Egypt and Wrath

January 28, 2011

Egypt and Wrath

Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has returned to the country as demonstrators are ratcheting up their protests, coming out in droves on Friday. The government has also upped the ante, cutting off all internet access (and BlackBerry service) in the entire country, a move one blogger called "unprecedented in internet history." But Spencer Ackerman reports that the move hasn't interrupted the "Day of Wrath" rallies, as protestors use their "offline networking tool: the mosques." The New York Times also notes the increasing role religion could play, as the militant group the Muslim Brotherhood joins the demonstrations, with one of its spokesman saying Friday would be "a day of the intifada."

Some bloggers are also upset at Vice President Joe Biden's comment on PBS's Newshour that he does not consider Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a dictator. Taylor Marsh urges the Obama administration to "up its game," on the heels of a New York Times story on WikiLeaked diplomatic cables showing "Delicate U.S. Dealings with Egypt's Leaders."  Robert Dreyfuss thinks it looks like the administration is "distancing itself from Mubarak" and a revolution in Egypt would "change everything" for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Catholic University's Yasser El-Shimy encourages President Obama to cut off "its lifelines to Egypt's autocratic regime." Matthew Shaffer calls it an "enormously significant day for Egypt."

Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl details how Washington miscalculated the significance of the protests that broke out earlier this week, and is now "frantically trying to catch up with events and has at last begun to adjust its policy." Diehl's colleague David Ignatius writes that "there's a sense of inevitability about this revolution [spreading across the Arab world], like a rotten gourd that finally bursts." But as Benny Morris points out on The National Interest online, notice the silence in Mideast countries where brutality is the norm (i.e., Syria).

In the Wall Street Journal, Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer says the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia "changed everything." Amer—who served a four-year prison sentence—says he was hesitant to join the demonstrations; after all, revolution could mean "an Islamist take over." But eventually he did, getting tear gassed in the process. "Egypt will never be the same," he writes," and "the government is losing control."

Meanwhile, riot police and Egyptian Ministry of Interior special operations forces have moved into Central Cairo. For a video of what some are proclaiming (perhaps somewhat hyperbolically) the protests' "Tiananmen Square moment," click here.