Egyptian Revolution: Protesters Not Settling for Concessions, U.S. Envoy to Egypt Had Business Ties to Mubarak Gov't
Today marks the fourteenth consecutive day of protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, with pro-democracy protesters continuing to call for President Mubarak's ouster. The government made a few concessions to the protesters this weekend, but those negotiations failed to placate the demonstrators, who are settling for nothing less than a new political system in Egypt. Al Jazeera reports:
Omar Suleiman, the country's newly appointed vice-president, began meetings with six opposition groups on Sunday, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB), in an attempt to end the crisis.
But Salma El-Tarzi, an activist in Tahrir Square, told Al Jazeera that she was indifferent to the talks. "The political parties can do whatever they please because they don't represent us," she said. "This is not a revolution made by the parties. The parties have been there for 30 years and they've done nothing. This is the people's revolution."
The concessions from the government included offers to "form a committee to examine proposed constitutional amendments, pursue allegedly corrupt government officials, 'liberalise' media and communications and lift the state of emergency in the country when the security situation was deemed to be appropriate."
Meanwhile, McClatchyreports that the Egyptian military spent the weekend rounding up and detaining "scores of human rights activists, protest organizers and journalists" without formally charging them of any crime -- a sign that Mubarak is hanging onto his old ways, even as he is being forced out of power.
The U.S. government, for its part, is apparently having trouble maintaining consistency of message about what it wants to see happen in Egypt. Over the weekend, U.S. envoy to Cairo Frank Wisner embarrassed and confused the White House by breaking from the official Obama administration line re: Egypt (Mubarak should step down peacefully, etc.). Speaking in Cairo on Saturday, the retired State Department employee said that "President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical: it's his opportunity to write his own legacy." Robert Fisk of the Independent reports on the furious back-pedaling now underway at the White House and reveals that Wisner had business ties to the Mubarak regime:
The US State Department and Mr Wisner himself have now both claimed that his remarks were made in a "personal capacity". But there is nothing "personal" about Mr Wisner's connections with the litigation firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises "the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government's behalf in Europe and the US". Oddly, not a single journalist raised this extraordinary connection with US government officials – nor the blatant conflict of interest it appears to represent.
As for the realWhite House stance on Mubarak -- it's not garnering much support from the protesters in Tahrir Square either. "Protesters tell me Obama still hasn't come up with any statement that they want to hear," said an Al Jazeera correspondent reporting from the square. "They want immediate change and the feeling among many of them is that the way US is handling this crisis is not good for the way America is perceived both here and in general in the wider region."