Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Standoff in Egypt: who is who in the armed forces?

Pepe Escobar has a rather insightful article at Asia Times Online on what is going on in Egypt at the moment.

Most importantly he dissects some of the main actors:

First he informs of who was Obama's protocolary messenger who told Mubarak to stay. This emergency ambassador was Frank Wisner, a former AIG executive, very close to Mubarak in person and via his brother Graham, and de-facto ambassador-lobbyist of Mubarak in Washington.

Then we get to know who are the main military actors: only the top generals however (remember that coups are typically done by colonels, not generals). Two of them have been placed in key positions in the de-facto military junta formed by Mubarak this weekend:

The new Vice-President: Lieutenant General Omar Suleiman (left), military intelligence chief, Mubarak's suave torturer and now designated as vice president. His health is not exactly good. No way the street will accept him as a "democratic" reformer.  

The new Prime Minister: Air Marshal Ahmed Shafiq, minister for civil aviation, and now designated prime minister. Like Mubarak, he hails from the relatively elite, pampered air force. Zero popular charisma
    Great choice for a popular government, right? Not really but Mubarak's last line of defense in any case.

    The other two are:

    Lieutenant General Sami Annan (left), chief of staff of the army. He commands 468,000 troops, a mix of staff officers and oceans of conscripts. That's the branch closest to the Egyptian street. And that's where the statement about the army not shooting people in the streets came from. 

    Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (left), defense minister. He commands 60,000 Republican Guards. A Pentagon darling. Got a long call from Pentagon supremo, Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday 

    It's always good to know who is who in these cases, right?

    Meanwhile the battle of Cairo continues and, while I do know that Mubarak and whoever dares to stand by him is actually out, there seems to be a lot of people who does not know yet, including Mubarak himself and his protectors in Washington and Tel Aviv.

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