Tracking the ongoing demonstrations and government response
12:45 p.m. EST / 7:45 p.m. Cairo Speaking over the phone to Al Jazeera, opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei warned that the collapse of the Mubarak government was inevitable. "A coalition government must be formed, with a new democratic constitution that the people can vote on in an referendum," he said. "The regime must understand that it has to leave. A coalition government must be formed. Without this the protests will continue." Though ElBaradei is considered by many U.S. analysts as a leader of the Egyptian democratic opposition, he was careful in his statements to not assert himself as a leader of the protest movement.
12:39 p.m. EST / 7:39 p.m. Cairo Looting has reportedly become a serious problem throughout much of Cairo, especially downtown and in wealthier suburbs. Armed men on motorcycles are looting empty storefronts and some houses across the capital. Al Jazeera reports that citizens have captured some of the looters and found them carrying ID cards of the central security services, although it's not clear if they were acting on official orders. This poses a serious problem for the military, which is not accustomed to policing law and order. With the police having receded from most of the city, and the military having taken over, the onus on stopping looters is on the military. Though the soldiers have been generally supportive of the protesters and have refused to enforce the national curfew, they may have to do exactly that if the military is to clear the chaotic streets of looters and vandals. That could chill the so far warm relationship between the military and protesters, or even chill the protest movement itself, but to allow protests to continue could bring popular backlash against the protesters and military.
12:16 p.m. EST / 7:16 p.m. Cairo Regardless of whether plains-clothe police or just individual opportunists are behind the looting of the Egyptian Museum, it's difficult to overstate its potential impact. In 2003, widespread looting of the National Museum of Iraq, which lost roughly half of its treasured antiquities collection due in part to the U.S. military's refusal to stop looters, became a symbol of what many Iraqis saw as the U.S. occupation's malignancy and its damage to Iraqi national pride. The Egyptian military has now moved in to the Cairo museum to protect its collection. But the jarring images of destroyed centuries-old artifacts, symbols of Egypt's glorious history, risk a popular backlash against whoever is perceived as behind the looting, or even against the military if they are blamed for not moving against looters sooner. Here are some photos of the looting; click through for larger images.
11:58 a.m. EST / 6:58 p.m. Cairo Al Jazeera is broadcasting video showing looting of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which holds one of the world's largest and most important archeological collections. Protesters have refrained from looting the museum, at one point even forming a human chain to protect it. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports on speculation that the looting is being done by plains-clothe police officers in an attempt to discredit the protest movement. Below that, Cairo-based filmmaker Louis Lewarne passes along something he heard, the truth of which is difficult to verify.
A doctor at Tahrir "the army were beating looters at the museum. Stopped when the looters said they were police." #jan25
11:25 a.m. EST / 6:25 p.m. Cairo Iranian opposition figure and 2009 presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has released a statement in support of the Egyptian protesters and connecting this week's events in Egypt to the 2009 protests in Iran. "[Egypt's rulers] do not realise that continuing policies of intimidation will eventually turn against itself and then the coming of 'the day of wrath' and days of national wrath will be inevitable. Pharaohs usually hear the voice of the nation when it is too late. Our nation deeply respects the glorious uprising of the brave people of Tunis and that of the people of Egypt, Yemen and other countries in quest for their rights."
Today, the slogan of "Where is my vote?" of the people of Iran has reached Egypt and transformed into "The people want the overthrow of the regime". In order to discover the secret of these links and these similarities, one does not have to go too far. You just have to compare the recent elections in Egypt with our own and compare it with the chairman of the Guardian Council who explicitly says there is no need for millions of votes by Green citizens. If we look at the collapsing political regimes in the Arab world and the Middle East carefully, we can identify a similar pattern of invading and shutting down social networks, the press and the cyber space. In an amazingly similar fashion, they have all blocked SMS systems, mobile phones and the internet, have banned all writers and taken dissidents to prisons.
11:19 a.m. EST / 6:19 p.m. Cairo It's been taken as an assumption in most analysis of the Egyptian protests that any popular uprising could be bad news for Israel, as Mubarak has been a crucial figure in the Israel-Palestine negotiations and a true Egyptian democracy could empower the Muslim Brotherhood, which is not supportive of Israel. But are analysts overestimating the danger to Israel? Mubarak has appointed long-time loyalist Ahmed Shafik as his new Prime Minister. One of Shafik's greatest claims to fame in Egypt is his service during the 1973 Yom Kippur war with Israel, when Shafik is purported to have shot down two Israeli jets. That he has traded on this story for so long suggests that Egypt's government may already be less pro-Israeli than many analysts assume it to be.
11:06 a.m. EST / 6:06 p.m. Cairo Who is Lieutenant General Omar Suleiman, whom Mubarak just appointed as the first Egyptian vice president since 1981? Suleiman's appointment makes him the likely successor to Mubarak, ruling out long-presumed Gamal Mubarak, the president's son. Issandr Amrani profiled Suleiman in 2009 for Foreign Policy, concluding, "neither Gamal Mubarak nor Omar Suleiman presents a clear departure from the present state of affairs." Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell pulled out this excerpt from a 2007 U.S. State Department cable, released by WikiLeaks, offering one diplomat's opinion on Suleiman.
HIS LOYALTY TO MUBARAK SEEMS ROCK-SOLID. AT AGE 71, HE COULD BE ATTRACTIVE TO THE RULING APPARATUS AND THE PUBLIC AT LARGE AS A RELIABLE FIGURE UNLIKELY TO HARBOR AMBITIONS FOR ANOTHER MULTI-DECADE PRESIDENCY. A KEY UNANSWERED QUESTION IS HOW HE WOULD RESPOND TO A GAMAL PRESIDENCY ONCE MUBARAK IS DEAD. AN ALLEGED PERSONAL FRIEND OF SOLIMAN TELLS US THAT SOLIMAN "DETESTS" THE IDEA OF GAMAL AS PRESIDENT, AND THAT HE ALSO WAS "DEEPLY PERSONALLY HURT" BY MUBARAK, WHO PROMISED TO NAME HIM VICE-PRESIDENT SEVERAL YEARS AGO, BUT THEN RENEGED.
10:58 a.m. EST / 5:58 p.m. Cairo In a small but telling sign of the regime's struggle to respond to the protests over which they have largely lost control, an official with the ruling National Democratic Party called in to Al Jazeera English to explain Mubarak's decision to appoint Suleiman as Vice President. Flustered, stuttering, and unintentionally hitting the buttons on his phone, the official was clearly unprepared for the often aggressive interview. When pressed on how Mubarak could offer democratic reforms despite keeping himself in power for 29 years, the NDP official countered that no one would complain if a U.K. prime minister held office for three decades. He insisted that the government was only looking to protect the people.