Screen grab of crowd at Tahrir square
Straight to voice mail: Hello? Can someone tell me what’s going on? Hello?
Twitter is hoot this past hour, with BIG-CAPITAL-LETTER BREAKING NEWS flying about Hosni Mubarak possibly stepping down. Or maybe not. Or maybe so.
CIA director Leon Panetta leaped forward to proclaim a “strong likelihood” that Mubarak would be out today.
And then, a CIA spokesman quickly retracted the statement because Panetta was basing his assessment on cable news reports — not independent US intel.
And now, Panetta’s office assures us they are “monitoring the situation.”
From White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, we learn that it’s a “fluid situation.”
I’ll let you decide what kind of fluid.
Sky News says Mubarak is expected to address the nation at approx. 6:30pm GMT.
Given that the crowds in Tahrir Square have grown since Ghonim’s release a few days ago, it stands to reason that tomorrow’s monster protest would have finally forced some sort of bloody confrontation between Suleiman/the army and the demonstrators. Suleiman, under U.S. pressure not to use violence, probably figured that the only way to avert that was to present Mubarak’s scalp to the people, hoping that that would placate them enough to take the edge off tomorrow and finally restore some normalcy. (The BBC’s correspondent thinks demonstrators will indeed see it as a great triumph.) The regime blinked, in other words — but probably only because the White House has guaranteed Suleiman its support in a “soft coup” but not a hard, violent one. And what choice does Obama have, really? If he doesn’t prop up the military regime, the Saudis will.
Mubarak’s set to speak at any moment; if he really was forced out, I’m not sure why he’d bless his overthrow by agreeing to a televised farewell address — unless, of course, there are troops standing behind the camera with their fingers on the trigger. Stand by for updates.
Update: 1:39pm Eastern Obama makes brief remarks at a Michigan campaign stop. Yes, he’s always campaigning.
“What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold.”
Just asking: When are we not “witnessing history?”
BOHICA. The Muslim Brotherhood reinvention is here:
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told House lawmakers that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is “largely secular” and has rejected violence and decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam, NJ’s Chris Strohm reports.
Let the Clapperisms begin:
Obama’s intelligence team? Largely intelligent.
Andrew McCarthy weighs in: “There’s willful blindness, and then there’s willful stupidity.”
Update: After rumors flying high all day that Mubarak was leaving, he finally addressed Egypt at around 3:50pm ET to let them know…he’s not really going anywhere. He reiterated his promise to hold free and fair elections in September, and added a special kick in President Obama’s pants…
“I will never listen to foreign interventions or dictations.”
Not everyone believed the Western media-driven rumor mill today: See Kirsten Powers.