Opinion Brief

Mubarak's refusal to resign: Did he just make things worse?

The Egyptian president defies reports of his resignation and clings to power — provoking protesters and embarrassing the U.S. Now what?

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak isn't going anywhere. Nearly everyone — including CIA director Leon Panetta — expected that Mubarak would resign Thursday, but — in a much-anticipated speech — Mubarak declined to yield to protesters' demands. U.S. officials were taken by surprise at Mubarak's show of defiance, claiming it was "not what we were told would happen." Instead, Mubarak again pledged to remain in office until September, but said he would delegate more authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman. Protesters in Cairo reacted with fury, prompting fears that the Egyptian capital could again erupt in violence. Did Mubarak just poke a hornets' nest? (Watch protesters react to Mubarak's announcement)

Yes, expect massive anti-Mubarak protests: "Mubarak might as well have lit a torch next to a powder keg," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. His remarks were unnecessary, given that "as he sees it, practically nothing has changed." Now, we'll likely see "larger, angrier protests," especially as it's becoming less clear whether this "oblivious man" knows why the demonstrations happened in the first place.
"Mubarak manages to make matters much worse"

He did what any true dictator would: Mubarak's "delusional" speech only underlined the "capacity of dictators to fool themselves and see themselves as indispensable," says Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times. His entrenched regime "seems so out of touch as to be almost suicidal." Certainly this insult to the Egyptian people will not go unpunished. "This could get uglier. It will certainly be historic."
"The pharaoh refuses to go"

This suggests a behind-the-scenes power struggle: "What happened here, exactly?" asks Allahpundit at Hot Air. Everyone from Obama to Egypt's military leaders let it be known that Mubarak's time was up. My guess? An "eleventh-hour power struggle at the top," from which Mubarak and his military allies emerged victorious. "Now we're in the worst of all worlds" — Mubarak still in power, and the "military set to crack heads" when protesters run wild.
"Bombshell: Mubarak not stepping down"

What an embarrassment for America: The Obama administration was left "embarrassingly wrong-footed" by Mubarak's speech, says Ewen MacAskill at The Guardian. It has been piling pressure on the Egyptian president all week, and more or less confirmed that he would be standing down. The fact that he didn't was a "direct snub to the U.S. president," and further evidence of "America's slow decline from its status as the world's sole superpower."
"Obama wrongfooted by Mubarak as White House tries to keep up"

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