When the demonstrations began erupting in Egypt this past Tuesday, it was too early to predict the outcome of their clearly stated desire for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
In the subsequent days as protests escalated even amid the government's crackdown and call for a 6PM to 7AM curfew, the demonstrations continued, with clashes occurring between the protestors, the police and plain clothes security personnel.
On Friday, Mubarak called in the army to support the police. He also tried to placate the rising tide against him by firing his cabinet. The crowds were having none of it. They became incensed by the announcement loudly calling for his departure.
From here Mubarak's entreaties to the people are ringing hollow. They are signs of desperation and a clinging to power. The firing of his cabinet seems to have heightened the resolve of the people (now numbering in the hundred's of thousands) in their demand for Mubarak himself to step down.
The key is the army. On Saturday, pictures from the scene in Cairo show some the army supporting the protestors. Some of the army tanks "became resting points" for the demonstrators. Some tanks had "anti Mubarak graffiti" adorned on them without any interference by the soldiers. One sign on a tank said, "Leave Hosni, you, your son and your corrupted party." Some soldiers were seen inviting demonstrators to climb aboard their tank "to have photographs taken with them.
In Egypt all men serve in the army thus making it different than the police and security personnel.
Interestingly, the police were seen withdrawing to surround the presidential palace (a sign of a siege mentality?) relinquishing their previous positions as the army rolled in to take their place.
By mid-day Saturday, soldiers were seen relaxed around their tanks and armored vehicles chatting with protestors. No policemen were in sight.
In one central Cairo location a soldier was addressing the crowd saying "the army would stand by the people." The crowd responded, "The army and the people will purify the country."
In Alexandria, demonstrators "brought tea to the troops and had their pictures taken with them."
Of course the conscripted soldiers are not the officers and generals in charge of the army. Thus far there have been no reports from active military commanders relative to the unfolding uprising.
On Friday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the ex U.N. Chief nuclear inspector and Nobel prize winner, upon leaving a mosque was quoted as saying, "This is the work of a barbaric regime that is in my view doomed. It is the people versus the thugs."
ElBaradei's words from here are on the mark. Mubarak's days seem numbered.