A fresh surge of popular anti-Mubarak protest ripping across Egypt Tuesday, Feb. 8 has brought the country closer to a military coup to stem the anarchy than at any time since the street caught fire on Jan. 25.
Vice President Omar Suleiman warned a group of Egyptian news editors that the only choice is between a descent into further lawlessness and a military takeover in Cairo. The distinguished political pundit of the 1960s and 1970s Hasnin Heikal saw no other way out of the crisis but a government ruling by the army’s bayonets.
The arrival of US naval, marine and air forces in the Suez Canal’s Greater Bitter Lake indicated that the crisis was quickly swerving out of control.
Debkafile’s military sources report that the American force consists of the USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group of six warships. Helicopters on some of their decks are there to carry and drop the 2,200 marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit which has been bolstered by two special operations battalions.
The flotilla has a rapid strike stealth submarine, the USS Scranton, which is designed to support special forces’ operations.
The US strike force has taken up position at a strategic point opposite Ismailia between the west bank of the Suez Canal and its eastern Sinai bank. It is poised for rapid response in the event of the passage of about 40 per cent of the world’s marine freights through the Suez Canal being threatened or any other extreme occurrence warranting US military intervention.
For a few hours Tuesday, it looked as through Egypt was finally going back to normal after a two-week popular uprising. But then, suddenly, thousands again took to the streets and squares of Egyptian towns – from the Western desert on the Libyan border up to the northern Sinai town of El Arish in the east, recalling Hosni Mubarak’s warning of chaos if he were to depart too soon.
Tuesday, the protesters mounted their biggest demonstrations of their campaign to oust Mubarak – in Cairo, Alexandria, the Delta Cities, the industrial belt around Mahalla-el-Kebir and the steel city of Heluan, shouting “Death to Mubarak!” and “Hang Mubarak!”
Although reforms and pay hikes have been pledged by the new Egyptian government, large groups of workers, mainly in Cairo, rebelled against state-appointed managements and set up “Revolutionary Committees” to run factories and other work places, including Egyptian state TV and Egypt’s biggest weekly “Ros el-Yusuf.”
The stock market and the pyramids remained closed and traffic blocked solid on the streets of Cairo.