Siun has you covered on some of the additional protests around the Arab world. The one that fascinates me, outside of the uprising just beginning in Libya, is Bahrain, which is wealthy enough that you would have thought the king could have bought off the demonstrators. But the death of a mourner participating in the funeral procession of another killing by state police has provided a symbol that will endure. I would say that’s the next country to fall, though how it will turn out is anyone’s guess.
But let’s not forget what’s happening in Egypt. Despite some initial trepidation among activists that the army was “hijacking the revolution,” it appears they actually have little interest in running the country. It’s good that the activists continue to provide pressure, though their splintering into factions, inevitable in the absence of a unifying goal like the removal of Mubarak, worries me somewhat, because it could be exploited by the establishment.
So far, the Constitution has been suspended, and a panel formed to write a new one. This panel will be led by retired judge Tareq el-Bishri, who criticized the Mubarak government while it was in power. It includes Maher Samy Youssef, a Coptic Christian, and Sobhi Saleh, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which plans to form a political party to run candidates for Parliament. Opposition groups praised the selections. The constitutional panel will have 10 days to come up with amendments, suggesting that the turnover of power is happening rapidly.
More interesting to me at this point is how the deposed Mubarak regime used their power and the lengths to which they were prepared to go to keep it. The New York Times writes about their shutoff of the Internet:
Epitaphs for the Mubarak government all note that the mobilizing power of the Internet was one of the Egyptian opposition’s most potent weapons. But quickly lost in the swirl of revolution was the government’s ferocious counterattack, a dark achievement that many had thought impossible in the age of global connectedness. In a span of minutes just after midnight on Jan. 28, a technologically advanced, densely wired country with more than 20 million people online was essentially severed from the global Internet.
The blackout was lifted after just five days, and it did not save President Hosni Mubarak. But it has mesmerized the worldwide technical community and raised concerns that with unrest coursing through the Middle East, other autocratic governments — many of them already known to interfere with and filter specific Web sites and e-mails — may also possess what is essentially a kill switch for the Internet [...]
For all the Internet’s vaunted connectivity, the Egyptian government commanded powerful instruments of control: it owns the pipelines that carry information across the country and out into the world.
And Robert Fisk brings us this absolutely chilling bit of information.
But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.
Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.
Obviously the shutdown of the Internet or the threat to have the military fire on its own people didn’t save Mubarak. But they provide the building blocks for how other nations might handle this crisis, out of the watchful eye of the world. This could already be happening in Iran, or Libya, or Bahrain. Mubarak may not have saved his own autocracy, but he may end up saving others.