By Patrick Appel
The removal of Mubarak alone (and getting the bulk of his $40bn loot back for the national treasury), without any other reforms, would itself be experienced in the region and in Egypt as a huge political triumph. It will set new forces into motion. A nation that has witnessed miracles of mass mobilisations and a huge rise in popular political consciousness will not be easy to crush, as Tunisia demonstrates.
I think that what you will see is military rule in the form of a junta overseen by the Supreme Military Council that leads to elections in September. It will take that long to organize UN oversight, constitutional change, etc. Whether Omar Suleiman will participate in that transitional arrangement will be revealed soon.
How has Barack Obama done during this major foreign policy challenge? I don't know, and you don't know, and the people talking about it on TV and in the blogs don't know; too much of what's happened (and what may have happened) is behind the scenes. Not just what Obama and the Americans are doing, but it's going to take some time for us to really know what many of the key Egyptians have been up to. If I had to guess, at this point, I'd say that at the very least he's avoided any significant egregious blunders, but even that is extremely provisional. We won't be able to really say much for a while.
What will the transition look like? Will the army truly allow the emergence of a pluralistic, representative model government? Will the interim government have the savvy to present such a road map early enough to placate activists? Will the process be transparent enough? Will international observers be invited to monitor elections? Will real democracy be supported by broader changes than just in election laws?
These and thousands of other questions swirl around like the flags and cheers in the square and across Cairo. But one thing is certain: A change of this magnitude in the most populous nation in the Arab World is a devastating blow to the status quo.
Tahrir has certainly erupted, in a mass celebration, waving of Egyptian flags, and singing that has spilled onto the surrounding streets and into the offices of Al Masry Al Youm, where my Egyptian colleague, a reporter who last night slept on a pile of old newspapers on the office floor after staying in the sorrowful Tahrir until 3 A.M., asked for a hug, and then ran to join the celebration.
The State Department is preparing an aid package for Egypt's opposition parties, fearing that a swift transition in the country could lead to a new authoritarian regime. The U.S. money would help opposition quickly get to work on constitutional reform, democratic development and election organizing in a country that has never known full democracy. Mubarak's resignation Friday will make the assistance more crucial. Administration officials would not say whether any of the aid would go directly or indirectly to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's Islamic party. The U.S. has a long history of supplying financial aid to burgeoning democratic movements with mixed results: some Eastern European nations were able to throw off their dictators with training from the U.S., while others remain under authoritarian regimes.
Allahpundit has questions:
It’s unclear to me what Suleiman’s status is right now: If the military’s high council is formally in charge, is he the power behind the throne making executive decisions? Is he the de facto head of the council itself? Or is he out too along with Mubarak?
Despite the joyousness now, Egypt is now under military control. The fact that Suleiman announced the new political situation suggests no one knows yet that he believes he has its support to remain in power, something that the protesters absolutely refuse. The U.S. military believes that it can work with its longtime Egyptian military partner, but no one knows what will happen next.