Egyptian army soldiers prevent protestors from entering Liberation Square.
Egypt's military has rejected the demands of pro-democracy protesters for a swift transfer of power to a civilian administration, saying it will rule by martial law until presidential election is held in September.
Press TV interviews Ian Williams from New York on the major events after the ouster of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak, the military control, dissonance within the ranks of the military, and Washington's role.
Press TV: It seems like the military is still arresting people, the emergency law is still in there. And no legislature or power shift has happened in Egypt. What is new after the fall of Mubarak?
Williams: Well it's new in that [Mubarak] has fallen, and Omar Suleiman has gone. And it's clear there are some elements in the higher command of the army who aren't happy and hope that they would be able to buy off the demonstrators and the protesters with some concessions. But what they've offered is the continuation of military rule, and that the military draws up a new constitution.
It was an interesting point to see, as you saw, the protesters kept saying how much they love the army. And it's clear that while they might love the army and the conscripts, they're not that keen on the high command. So with understandable suspicion, they have rejected the communiqué number 5, I believe it is, which has laid out the suspension of parliament and its replacement by, basically, a military rule for at least 6 months. They're not going to have it. They're not going to have the military rewrite the constitution which puts another future Mubarak in power.
Press TV: Do you even think that the military or the supreme council of the armed forces will give way for a true democratically elected government to take the helms of power in Egypt?
Williams: Well, if they're going to be realistic about it, they have seen the strengths of the popular forces. They know it's quite likely that Obama will put himself in a position where he would have to say 'no more military aid', which is basically what these people, the higher command, have been living off of for the past 20-30 years. So they've really gotten themselves in a weakened position despite their luster.
The strengths and the fervor of the protesters, going back onto the square, has shown that they're not going to be fogged off. And the real question has got to be if the high command can really command, where will the rest of the military go? Are ordinary soldiers and junior officers prepared to sacrifice their lives, and what they might see as their honor, for a regime that's quite clearly weakened and dying?
Press TV: We may talk about the US role as well. The White House seems to be silent now, which is an indication, perhaps, of President Obama's satisfaction with the developments in Cairo. Where do you think the situation's heading as far as relations between Washington and Cairo?
Williams: It's very telling that Prime Minister Erdogan from Turkey had ever had the courage to stand up and say Mubarak should go. Everybody else, including Obama, was hedging his bets and saying if the people really want him to go maybe he should consider it. But Obama's going out on a limb now. He's welcomed the developments. He's praised the Egyptian youth and the protesters. So, he can't really abandon them to a military crackdown. And one of the most tangible means of support is to say that if the military acts like that, then all military aid gets cut off.
I think it is quite clear that there is a bipartisan support for that in Congress, if he wanted to go that way. And I think you could get similar pressure from other countries. In that sense, the demonstrators have won. The military might try a crackdown, but it would be at a risk of them losing all of their position instead of some of their position - which they're heading to now.
Press TV: Obama will definitely be seeking re-election in 2012. Do you think that his reaction to Mubarak in Egypt may have been defined by his decision to run for re-election in 2012?
Williams: Every American politician is looking towards the next election rather than joining eternal laurels or ethics, but [Obama's] connected himself and it's in the line of what he's been saying.
Remember that the treatment of the Arab democracy movements has been an aberration to prepare with American policy elsewhere. And of course, that's because of its reflection in the policy towards Israel; that they wanted what Israel wanted. And what they wanted was strong autocratic regimes that could be bribed and bought.
But in the face of a huge popular uprising like this, which has had great steps forward of being completely peaceful, apart from provocation by the regime, I really think that the military would have to think very, very carefully before trying to suppress it. We saw that the security forces tried provocation, and then thought better about it, and withdrew the provocateurs. And I think you might find the military doing that now. On the other hand, if they do actually try serious repression, then they're going to meet a lot of trouble at home and abroad. Their only friend will be Saudi Arabia, and perhaps Israel.