As one follows Al Jazeera's remarkable coverage of Egypt, the military will continue to be considered a wild card. Many participating in demonstrations do not seem like they will settle for statements from high-ranking officials that they will ensure the emergency law will be lifted and they will safeguard free and fair elections. They might be pleased if the military can put forth a specific timeline to steer Parliament but one cannot forget the chief reason this uprising began: to get Mubarak to leave.
Time will only make protesters more uncertain. Will they provide a mechanism for getting Mubarak to go? Will they begin to shift their position and conclude that the crisis of legitimacy facing the regime is so grand that to protect Egypt from chaos now means to no longer protect one man, Mubarak, but means the military must coerce Mubarak and others in the regime to vacate their position in power?
US officials and political opposition have traditionally thought, as 10CAIRO145 indicates, that "prospects for significant political reform are slim while President Mubarak remains in office."
Opposition leaders had these thoughts on the military:
The leaders agreed that the military would play a significant role in any post-Mubarak scenario, and that constitutional provisions would be secondary to concerns about internal stability. Leader of the un-registered Reform and Development Party Anwar El-Sadat asserted that the military would not support Gamal Mubarak's succession to the presidency, but that loyalty to President Mubarak kept it from acting to sideline Gamal now. Abaza called Egypt's military "apolitical," but predicted the military would to step in to ensure stability if necessary.
Suleiman clearly indicated these demonstrations must come to an end and he singled out what is now, in his view, preventing Egypt from returning to "stability" in his statement on Thursday:
"I call upon the young people and heroes of Egypt, go back to your houses, go back to your work. The homeland needs your work. Let's build together. Let's develop together and let's be creative together. Do not listen to the satellite stations that have no objective but to sew sedition among people and to weaken Egypt and to mar its image. Just listen to your consciences and to your awareness of the dangers that are around you."
This was clearly directed at Al Jazeera. His condemnation of those with "agendas of danger" was more ominous speak on so-called foreign elements influencing the demonstrations. Suleiman is not someone those demonstrating will trust to move Egypt forward. He is tied to the very parts of the regime that have brutally targeted, harassed, intimidated and tortured activists, bloggers, dissidents, political opposition leaders, etc.
How will the military respond to Suleiman's view on the unfolding events? How long will they try to maintain this facade of neutrality before they make a decisive move? The military has a high standing in the hearts and minds of the people of Egypt.
The revolution will not end if the military cannot be moved. An imposition of order may come, but there is no clear indication from protesters that if the military is working against them they will bring a halt to the revolution.
However, this holding pattern the military is maintaining indicates clear tension. The existential question currently over whether Egypt will stand for authoritarian dictatorship or robust democracy that can respond to the aspirations of the people has become critical.
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