Return to Transcripts main page


Protests Continue in Egypt

Aired January 31, 2011 - 16:00:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Pictures from Cairo on the cusp of an eighth day of protest and the march of millions.

A very warm welcome to you, CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson.

It's 9:00 p.m. here in London and 11:00 p.m. in Cairo.

We're going to spend this hour focusing on the uprising in Egypt.

Will the people get what they want and what happens if they do?

Well, this just in -- Egypt's new vice president says constitutional reform is now on the table. Omar Suleiman just said on Egyptian TV that the president, Hosni Mubarak, has asked him to start dialogue with all political forces. More on that live from Cairo in just a minute.

Meanwhile, protesters showing no signs of backing down.


ANDERSON: Earlier Monday, demonstrators defied an afternoon curfew. Thousands were on the streets for at least seven consecutive days.

Well, the head of Egypt's formed forces has spoken out. He says his troops won't use violence against the people. But as protests continue, daily life in Egypt proves difficult. There are long lines at many grocery stores. Food is in short supply. And struggling president, Hosni Mubarak, swore in a new cabinet early on Monday. But for many, it is a case of too little too late.

Well, we are waiting to speak to Ben Wedeman live in Cairo. We're just having some technical difficulties as we speak.

For now, though, here's Arwa Damon on how the unrest is bringing Egypt's capital to a standstill.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): This is not the capital that many Egyptians recognize nor is it one they want the outside world to see. Residents line up at a popular bread factory amid fears of a food shortage.

As we are filming from a bridge, this man starts yelling at us to stop.

"Why are you filming," he shouts?

"Is this a nice image? It's ugly."

He threatens to break our camera.

In the chaos at another bread line, a woman tells us they want Mubarak to stay. The men angrily yell at us to leave.

(on camera): This is the second neighborhood that we've come to where we've seen people getting incredibly aggressive, not wanting to be filmed in this kind of a situation.

(voice-over): The same woman meets us at the car and apologizes for the way we are treated.

"It's because of this terrible situation that we are in," she explains. "We are good people. We're sorry."

Most shops in Cairo are shut. It's not just food shortages that are of rising concern.

(on camera): Another problem that Egyptians are facing is just getting money. Banks are all closed, the screens on ATM machines dark. If a person doesn't have cash in hand, they're facing a serious problem.

(voice-over): Across the capital, normal life has been paralyzed.

(on camera): A number of gas stations that we've been driving by have been closed, some of them because of security reasons, where owners don't want to be filmed; others, like at this one, because they quite simply ran out of fuel and are not sure when stocks are going to be arriving.

(voice-over): Away from the demonstrators, we found a population increasingly frustrated and angry.

(on camera): Tell us what right now, what is on your mind?

Why are you so upset?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am upset with the revolutions in -- in the (INAUDIBLE). It doesn't represent us. It doesn't represent our opinion. We're here sticking with Hosni Mubarak only. Give him time to work and then he can go, but peacefully.

DAMON: "Who is going to govern Egypt?," she asks, switching to Arabic, "a group of youth? Don't demonstrate. Talk to the government."

(on camera): Why is everybody so angry with the media?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it doesn't give a very good picture about us.

DAMON (voice-over): An argument breaks out with another woman and we are again forced to stop filming. However torn this nation is becoming, the demonstrators are determined to weather it out, no matter what.

(on camera): What are you doing about things like food, money, because we're hearing, you know, there's a food shortage, there's a cash shortage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's OK. People -- people here are supporting each other, you know?

My neighbor -- my neighbor gave us food and gave us water and all what we need, OK?

All the stores, also, are supporting the people.

DAMON (voice-over): For some, these chaotic events are the stirrings of freedom. For other Egyptians, they mark the onset of anarchy.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Cairo.


ANDERSON: Well, that's right.

Well, let's get Ben Wedeman in Cairo now for the very latest on the ground, including what we've heard, Ben, tonight, from the vice president.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the vice president did make a speech this evening in which he discussed the need for reform. He discussed that he -- he mentioned that he had been assigned by President Mubarak to open a dialogue with all the opposition parties.

But, of course, what we're hearing from the street and from polls is there's really no room for discussion until President Hosni Mubarak steps down. And, of course, tomorrow is the much anticipated one million man march on Cairo, ending up in, of course, Tahrir Square.

Now, what's interesting is that the Egyptian government has canceled - - basically shut down the nation's railway system as of tomorrow. It's widely believed this is an attempt to prevent the protesters from reaching -- from reaching Cairo from other parts of the country.

But what we're hearing is that those who can are actually walking to the capital to participate in this protest in the center of the city, which may turn out to be the biggest demonstration yet -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. And we are on the cusp of that, of course, that march for Tuesday -- Ben, the army says it will not use violence against Egyptians staging protests.

What's the army's role in all of this at this point?

WEDEMAN: Well, that's a very good question, because, of course, the army is not designed or trained to deal with civil unrest. They are designed to deal with emerging markets on the borders of Egypt.

And it's well known that the army is not enthusiastic about being pushed into this role as, basically, replacing the police force, which disappeared on Friday and is now slowly being redeployed throughout the country.

So how the army is going to deal with, potentially, a million people in the streets of Cairo without using some sort of force to keep them under control is going to be interesting to see -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Hosni Mubarak has put a new cabinet in place earlier on today, but, Ben, that hasn't since those calling for change, people still in Tahrir Square this evening.

When you ask people what it is that they want specifically at this point, what is it?

WEDEMAN: It seems to be one demand and one demand only and that's the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Many Egyptians are not happy with the fact that Omar Suleiman is very much a Mubarak man, as is Ahmed Shafiq, the prime minister. These are men who rose through the ranks of the Egyptian military and intelligence during the time of Hosni Mubarak. And, really, they're -- the -- there's talk that, really, this wasn't a change at all, it was a window dressing, that the same people are in power, wielding the same powers throughout the country, that nothing has really changed -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben, briefly, how do the crowds on the streets tonight compare with those in past days.

WEDEMAN: Well, the crowds are pretty Saturday in Tahrir Square, as they've been for several days now, basically since -- since Friday, when we had that massive demonstration.

But, you know, the country, on a completely different subject, you know, you have to realize that this country has basically been shut down. Schools don't work. Banks are closed. Universities are closed. Many businesses are closed. The Internet isn't working. For instance, it's -- you know, many Egyptians depend on the banks to get their money, but you go to an ATM machine, they don't function. So the whole country is essentially sart -- shut down.

The stock market is shut down. Tourism is collapsing as we speak. And so we're -- there's been so much attention on the thousands of people in Tahrir Square, but relatively little on the fact that this country, its infrastructure and its economy is falling to pieces before our eyes -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman is in Cairo for you tonight with the very latest.

Ben, we thank you for that.

And we're just getting the -- the sound of Egypt's new vice president in just moments ago. He said that constitutional reform is now on the table.

Have a listen to this.


OMAR SULEIMAN, EGYPTIAN VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): I speech -- speak freely by my feeling is that -- that there is a response, that previously they said that the constitution should not be amended until after the election. So this is a -- a big change.

So this is a response to the im -- to the youth pulse.


ANDERSON: All right. And we will discuss throughout the next hour what exactly that may mean.

Well, the uprising in Egypt is forcing the U.S. into fancy, or, some say, blundering diplomatic footwork. Coming up, the next step for a crucial ally of the Egyptian president. We're going to go live for you to Washington.

Also ahead, banned in Egypt, but now a major player -- the impact of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

And we introduce you to one Egyptian activist who's been at the protests since the very beginning.


ANDERSON: This is Tahrir Square, Cairo early Monday, where, despite a curfew and the renewed presence of troops, tanks and police, anti- government demonstrators keep protesting the rule of Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. And we will do more on Egypt coming up for you.

Let's, though, take a quick look at the other stories in the news this hour.

Profits at Exxon Mobil, the largest U.S. energy company, are up more than 50 percent in the fourth quarter. Earnings topped $9 billion, which was higher than expected on rising oil and natural gas prices.

Well, Sudan's vice president says he accepts preliminary referendum results. They show that almost 99 percent of Southern Sudanese voted for independence. Barring possible appeals, the new nation would emerge in July.

Well, a three day blizzard of so-called historic proportions is headed for the United States' mid-section. Forecasters say it will impact about three quarters of the United States, from New England to New Mexico.

And Europe's winter football transfer winter is set to close in just a few hours time. One highly anticipated deal yet to be sealed is between Liverpool's Fernando Torres and English champion's Chelsea. The Spanish striker may now be a step closer to the transfer to the London club after his team agreed a club record fee for Newcastle United's Andy Carroll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to tell the American people and not just the American people, all the foreign people all over the world, don't make the same mistakes which America committed in the (INAUDIBLE) and Iran. Don't support a government that's collapsing now. It is dying now. Don't support them. They will go out and we will stay. So try to make a coalition with us.


ANDERSON: Well, a clear message there from the streets of Cairo. Many Egyptians want to hear stronger support for their uprising from the most powerful democracy in the world. They are warning the United States not to find itself on the wrong side of history.

Let's bring in Dan Lothian to see what the White House is saying about Egypt today.

And we've heard from both the White House today, and, indeed, the Pentagon.

What did the White House have to say?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, first of all, what you are hearing from this administration is that they are using new language, but insisting that it is the same message. You heard it yesterday from Secretary of State Clinton; President Obama, then, in a statement; and then today from White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, talking about an orderly transition. But they insist that they're not talking about regime change here, that they don't want to meddle in the internal affairs of the Egyptian government.

Having said that, they're also knocking down suggestions that this language, this orderly transition is talking specifically about President Mubarak stepping down.

Here's how Robert Gibbs dealt with that question today.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I do believe orderly transition means change. And what we've advocated from the very beginning is that the way Egypt looks and operates must change. That's -- that's why we believe we should increase the amount of freedom that is had by the Egyptian people on association, on assembly, on speech, on Internet and com -- open communication. But that's not for us to determine what the parameters and what the limits of those are.


LOTHIAN: So, again, this White House saying that it's not about the individual, but about democratic reforms that they want to see changed there in Egypt.

This administration, though, still continued to keep a very close eye on what's going on in Egypt over the weekend. President Obama's national security team has been meeting, giving him updates throughout the day, as well; and, also, the president bringing in outside advisers -- experts on Egypt -- to help guide the administration's thinking going forward -- Becky.

ANDERSON: All right, Dan Lothian is at the White House for you.

Dan, thank you for that.

Let's get more now on the U.S. reaction to the uprising in Egypt.

We're joined by two guests, I'm happy to say, tonight.

Fawaz Gerges is a -- a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics. And Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He's also served as a Middle East adviser to both Bush presidencies.

Gentlemen, we thank you for joining us this evening.

Fawaz, let me start with you.

Is the U.S. mismanaging what they see as the Egypt crisis?

FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: No, I don't think so. I think the Obama administration position has come a long way. If you read carefully the language of the administration, I think the -- the position has become much more nuanced, much more complex. I think President Obama is sending the right messages to the Egyptian people.

At the end of the day, the United States really has limited options in Egypt. The crisis in Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people, truly. Of course, the military is the most powerful institution. But at the end of the day, a kind of settlement has to be found between the military and the opposition. And I'm happy to say that tonight, obviously, a more nuanced position has emerged on the part of Omar Suleiman. He said starting tomorrow morning, the army and the cabinet will engage the opposition in a national dialogue in order to find a way out of the (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: And Washington, one assumes, Richard, will be pleased to hear that.

RICHARD HAASS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Oh, absolutely. The United States would like nothing more than such a dialogue not only to begin, but to -- to succeed.

It's also important to remember that we don't know what the administration is saying privately to -- to Omar Suleiman or anyone else. And secondly, we also need to keep in mind that the Egyptian public is not the only audience the United States has to think about when it speaks publicly. We've got to think about how everything we said will be heard, say, in other capitals throughout the Middle East. And the United States needs to be very careful that it does not seem to be walking away from a -- a friend of more than three decades with alacrity.

So the United States has to balance competing interests. It's an awfully complicated situation. And, for the most part, with only a few exceptions, I would think the administration is getting it about right.

ANDERSON: Richard, let's just get a sense of how the U.S. narrative, though, has developed over the past week.

Hillary Clinton's comments on Egypt have changed pretty significantly as the uprising has un -- intensified. I want our viewers just to be reminded of these two statements

from the Secretary of State, the first one from Tuesday and the second five days later.

Have a listen to this.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable.



CLINTON: Clearly, increasing chaos or even violence in the streets, prison breaks, which we've had reports about, that is not the way to go. We want to see this peaceful uprising on the part of the Egyptian people to demand their rights to be responded to in a very clear, unambiguous way by the government.


ANDERSON: Some did say that certainly the original comments were foolish and people went on to say that the U.S., to a certain extent, last week, was a little off kilter.

When -- when Hillary Clinton talks about a managed transition, Richard, you've been inside the corridors of power.

What did she mean by that?

HAASS: Well, what essentially the United States wants is for the government to change. Now, the details have got to be worked out, whether it's that Hosni Mubarak won't stand for reelection or that he will step down rather soon, the -- that maybe there will be a constitutional convention and then elections, I mean these are all details to be worked out.

The fact that you've already talked about the dialogue between the opposition and Omar Suleiman, the new vice president, that's the sort of thing.

What you want to avoid is a political and security void or vacuum. You want to avoid chaos in the streets and political chaos, as well. The details are really to be worked out by the Egyptians. And in some ways, the details are secondary. What matters, essentially, is you don't have a situation that is spiraling out of control politically, economically and in the security realm, because in that situation, what the administration is worried about is that people will be -- you'll see vigilante groups forming, gangs, the -- like that you're already seeing, but also, you don't want people to embrace the Muslim Brotherhood as the only source of order or -- or organization amidst -- amidst a decaying government and a decaying society.

So the details of the transition matter less than the fact that it is orderly and it's organized.

ANDERSON: And that, well, the Muslim Brotherhood is something I want to talk about after this short break.

But this idea of this vacuum, the concern about this -- this vacuum of power...

GERGES: There is no vacuum of power. The military is in full control in Egypt. The military is the most respected...

ANDERSON: They're managing this transition, are they?

GERGES: Absolutely. This is the whole idea of kind of, you know, scare tactics, a huge political vacuum, a huge security vacuum, the Muslim Brotherhood.

The military controls, I mean, the Egyptian, I mean security situation.

The question is, Becky, as long as Mubarak remains in power, the crisis will continue to deteriorate. The fundamental goal of all opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, including Mohamed ElBaradei, including the secularists, is basically the removal of Mubarak in power.

This man has been in power for 30 years. He has really brought ruin to Egypt. And I would argue, the only way to manage this crisis successfully, effectively, is to find an honorable exit for Mubarak out of Egypt.

And I take it that the military is deeply concerned, because, remember, Becky, Mubarak is an integral part of the military. He is one of the institution of the army. You won't have the Tunisian model in Egypt. Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, was not a military man. And I -- I take it -- I hope I am right -- that the military is trying to find a face- saving formula for Mubarak in order to do as little damage for Egypt, and also for the institution of the army itself.

ANDERSON: Gentlemen, stay with us.

We're going to take a very short break.

Thank you, though, for the time being.

We're going to talk about a -- a group that's banned in Egypt. You've heard talk her of the Muslim Brotherhood and its key and very public role. That, coming up.


ANDERSON: Some scenes from Cairo today -- crowds fed up with President Hosni Mubarak's long time hold on power. They don't know yet who would step in to fill his shoes, but they do know that they want him gone.

Well, that brings us to a key point about this uprising. Some observers believe it may succeed not because of who's leading it, but because it's essentially leaderless, that is not beholden to any one group, instead, representing the will of the Egyptian people.

But as pressure grows on President Mubarak to resign, we're seeing signs that various opposition groups are starting to unify, to give the movement a voice.

The former head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, is the most prominent face of the opposition. For now, he says, he has support from a coalition to negotiate Mr. Mubarak's exit from power.


MOHAMED ELBARADEI, EGYPTIAN OPPOSITION FIGURE: We need to have a substantive drastic shift from a dictatorship into a democracy, like the rest of the world. What I have been authorized, mandated by the people who organized these demonstrations and by many other parts of the Egyptians to -- to agree on a national unity government.


ANDERSON: Well, ElBaradei there. The loose coalition that he referred to includes the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest, largest and most influential opposition group. Now, the Brotherhood is banned as a political party, but has held seats in parliament by running candidates as independents.

Well, the Brotherhood has wide grassroots support across the country, in part because of its social services.

Now, it opposes secular government and wants to establish an Islamic state. Hosni Mubarak is a fierce opponent, cracking down on the group repeatedly over the years and jailing many members.

Well, The Brotherhood could become a powerful political force if it were allowed to run in free and fair elections. Critics say that could move Egypt dangerously closer to Islamic extremism.

But one Brotherhood spokesman told CNN today, his group wants democracy and freedom for all Egyptians.

MOHAMED MORSY, SPOKESMAN, THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: The people of Egypt are moving now altogether. They are against Mubarak regime. That's the main notion. This is the main point (INAUDIBLE) the Muslim Brotherhood, Muslims, Christians, all Egyptians from all directions are on one single aim. They're aiming at Mubarak regime should go. They are denying they want the Mubarak regime to end.

And after that, they want to accept a regime, a new regime with freedom and democracy and justice for everybody.


ANDERSON: All right, well, there's a lot of speculation that The Brotherhood is deliberately taking a back seat in this revolt, aware that a strong Islamic presence could provoke backlash and international alarm.

Some in the West fear The Brotherhood is waiting in the wings, ready to step in if and when Mubarak is gone.

Let's bring back our guests this hour.

Richard Haass is in New York for you this evening and Fawaz Gerges with me here in the studio.

Waiting in the wings?

Should people fear the Muslim Brotherhood?

How well supported are they?

GERGES: The -- if you have free elections in Egypt, The Brotherhood would garner between 25 and 28 percent of the vote. The Muslim Brotherhood has renounced the use of violence since the late 1960s. In fact, some of us who follow The Brotherhood very closely have been very impressed by how far the journey, how -- how far the -- The Brotherhood has traveled.

It still has a long way to go. But truly, The Brotherhood has shown maturity, realism. They have been playing a very constructive role. They have learned from the blunders of the past. They have made it very clear, they are just an integral part of what we call the rainbow coalition of opposition. They have even accepted the fact that ElBaradei represent the public face of the opposition.

I believe that The Brotherhood will play a constructive role if they are fully inte -- legally integrated.

Remember, The Brotherhood is a out -- a banned movement in Egypt.

So the question is -- and this is ElBaradei -- the question is, what kind of legal formula he would have to integrate the -- the Muslim Brotherhood into the -- the political process.

At the end of the day, Becky, the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to go away. It has been, since 1928, one of the critical social movements in Egypt. President Gamal Abdel Nasser, one of the first Egyptian presidents after the military coup, brutally suppressed The Brotherhood between the 1950s and '60s. And yet -- and yet, Nasserism has gone, The Brotherhood remains a critical player in the Egyptian sea.

ANDERSON: Richard, if Mubarak was the devil they knew, as it were, in Washington, chief among the devils that they don't know, one, it seems, is Egypt's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. You've heard what Fawaz has said tonight.

What will be the thinking in Washington?

HAASS: It will not be nearly as sanguine as what you've just heard. We're not sure, in the United States, what is tactics and what is strategy. This -- this most recent protest or would-be revolution did not begin with the Muslim Brotherhood. It was secular. It came from the streets, if you will.

But, obviously, the Muslim Brotherhood is going to look for any political openings here.

I think it's true that their current political support is limited. It's -- it's less than a third if there were an election. But depending upon the political system, there are -- one could imagine a situation where they could put together a government.

And, again, there's a big difference between how organizations act -- act when they're trying to achieve power and then how they act once they're in power. So I don't think the idea of a political space that would allow the Muslim Brotherhood to be dominant is something that would fill the United States, or, I would suggest, Egypt's neighbors, not to mention Israel, with any sense of comfort.

So there -- there will be a lot of suspicion here...


HAASS: -- and it's one of the reasons that people like me do not want to see elections right away.

ANDERSON: All right...

HAASS: -- we want to see a political process that opens up political space so other parties have...


ANDERSON: All right, Richard Haass stateside. Fawaz with me here in the studio. Israel, Richard eluding to there, one country that's clearly worried about Islamists making inroads in Egypt. In fact, President Benjamin Netanyahu today suggested Egypt could go the way of Iran. Fionnuala Sweeney joins us, now, from Jerusalem with the details. Fionn?

FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Israeli officials have been very quiet when it has come to the subject of Egypt over the last week or so. And we did hear from the Prime Minister yesterday at his weekly cabinet meeting, or the beginning of the working week, rather, when he said that Israel needed to exercise restraint and responsibility when it comes to the Egyptian issue.

Today, he went further. He was at a news conference after a scheduled meeting with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, and reporters were able to put questions to him. And he did begin to draw a parallel with Iran, saying that, essentially, what was a secular revolt in Iran back in the 1970s was hijacked, essentially, by religious leaders.

And he drew that parallel, and also went on to say that he hoped the situation in Egypt wouldn't move so quickly -- too quickly without the other democratic structures, building blocks in place. Becky?

ANDERSON: Fionnuala Sweeney in Jerusalem. Fionn, thank you for that. We're going to take a very short break. Back after this.


ANDERSON: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. Protesters in Egypt are gearing up for another wave of demonstrations on Tuesday.




ANDERSON: Well, they are not backing down. Earlier on Monday, protesters defied an afternoon curfew. Thousands were on the street for the seventh consecutive day.




ANDERSON: The head of Egypt's armed forces has spoken out. He says his troops won't use violence against the people.




ANDERSON: Well, as protests continued, daily life in Egypt proves difficult. There are long lines at many grocery stores, food is in short supply. Struggling president Hosni Mubarak swore in a new cabinet earlier on Monday, according to state television. He's asked vice president Omar Suleiman to start working on, and I quote, "constitutional reform and legislation." But for many, it's a case of too little, too late.

More on Egypt this half hour. Let's very quickly take a look at some of the other news stories that we're following here on CNN.

Sudan's referendum commission says 99 percent of Southern Sudanese have voted for independence, and the country's vice president says he accepts the preliminary results. Barring any possible appeals, the new nation would be inaugurated in July.

Tens of millions of Americans are bracing for a three-day blizzard that's set to wallop the central US starting on Tuesday. The National Weather Service warns travel could be difficult to impossible in many areas.

US stocks shook off concerns about Egypt and rose on Monday. Investors focused on positive earnings from oil giant Exxon-Mobile, with rising commodity prices. Egypt, though, is impacting oil prices, which continue to trend higher.

And Europe's winter football transfer window closes within hours. One highly anticipated deal yet to be sealed -- they haven't got long -- is between Liverpool's Fernando Torres and the English Champions Chelsea.

All right. Egyptians gearing up for another wave of mass demonstrations. Let's get the very latest from CNN's Ben Wedeman in Cairo. We're talking about wave of demonstrations. It's, what? Asking for -- calling for a million people on the streets on Tuesday. Ben, is that going to happen?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's difficult to predict that sort of number, but certainly we do expect larger numbers than anything we've seen before.

We're hearing that people are, for instance, walking from the delta just to the north of here. Because, of course, the Egyptian government is shutting down the train system tomorrow. So, it's difficult to predict how many people will actually get here.

But certainly, word has spread far and wide, despite the fact that the government, of course, has closed down the internet. You can't send SMSs, BlackBerries don't work. And those, of course, were all the means with which information was spread about these demonstrations.

But it seems that, because this whole movement, which is, let's remember, just six days old, has electrified so many Egyptians, I think we can expect larger numbers than we've seen to date going into Tahrir Square. Becky?

ANDERSON: Just briefly, Ben. Let's just interrogate the two lines, messages that have come out today, when the government wants to get its message across, it seems, it can. The vice president, Omar Suleiman suggesting that the president has asked him to open dialogue on constitutional reform.

And the other news, of course, is that the army has said that it won't attack protesters in the streets. Your thoughts on both of those news lines?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly the issue of constitutional change requires a lot more than just a presidential decree. It has to go before parliament.

But the last parliamentary elections were rife with fraud and vote- rigging and, therefore, many observers say that before constitutional reform is even considered, there needs to be new elections to bring in a truly democratic parliament instead of the one that currently has 97 percent of the seats occupied by the national ruling Democratic -- ruling National Democratic Party, which is sort of a party only in name, and its headquarters was completely torched just down the street from here.

And the other issue was, if you will remind me, Becky?

ANDERSON: The fact that the army has said that it won't -- it won't attack protesters on the street.

WEDEMAN: Oh. Well, that seems to be a significant statement coming from the army. The army, we know, is hesitant to perform the role of keeping civil order. They, of course, are an army trained to fight Egypt's external enemies, not to fire upon ordinary Egyptians who are engaging in potentially peaceful demonstrations.

So, it seems this sends an interesting message to the demonstrators that they can do what they want as long as they don't break the law, which is a huge change from the attitude of the previous government, so to speak, which was, any sort of public demonstration would simply not be tolerated and would be repressed with the kind of violence we've seen so vividly in recent days. Becky?

ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman in Cairo for you with the very latest. We're going to be back in just a moment with more of our special look at Egypt this hour, including a look just at how far -- in fact, let's not. Let's do this.

Many protesters say they won't stop until President Mubarak steps down. Before we take a break, joining me on the line from Cairo is one activist and blogger, Gigi Ibrahim. She's been involved in every protest since the demonstrations kicked off a week ago. And you are there amongst the people once again tonight. What are people saying?

GIGI IBRAHIM, ACTIVIST AND BLOGGER (via telephone): People are on the -- in the thousands on the streets. They will not leave the streets. The numbers are increasing, tomorrow, tremendously. Everybody has been called in Egypt to go in these protests, and the people want Mubarak out. This is their final and only demand.

ANDERSON: We know that there's a call for a march of millions, tomorrow. We're hearing from Ben tonight that the transit system is, effectively, closed down. So, can -- do you get the sense that the -- that people will make it to the streets? Do you get the sense that those protests tomorrow will be well-supported?

IBRAHIM: Actually, I'm in the Malik, right now, and I've heard megaphones going out in each neighborhood, in the streets, calling out for demonstrations within each neighborhood. So, even without internet, and just 15 minutes ago, the government has shut down the only service internet provider, Noor, was the only one that was working in the past few days is actually now, officially, shut as well.

So -- and we're expecting that they will shut the mobile phone connections tomorrow. So, everybody has already made their plans. They know where they're meeting, and millions will be on the streets tomorrow in Cairo --


ANDERSON: It's not --

IBRAHIM: And in Alexandria --

ANDERSON: It's not going to stop people --

IBRAHIM: And in cities in all of Egypt.

ANDERSON: That's what you're saying, it's not going to stop people.

IBRAHIM: It will not stop people. People will never stop until Mubarak steps down, and this is a true fact. I never doubted it, and it -- each and every day, it exceeds my expectation, and more people come out, and the momentum is great.

ANDERSON: Have you thought about what happens next, if Mubarak were to step down? What happens next? What do you want to happen next?

IBRAHIM: Free and fair elections. Let the people choose for the first time in Egypt in 30 years or ever. We've been ruled by military groups and only dictatorships in Egypt. The people have never chosen someone to actually truly represent them through free and fair elections. And this is about time. This is about time to happen.

ANDERSON: Are you surprised at just how quickly this has happened? We've got to where we are today?

IBRAHIM: It's a build-up. It's a build-up. Mubarak has 30 years of doing nothing to the people but repress them and corrupt the society. And it only worsened, and he didn't do anything that the people had asked for.

The past parliament election just showed how much rigging and fraud this government has put up with, and the people called for another fair and free election, and did this not happen. And it will not happen until Mubarak steps down.

ANDERSON: Do demonstrators, protesters like yourself, do -- is there a leader? Do you feel galvanized by any particular person or group at this point?

IBRAHIM: Excuse me, I didn't hear this question.

ANDERSON: Is there any obvious leader for demonstrators at this point?

IBRAHIM: No. These demonstrations are by all people. There are no organizations. Everybody has the consensus that Mubarak has to go, and this is what really is driving everyone. There is no organizing. The people are running the show, and they are so persistent, and they will not stop until they get that demand.

ANDERSON: I just want to put this to you. Mohamed ElBaradei, who has come back to Egypt, of course, over the past 72 hours or so from Vienna, says that he's a sort of self-appointed -- or appointed by protesters as a sort of -- as a leader. Do you agree with that? Do you support ElBaradei in that position?

IBRAHIM: I personally don't support ElBaradei. And I know a lot of people that don't. But this is -- he is just like any other guy who can be up for president, and people can choose for themselves if they feel that they -- he would offer some -- he would offer them their demands.

So, I am not against ElBaradei, and I'm not for ElBaradei. I want someone who will give me my demands, what I'm asking for. For health care, for education, for freedom of political association, for freedom of expression, freedom of press. These are things I believe in, and if anybody is running for president or for any parliament position that would support my goals and my demands, I would be happy to vote for them.

But we are beyond -- we're not there yet. We want Mubarak out first, and then free and fair elections where it's an open platform for whoever wants to nominate themselves based on agendas, and not on personality.

ANDERSON: And you have made your point very clearly tonight. Gigi Ibrahim, a blogger and activist there in Egypt.

And we'll be back in just a moment with more of this special look at Egypt and what's going on, including a look at just how far and wide this anti-government sentiment is actually spreading. We'll be taking a closer look at the army's role in all of this. Their power, their allegiances, and why it matters to the cause. Stay with us.





ANDERSON: Well, it's close to midnight in Egypt, where authorities are bracing for yet another day of protests right across the country. It may be a different scene when the sun comes up. Activists in Cairo and Alexandria say they are organizing million-man marches in those cities. Security forces are being responding, setting up concrete barriers around key locations ahead of the rallies.

Joining us back here in London, Fawaz Gerges, your expert on the region, here with me in the studio. We know that these protests have been, in part, inspired by an uprising in Tunisia, of course. People have also been on the streets in Yemen and in Jordan. And now, flashpoints emerging, Fawaz, in Sudan and Syria. Our reporter Nima Elbagir taking a look at just how far and wide those ripple effects and the unrest is spreading. Let's take a look at this, and then, we'll talk.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): London's Edgware Road, famous for its Arabic restaurants and cafes where, for decades, exiled dissidents have met to exchange news and information from home. But they're now counting one less amongst their number as exiled Tunisian Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi returned home after 22 years in exile in the UK.

And more may be following in his footsteps. A wave of revolt is sweeping across the region, with protests organized in Egypt, Yemen and, now, Sudan, saying that they're taking inspiration from the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): And after watching Tunisia's government topple, the international community is slowly beginning to throw its weight behind the demonstrators' demands in Egypt.

ALISTAIR BURT, BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE MINISTER: The demonstrations have continued and are now focused on a demand for President Mubarak to resign.

It is not for us to decide who governs Egypt. However, we believe that the pathway to stability in Egypt is through a process of political change which reflects the wishes of the Egyptian people.

This should include an orderly transition to a more democratic system, including through holding free and fair elections, and the introduction of measures to safeguard human rights.

ELBAGIR (on camera): Some leaders have already taken preemptive action. Syria and Jordan have hiked key cost of living subsidies costing the government millions of dollars annually. But will it be enough?

The signs are not encouraging. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are still incredibly active, and the student protesters in Sudan are vowing to fight on.


ELBAGIR (on camera): In Syria this week, they're declaring a day of rest. London's remaining exiles are sure to be paying close attention. Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


ANDERSON: For more on this, let's bring back Fawaz Gerges, who is professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations, of course, at the London School of Economics. Nima, there, just pointing out that this was a sort of wave of protests and sort of civil unrest, to a certain extent, that started in Tunisia with the Jasmine Revolution, has now spread to Egypt and beyond.

There's no name for this uprising in Egypt, but it certainly has a name.

FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN POLICY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Yes. I call it the Anti Father. I call it the democratic wave has finally reached the Arab shores.

The authoritarian rule in the Arab world has fallen. We know in Eastern Europe, it did fall in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It has taken the Arab world 20 years to go through the same -- to experience the same democratic experiences.

And I think what we need to understand, Becky, is that this particular crisis has been simmering below the surface for the last 20 years. Tunisia provided the spark, the spark that has ignited political fires in Egypt and Algeria and Jordan and Sudan. Now, it's -- you see.

And the reason why Egypt is so significant, Egypt is the most pivotal Arab state. It's the most populous Arab state. It holds the key to the Arab world. It used to be the capital of its cultural production. If Egypt goes, the saying, we teach our students in the classroom, if Egypt goes, the entire region goes.

ANDERSON: Fawaz, how do you respond to what we heard from Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, today, drawing comparisons to what he sees going on in Egypt with that which happened in 79 in Iran.

He will have seen, for example, the Islamist Party leader exiled to the UK for 20-odd years returning to Tunisia. He fears, one assumes, the spread of the Muslim Brotherhood. There will be people watching this show tonight who share his concerns.

GERGES: Some people. But I think the worst thing to do with what's happening in the Arab world is to look at what's happening in Tunisia and Algeria and Egypt through what I call foreign policy. Through the Israeli lens.

You see, the reason why Netanyahu is terrified, because Netanyahu and other Western leaders had built their relations with Egypt through one particular man, Mubarak. In fact, this particular revolution, this particular anti-father, it's not about foreign affairs. It's not about the West.

You don't see American flags being burned in Cairo like they were burned in Tehran in the early 1980s. You don't see outcries of "down with Western imperialism and American imperialism." You don't see Egyptians calling and cursing Israel.

This is a bread and butter revolution. This is a freedom revolution. The democratic wave must be understood within the context of the oppressive political regimes in the Arab world and the dismal failure of the Arab regimes to deliver the goods on employment.

Take Egypt, 82 million people, 40 percent of Egyptians live either in poverty or below the poverty lines. Millions of Egyptians, Becky, wait for hours for six loaves of bread every day. Not only do you have political oppression, you have also dismal economic failure.

This is not about Israeli foreign policy. Netanyahu will be doing -- is doing himself and his country terrible, terrible thing by saying -- by trying to put down and trying to, really, view what's happening in Egypt through the lens of extremism of the mullahs in Iran.

ANDERSON: I'll stop you there. You're going to be back with us, then. We'll take a very short break. Before we do that, another country which is showing some signs of nervousness when it comes to Egypt's unrest is one that we haven't discussed with Fawaz tonight, and that is China. We're going to show you just how far its internet censors have gone to help stem the flow of political debate. Take a look at this.


EUNICE YOON, CNN CORRESONDENT (on camera): I'm Eunice Yoon in Beijing. Here in China, the unrest in Egypt is front page news. The papers are covering the public anger and the street protests.

However, there are signs that the government here is sensitive about the calls for political change in Egypt, and the impact that those calls could have on the way the Chinese view their own authoritarian government.

On the internet, the word "Egypt" in Chinese is being blocked on Twitter-like microblogging services. The internet censors haven't deleted the debate altogether, however, these moves do show that the Chinese leadership is concerned about the potential for similar calls for change in China.


ANDERSON: Eunice Yoon reporting, there. Well, the role of the military could be crucial to the outcome of Egypt's uprising. Which side are they on, and what's next? We're going to discuss that with Fawaz in just a moment.


ANDERSON: Military helicopters fly low over protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.





ANDERSON: Well, that comes a day after fighter jets took to the skies over the Egyptian capital in what many saw as an attempt to intimidate the crowds. Well, I want you to compare those images to these taken earlier today.

This photograph shows an army captain being carried by demonstrators though the square, saluting and holding and Egyptian flag. This scene of solidarity is not unique. Yesterday, an army soldier paraded shoulder-to- shoulder with protesters in the heart of Cairo. And here, a flower is offered up to a soldier deployed to keep the peace.

Mixed messages so far but, today, the military issued a statement describing the demands of the Egyptian people as legitimate and denying they would use force against them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The presence of the armed forces in the Egyptian streets is for your benefit, to protect your safety and peace. And your armed forces is not and will not use violence against this great people, which have always played a significant role in every moment of Egypt's great history.

And we reassure the armed forces are a force of stability and security for this great nation. The protection of the people is one of its core values.


ANDERSON: All right. So, the role of the army, then, CONNECT THE WORLD panelist Fawaz Gerges with me, of course, still in the studio today. Could this be a turning point, the role of the army here in this uprising, do you think?

GERGES: It is the turning point. The army holds the key. And, in fact, what you have heard tonight is very critical. The army has sent a very powerful signal to both the Egyptian public and Mubarak. The army will not shed Egyptian blood. This is a very, very significant point, Becky.

And the second -- the second point is that Omar Suleiman has made it very clear, the army and the government will engage the opposition.

ANDERSON: Briefly, though, will the army, then, on the flip side of this, encourage Mubarak to go?

GERGES: Well, I think -- remember, I don't think the army is a monolith. I think, it seems to me, that senior echelons within the army support Mubarak. And also what we need to understand is that Mubarak is an integral part of the institution of the army.

The army will not do to Mubarak what the Tunisian army did to Ben Ali. They must find an honorable exit for Mubarak.

My hope is that, in the next few days, we'll see a way out of this particular crisis by the military convincing, nudging President Mubarak to find a place outside Egypt.

ANDERSON: The army, it seems, managing this transition. Fawaz, we thank you for that. Thank you for all your thoughts --

GERGES: My pleasure.

ANDERSON: As we move through this hour, this special hour, here, on CONNECT THE WORLD, taking an in-depth look at the situation in Egypt.

In just a minute, it'll be midnight in Egypt, and the start of an eighth day of protests. Thanks for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" will follow this short break.