With each passing day, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s control is rapidly dissipating. The crisis is now in day seven. The military, called in to keep peace, has sided with the people. Some tanks even display anti-government messages.

It what seems to be a last ditch effort to buy time, Egypt’s newly appointed Vice President is in talks with the opposition. That is a sign Mubarak may be in his final days before some agreement to replace him is hashed out.

The New York Times reports Mubarak’s Grip on Power Is Shaken.

The government of Egypt’s authoritarian president, Hosni Mubarak, shook Monday night, as the Egyptian Army declared that it would not use force against protesters demanding his ouster and, in an apparent response, Mr. Mubarak’s most trusted adviser offered to talk with the opposition.

Hundreds of thousands have turned out into the streets over the last six days, and organizers called on millions of Egyptians to protest on Tuesday.

Within hours on Monday, the political landscape of the country shifted as decisively as it had at any moment in Mr. Mubarak’s three decades in power. The military seemed to aggressively assert itself as an arbiter between two irreconcilable forces: a popular uprising demanding Mr. Mubarak’s fall and his tenacious refusal to relinquish power.

How far Mr. Mubarak is offering to bend in negotiations remains to be seen, and given the potential ambiguities of both statements it is too soon to write off the survival of his government.

But the six-day-old uprising here entered a new stage about 9 p.m. when a uniformed military spokesman declared on state television that “the armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people.” Addressing the throngs who took to the streets, he declared that the military understood “the legitimacy of your demands” and “affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.”

A roar of celebration rose up immediately from the crowd of thousands of protesters still lingering in Tahrir Square, where a television displayed the news. Opposition leaders argued that the phrase “the legitimacy of your demands” could only refer to the protests’ central request — Mr. Mubarak’s departure to make way for free elections.

About an hour later, Omar Suleiman, Mr. Mubarak’s right-hand man and newly named vice president, delivered another address, lasting just two minutes.

“I was assigned by the president today to contact all the political forces to start a dialogue about all the raised issues concerning constitutional and legislative reform,” he said, “and to find a way to clearly identify the proposed amendments and specific timings for implementing them.”

Mr. Mubarak’s previously unquestioned authority had already eroded deeply over the preceding three days. On Friday, hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilian protesters routed his government’s heavily armed security police in a day of street battles, burning his ruling party’s headquarters to the ground as the police fled the capital. On Saturday, Mr. Mubarak deployed the military in their place, only to find the rank-and-file soldiers fraternizing with the protesters and revolutionary slogans being scrawled on their tanks.

And on Sunday, leaders of various opposition groups met to select Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to negotiate for them in anticipation of talks with Mr. Mubarak about forming a transitional unity government — an idea Mr. Mubarak’s surrogate embraced Monday.

Egypt Offers Opposition Talks in Bid to End Protests

In a similar story, Bloomberg reports Egypt Offers Opposition Talks in Bid to End Protests

Newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman offered talks with opposition groups in a bid to end Egypt’s unrest as protesters urged a million people to take to the streets today and force President Hosni Mubarak from office.

The announcement by Suleiman, one of Mubarak’s closest advisers, that he would open talks was made on Egyptian state television. Thousands of protesters erupted in cheers in Tahrir Square, the downtown plaza which honors the 1952 revolution in which the Egyptian military overthrew a constitutional monarchy and proclaimed a republic.

State TV later reported that the talks between the Mubarak regime and some of its opponents had begun, but didn’t identify participants. Opposition groups also called for all Egyptians to take part in a nationwide strike.

“If I hear the news correctly this morning, the military are in agreement with the people,” Ong Eng Tong, a Singapore- based consultant with Hamburg-based oil trader Mabanaft Gmbh., said on Bloomberg television. “And this will be a repetition of what happened in the Philippines I think about 20 years ago during Aquino’s time where everything will be settled once the military and the people get together.”

The anti-Mubarak movement, backed by former United Nations nuclear official Mohamed ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood, is aiming to force the resignation of the 82-year-old Mubarak after 30 years in power, said Mahmoud El-Said, one of the organizers.

The Egyptian opposition has set up a committee, including ElBaradei, 68, and the Brotherhood, that will convey the movement’s demands to the government, said Ayman Nour, who was a distant second to Mubarak in Egypt’s first multi-candidate election in 2005.

Mad Scramble to Size Up ElBaradei

Please consider U.S. Scrambles to Size Up ElBaradei

When President Obama unexpectedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, one predecessor was quick to applaud his selection for the award.

“I could not have thought of any other person that is more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama,” Mohamed ElBaradei, then the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a videotaped statement. He went on to praise Mr. Obama’s commitment “to restore moral decency” to the lives of people around the world.

But on Sunday, Mr. ElBaradei, now a prominent face of the opposition on the streets of Cairo, was sounding a different tune. “The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years will be the one to implement democracy,” Mr. ElBaradei told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He called the United States’ refusal to openly abandon President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt “a farce.”

Mr. ElBaradei, 68, had a fractious relationship with the Bush administration, one so hostile that Bush officials tried to get him removed from his post at the atomic watchdog agency. But as Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the secular opposition on the streets of Cairo have increasingly coalesced around Mr. ElBaradei to negotiate on their behalf, the Obama administration is scrambling to figure out whether he is someone with whom the United States can deal.

“Ironically, the fact that ElBaradei crossed swords with the Bush administration on Iraq and Iran helps him in Egypt, and God forbid we should do anything to make it seem like we like him,” said Philip D. Zelikow, former counselor at the State Department during the Bush years. For all of his tangles with the Bush administration, Mr. ElBaradei, an international bureaucrat well known in diplomatic circles, is someone whom the United States can work with, Mr. Zelikow said.

However, he allowed, “Some people in the administration had a jaundiced view of his work.”

Among them was John Bolton, the former Bush administration United States ambassador to the United Nations, who routinely clashed with Mr. ElBaradei on Iran. “He is a political dilettante who is excessively pro-Iran,” he complained. Even some of Mr. ElBaradei’s staff members chafed a bit when he softened the edges of I.A.E.A. reports, especially on Iran. They believed he was doing everything he could to avoid giving the Bush administration, or Israel, a reason to launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Dealing with Reality

For starters, I applaud ElBaradei’s willingness to stand up to the Bush administration’s Mideast war mongering efforts. President Bush blew trillions of dollars in a senseless war.

However, the current situation is different. ElBaradei needs to stand up to Obama to gain credibility of the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, ElBaradei ‘s criticism of Obama is essentially meaningless. Moreover, I see nothing wrong with his statements.

I find it humorous that people are asking “Can the U.S. deal with ElBaradei?”

The reality is the U.S. is likely going to have to deal with ElBaradei before that next Egyptian government is decided, whether we like it or not. Then the U.S. is going to have to deal with the next ruler of Egypt whether we like that person or not.

Let’s hope Egypt chooses wisely. Then let’s hope the U.S. deals with the outcome wisely. Unfortunately, our track record on the latter is abysmal.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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