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Crossing the Threshold

Author: Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
January 27, 2011
New York Times


It is fair to say that Egypt is on the cusp of major change. During the last two days, I have been in Cairo, observing protests and talking to demonstrators. Egyptians want freedom, plain and simple.

It is unclear whether that lofty goal is within reach, but the protesters are willing to pay a price for change. Many hundreds have been arrested and at least 10 have been killed. The authorities were forced to call in the army to try to pacify the city of Suez. As of Thursday morning, it was uncertain whether the military had prevailed.

Until now, the Mubarak regime has been successful dividing a weak opposition and controlling the population through the threat of force. That situation seems to have changed. The protests have begun to widen, including broader sectors of society.

If, in the coming days, more Egyptians shed their fear and join the call for President Mubarak to go, it is hard to see how the regime could survive without an unprecedented crackdown. Tunisia--which has been an inspiration for many Egyptians--the use of social media and Mubarak's own arrogance, have given demonstrators momentum.

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