Egypt Update: How Long Can Either Side Hold Out?


A million people looking for a Denny's.

It's night in Cairo now, but after a full day of mass gatherings you can take confidence from two things:

* There's a Hardee's in Tahrir Square.

* The looting/lawlessness strategy Hosni Mubarak employed over the weekend has not dimmed enthusiasm for anti-government protests.

The square was jam-packed throughout the day, and still seems to be pretty crowded now that night has fallen. Al Jazeera calls it close to the million organizers were promising. Time says it's more than a million. In any event, it was a lot of people.

If Mubarak had hoped that the absence of police and an outbreak of looting would lead to protest exhaustion, he seems to have bet wrong. The logic of riding out the demonstrations, until people get sick of going hungry and tired of being threatened by looters and escaped criminals, is theoretically sound. Over the weekend there were quotes from some Cairenes regretting the absence of Mubarak's iron rule. But the evidence is not showing up in crowd numbers: When it's the eight day of protests and the crowd is larger than ever, the momentum is clearly against the government. It's hard to imagine what tricks the Egyptian president still has up his sleeve.

News from all over:

The U.S. special envoy conveys President Obama's wish for an "orderly transition."

Nobody likes Omar Suleiman, the torturer-in-chief chosen by Mubarak to succeed him.

Many reporters have noted the catholicity of the crowd, and there are quite a few people holding portraits of Gamal Abdel Nasser. This is a notable irony given that 1) Mubarak stands in direct line of succession to Nasser; 2) there isn't a single area of Egyptian life — from economics to culture to law to military prowess — where Nasser was anything less than a total catastrophe; 3) Nasser killed and tortured more members of the Muslim Brotherhood than Mubarak could ever dream of doing, and the Muslim Brotherhood is taking an increasingly visible role in the movement. Maybe it's like the Sharks and the Jets: After 50 years, who can tell the difference?

Jordan's King Abdullah has thrown out his own government.

In Syria, chin-free strongman Bashar al-Assad is hinting at unspecified "reforms" ahead of protests that are reportedly planned for Saturday. Protests in Syria would be truly surprising news, as King Lion the Second has never experienced any substantial internal protest. His father was willing to kill more than 10,000 people and pave over their town to keep dissidents quiet.

And if there's a Hardee's, what of the real crown jewel of American fast food: Arby's? It's not clear there ever was an Arby's franchise in Cairo, and if there was it seems to be out of business.

With political turmoil burning up the Middle East, never forget that nature is the real enemy. Avalanche kills French skier in Lebanon. Shark eats German snorkler in Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Update: Mubarak says he won't run again, which presumably means he plans to leave in September.