Egypt: pressure grows on Mubarak

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

TENS OF THOUSANDS of Egyptian workers downed tools on Wednesday in support of the pro-democracy demonstrators, who are continuing to swell the protest in the heart of Cairo to demand the immediate resignation of hated dictator Hosni Mubarak.

But Mubarak, who intends to cling on to power until the presidential elections scheduled for September, shows no signs of budging despite the mass protests that have now turned into a popular revolution against his corrupt regime.

Protesters have started to camp outside the parliament building in Cairo while thousands are piling into the permanent rally at Tahrir [Liberation] Square which kicked off the uprising three weeks ago.

Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the newly appointed vice-president favoured by US imperialism, has made some concessions to a broad front that includes the Muslim Brotherhood, liberal bourgeois movements and the Egyptian communist party.

But the release of 34 political prisoners, pay rises and promises of a new constitution some time in the future are too little too late for opposition leaders who openly mistrust the man who has close ties with the CIA and is openly backed by the Netanyahu government in Israel.

Suleiman has repeatedly called for an end to the strikes and demonstrations that have spread throughout the country, paralysing the economy and the lucrative tourist trade. He’s been trying to get agreement for a caretaker government and claims that Mubarak will definitely go when his term runs out in September. But Suleiman also warns that the government “can’t put up with continued protests” — a less than veiled threat to unleash the riot police and the army against the masses.

These words mean little on the Egyptian street today. Though some 300 protesters have been killed since the demonstrations began three weeks ago the protests, if anything, are growing in numbers and have now spread throughout the country.

Imperialist pressure on Mubarak to leave the country is also growing. The imperialist powers that have exploited Egypt for decades know that the longer Mubarak stays the harder it will be to foist another pro-western leader, like ElBaradei, on the Egyptian public.

White House calls for a speedy end to the draconian emergency powers that the regime has used for over 30 years to control the Egyptian people are becoming shriller by the day but in Tel Aviv there’s increasing concern that this new Arab awaking will spread to the West Bank and bring down the pliant Abbas administration.

Some Israeli politicians must now regret rejecting Abbas’ last craven offer, exposed by Wikileaks, which was tantamount to complete capitulation in return for an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Whether Abbas could have actually have delivered it is another thing. What is certain is that with Mubarak out of the picture it will never be made again.

Egyptian natural gas supplies to Israel and Jordan were halted following a pipeline blast last week. Some believe it was an accident while others, including the Israelis, suspect that it was sabotaged by militants from the Egyptian or Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. Though the pipeline is being repaired the supply to Israel has been suspended until further notice. It is clearly a warning of the shape of things to come.