Tens of thousands of protesters remain in Cairo for the seventh day of protest as the country prepares for a "mega" or "march of millions" protest Tuesday. President Hosni Mubarak, who continues to ignore calls for his ouster, announced a new cabinet on state TV. Although widely despised Interior Minister Habib al-Adly has been replaced among others, insiders say many of the new ministers are "cronies of the current regime," and are likely to "enflame anger." Mubarak's new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, has been ordered to push through reforms toward democracy and create new jobs. But protesters won't be appeased by anything less than Mubarak leaving office. Shafiq has also been urged to pursue "a wide range of dialogue with all the (political) parties," although Mubarak called out parties who used religion to "spread fear" through hooliganism — a criticism aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition party. After endorsing Mohamed ElBaradei as a negotiator, the Brotherhood appears to be backing off that decision. Meanwhile, the military is still maintaining a neutral position, interceding only to stop looting and property destruction. After abandoning their posts Friday, Mubarak's police have been ordered back to the streets.
Mubarak's pledge to increase jobs looks shaky as a financial crisis looms. During a live special last night, CNBC warned of "economic contagion" that could drive up the price of oil. Both Moodys and Fitch Ratings changed its outlook on Egypt's bond rating from stable to negative. Investors have already transferred hundred of millions of dollars. Once the banks and markets reopen, it's likely millions more will be withdrawn, which could leave Egypt without sufficient currency reserves.
The six Al Jazeera reporters arrested have been released after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley interceded, but their camera equipment is still seized. Al Jazeera English's live feed on the demonstrations is still up and streaming.
Protesters in Syria and fears of a "revolutionary tsunami" spreading throughout the Middle East have motivated President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father (just as Gamal Mubarak was being groomed to succeed his), to usher in political reforms. Al-Assad, who has ruled with a tight leash, told the Journal that demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt are rolling in a "new era" in the Middle East. The fact that Syria has maintained close ties with Iran as well as militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas is a signal that the ripple effects extend beyond just countries whose leaders are friendly with Washington. Fears of political unrest have also reached as far as China, where the government has blocked the word "Egypt" from some searches. Yeah, because blocking the Internet worked out so well for Mubarak.
The U.S. has stopped short of asking Mubarak to step down, although Clinton's call for "an orderly transition" sounds like the White House is cautiously distancing itself. A senior administration official told Politico:
“It's just a very tough line to straddle. If [Mubarak] guts this out and stays, we're going to continue to need him and work with him, and he might not appreciate that we pushed. Bottom line, Egypt's destiny is Egypt's to decide, and we'll work with whoever emerges or is left standing.”You know, the same hands-off, chose-your-own-leader approach the U.S. has always employed in the Middle East.
Egypt's New Government Announced On State TV [AP via HuffPo]
Egypt protesters vow to step up pressure [BBC]
Egypt's Mubarak opens door to talks with rival political parties [CNN]
Syria Strongman: Time for 'Reform' [WSJ]
Behind the curtain: Egypt erupts in the WH [Politico]
Egyptian financial crisis looms [Al Jazeera]