It’s not an army crackdown; it’s apparently the arrival of pro-Mubarak protesters, and their clashing with those who have been protesting to remove Mubarak for about a week now.
President Obama’s calls for a rapid transition to a new order in Egypt seemed eclipsed on Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators for and against President Hosni Mubarak, some on horses and camels, fought running battles in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square…
On Wednesday, the enduring standoff between Mr. Mubarak and his adversaries took an explosive and perilous turn, suggesting that Mr. Mubarak in fact had no intention of exiting earlier than he had announced.
In what seemed a choreographed operation, thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters surged into Tahrir Square, hours after a call from Egypt’s powerful military for the president’s opponents to “restore normal life.” Many carried fresh Egyptian flags and pre-printed pro-Mubarak signs that some said were being handed out by the state television building. Some waved off reporters and yelled, “No photos.”
So far the clashes have only involved rocks and a little hand to hand fighting, while the army has chosen to stay on the sidelines. That’s not a tenable position for the army, which may find itself discredited by one side or the other. And how long can the relatively low level of combat last? It’s tough to see the Muslim Brotherhood not taking the chance to take advantage of its more organized forces and engage directly. It’s also tough to imagine them resisting the opportunity to start fights if only for the purpose of creating propaganda imagery.