The New York Times reported:
[Mubarak's] grip on power was further challenged Saturday as the military that he had deployed to take back control of the streets showed few signs of suppressing the unrest, and in several cases the army took the side of the protesters in the capital and the northern port city of Alexandria.
In the most striking instance, members of the army joined with a crowd of thousands of protesters in a pitched battle against Egyptian security police officers defending the Interior Ministry on Saturday afternoon.
Furthermore, there is now some question about what the appointment by Mubarak of Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief, as vice president on Saturday really means. At first it appeared that this was a sign that Mubarak intended to try to cling to power. But now CNN's Ben Wedeman reports that:
a source familiar with the thinking of Egypt's ruling party told him that the decision to appoint Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief, vice president on Saturday "may well be as a preparatory step for a transition of power, for the resignation of President Mubarak, and to ensure that there is somebody in control, that there is a system of transition of power from Mubarak to his vice president in the event, and this is very possible, that the president does in one form or another step down from power."
Today, Senate Foreign Relations Chair John Kerry appeared to suggest that the U.S. should be talking to Mubarak about the possibility of stepping down:
Asked if Mubarak should step down in a bid to calm the growing protests, Kerry said it was not his place to say.
"I don't know. I think you first have to sit down and have a discussion with him on the future of Egypt," Kerry told the AP. "I'm not going to call for that in a newspaper, but we've got to have those conversations."
Of course, even if Mubarak does step down, that does not mean the protesters will necessarily be appeased. Their slogan in the street has been, "Down Mubarak," but their demands go further: free and fair elections. But the departure of Mubarak would certainly send a signal from the government that satisfying the protesters' demand for clean elections is now on the table.
Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).