After his fall from power, the 83-year-old Egyptian ex-president Hosni Mubarak, though critically ill with cancer, a bad heart and back problems, faces a horrible fate. When US President Barack Obama commanded the Egyptian leader to "go now, I mean now!" he might have asked the Egyptian military junta which succeeded him to let him leave the country quietly, if only on compassionate grounds.
As it is, unless he dies first of a broken heart, Mubarak faces the ignominy of a big show trial and execution because the demonstrators who continue to fill Tahrir Square are screaming for his blood and that of his close kin.
After judging their former president and finding him guilty of corruption and the murder of innocents, the street wants the Mubaraks hung on a gallows set up in the emblematic Cairo square for all to see for a rite of savage vengeance.
The last Arab ruler to be executed was the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Hanging him on December 30, 2006, did not improve life in Iraq or make the ordinary Iraqi free. Aside from the paper-thin semblance of democratic elections, the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rules the country with an iron fist using similar repressive methods to those of his predecessor. Secret police take orders from faceless masters and people disappear from their homes in the middle of the night, never to be heard of again.
At best, an anonymous voice on the phone informs them a loved one was thrown into the Tigris River.
Generals at the mercy of the Tahrir Square mob
The situation in Cairo is quite different. Unlike the ruthless control Maliki exercises in Baghdad, the Supreme Military Council of Egypt controls nothing.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Cairo sources report that its growing weakness and the rising potency of the Egyptian street may well lead Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and other military leaders to the same destiny as the former president.
After disposing of the Mubaraks, some mob may be reminded that the freedom fighters of Tahrir Square derided Tantawi as "Mubarak's poodle." After all, he presided over the Egyptian military for over 20 years by virtue of belonging to Mubarak's closest inner circle.
They will then move on to settle accounts with the other members of the toppled regime, such as the ex-Intelligence Minister Gen. Omar Suleiman.
When he gave the general prosecutor the order to arrest Mubarak and his sons and open an investigation into the charges against them, Tantawi believed he was giving the protesters who refuse to evacuate Tahrir Square a sop and send them home. To break up one of the demonstrations which resumed in Cairo in the past week, soldiers opened fire for the first time and killed two people – to no avail.
The crowds remain hungry. Even the arrest of Mubarak and his sons only whetted their appetites. They now vent their fury in two places: the hospital in Sharm al Sheikh where the ex-president is in intensive care after a heart attack and the Cairo prison where his sons Gemal and Alaa are incarcerated.
Giving into the never-ending demonstrations was a bad mistake on the part of the generals.
Even if the Mubarak families are tried and sentenced, the street has been taught that simply by organizing some protest action it can get anything it wants. People power, such as it is, rules Cairo.
Tehran moves in on a rudderless Cairo
Four months after assuming transitional authority, there is no sign that the Supreme Council is ready to exercise it. None of the 26 generals in command has exhibited leadership qualities. The generals are getting by with the simple dictum: Don't clash with any domestic or external bodies. That rule applies to any protesters, whether vicious rabble rousers or activists of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is enjoying a heyday for making inroads on the masses in the absence of any police presence or security oversight.
For Tehran, the lack of resistance at the highest level is an open invitation to be exploited for a major thrust.
This week, Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaie arrived in Cairo to meet the head of the military council. He was the first Iranian diplomat to be welcomed in Egypt after the fall of Mubarak.
Thursday, April 14, the Tehran Times, reporting on the Iranian ambassador's visit, described it as follows: "Many pundits believe that by standing beside a regional power like Iran, Egypt can pursue much more sophisticated diplomacy, which would enhance and deepen regional convergence."
In other words, the Egyptian military junta is advised to rely on Tehran for the enhancement of its regional standing and influence.
Iran is also resorting to its trusted method of expansion. In its present rudderless state, Egypt is wide open to subversion. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources report that 450 Iranian religious activists have arrived in Egypt in the last month for influence-peddling among the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo and other cities. Most of these "clerics" are undercover agents of Iran's various intelligence services.