the opposition groups. Al Jazeera:

Meanwhile, one of Egypt’s oldest parties, Wafd, announced on Tuesday that a number of opposition groups have agreed to form “a national front” to deal with the volatile situation there. In a statement, Wafd said that president Mubarak “has lost legitimacy.”

Also on Tuesday, the Muslim Brotherhood, an officially banned but tolerated movement, said it will not negotiate with president Mubarak or his government.

Earlier, some opposition parties have called for Mubarak to delegate responsibilities to newly appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman, who they are prepared to negotiate with.


And in the Wall Street Journal:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, seeking to salvage his 29-year rule, made his first offer to discuss reforms with opposition groups, as protesters gathered for a massive march to force him to resign and his Western allies discussed plans for his exit.

Opposition parties said they wouldn’t negotiate as long as Mr. Mubarak remains in office.

[…] In Egypt, a committee from the coalition of opposition parties met Monday to discuss their strategy in anticipation of Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. People briefed on the meeting said the focus was to hammer out a negotiating strategy with the army and newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman, the longtime intelligence chief who constitutionally would take over if Mr. Mubarak left office. Protest organizers said the opposition would make no concessions until Mr. Mubarak leaves office.

Mr. Mubarak’s offer to negotiate a package of political and constitutional overhauls was delivered by Mr. Suleiman over state television around midnight, after another day of protests across the capital.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Mubarak, who dissolved his government last week, named new ministers–including stalwarts from his ruling party and security apparatus, which is widely reviled for its brutal intelligence and police networks.

He also kicked out his long-time finance minister, who is highly regarded by Western financial institutions but blamed in Egypt for a lack of jobs and high levels of unemployment.

The tens of thousands of people streaming into the capital’s Tahrir Square throughout the day to prepare for Tuesday’s rally barely noticed Mr. Mubarak’s overtures.

The ultimate writing on the wall – the White House had a private meeting last night, at which participants essentially understood that the Obama Administration itself no longer sees Mubarak as viable. The WSJ:

The U.S. and its allies have started discussing how Mr. Mubarak might step aside or at least not run in national elections set for September, according to Western diplomats.

Participants in a private meeting Monday morning at the White House’s Roosevelt Room said a long discussion of Mr. Mubarak’s future left them with the understanding that the White House sees no scenario in which Mr. Mubarak remains in power for long. White House officials said they made no explicit predictions about Mr. Mubarak’s future.

At the meeting, National Security Council official Dan Shapiro opened the discussion by saying time was of the essence. Already, demands for Mr. Mubarak’s removal have escalated into demands that he be tried, and experts told White House officials that the prospects for violence were increasing.

NSC officials, pressed by participants, said they had no contingency plans for a sudden collapse of the Mubarak government. The administration has so far stopped short of calling for Mr. Mubarak to step down.

The Obama administration dispatched a former ambassador to Egypt, Frank Wisner, to Cairo to press for democratic reforms, officials said, another sign the U.S. was taking a more hands-on role in trying to end the crisis.

A White House official said the administration was reaching out to a “broad cross-section of opposition and non-governmental actors.”

This is enormous news in and of itself. Hillary Clinton telegraphed this position on the Sunday shows but now there’s no room left for Hosni Mubarak to manuever.

It’s endgame.

And it’s been better said elsewhere, but this really was Al Jazeera’s moment. They open-licensed all their coverage of Egypt under the Creative Commons, permitting everyone from bloggers to other rival media organizations to use their images and video. They were the true face of journalism, an example to all media worldwide. And it’s about time that we were able to watch AJE on our cable channels – so sign the petition to get AJE on your cable provider right now.

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