David Cameron has made an important political move today, with the arrival of a new cat at 10 Downing Street. There are some 8m pet-cats in Britain, so it is important to appeal to the cat-owning classes. Personally, I date the calamatious decline in the popularity of Cherie Blair to her decision to get rid of the previous Downing Street cat, Humphrey. Although Mrs Blair later tried to recover by posing with Humphrey, with a fixed grin on her face, I think many British people marked her down as a bad lot from that point onwards.
Wael Ghonim has been appointed by the US media as the face of the Egyptian revolution. Younger than Mohamed ElBaradei, less scary than the Muslim Brotherhood, articulate in English, married to an American and an employee of Google, Mr Ghonim is the perfect figure to sell the romance of the revolution to a western audience. As the administrator of the Facebook page that first drew demonstrators to Tahrir Square, he was imprisoned for a spell, until emerging from captivity in time to articulate the frustrations of young Egyptians.
About a month ago, on January 14th, just after the fall of President Ben-Ali in Tunisia, I speculated on this blog that Egypt might be the next Tunisia. OK, I know it sounds obvious in retrospect, but that still gives me a better record of prognostication than the CIA – who were apparently insisting on the inherent stability of the Mubarak regime. So the question now, is which country is the next Egypt?
With protests entering their third week and the president defiant, what next for Egypt? In Ivory Coast, another president refuses to leave.
Never has a square been more appropriately named than Liberation Square in Cairo. The television pictures are absolutely transfixing. Even in America, a famously insular nation, everybody seems fascinated by events. The television networks last night took Mubarak’s statement live. And there is now wall-to-wall coverage of the scenes from Tahrir Square.
Everybody from Joe Biden to Jim Woolsey, the former head of the CIA, are popping up on television to air the obvious questions – all variants of “what happens now”. But there will be plenty of time for analysis in the days to come – by me, and everybody else. For the moment, that all seems a bit besides the point. The pictures are the story tonight.
Last night, I did a discussion with Joseph Nye at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on the future of American power. You can watch the video here. The experience was mildly intimidating since Nye is an eminent Harvard professor, inventor of the term “soft power” and a former chair of America’s National Intelligence Council. But, what the hell, I’ve written a few newspaper columns.
Egypt’s military on Thursday pledged support for the demands of the youth uprising as officials suggested Hosni Mubarak, the president of 30 years, is preparing to step aside.
By tradition, the television network that shows the Superbowl gets to interview the president on Superbowl Sunday. And so it came to pass yesterday that Barack Obama had to sit down with his sworn enemies from Fox News and submit to an interview with the repellently-smug Bill O’Reilly.
Events in Egypt are so dramatic that it is tempting to regard each day as a potentially decisive turning point. But revolutions can unfold over months and even years. As the situation in Cairo calms down a little, it is worth remembering that an apparent stabilisation in events can be just a lull, before the drama resumes.
Does the crisis in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East represent a moment of real change? how will it shape US, European and Israeli foreign policy towards the region as worries grow over instability and oil security? In the chair, FT analysis editor Frederick Studemann debates the issues with FT colleagues Roula Khalaf, Middle East editor, Tobias Buck, Jerusalem correspondent and Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs commentator.