Is Mubarak out? Is Suleiman in? Is this a military coup?
Conflicting reports make it difficult to understand what Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has in mind for his address to the nation tonight – but it's clear that it's something big.
• The following is a roundup of online reports.
Is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak heading out the door? US officials and the media are saying yes (probably), following an announcement Thursday that President Mubarak will address the Egyptian people tonight.
Talking Points Memo reported that CIA Director Leon Panetta told a US House of Representatives Intelligence panel that there is "a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down in Eqypt tonight." Mr. Panetta also said that Mubarak will likely hand over power to Omar Suleiman, who was recently appointed vice president and met with Mubarak following the announcement of his address to the nation tonight, according to CNN in an 11:58 a.m. EST update.
However, CNN also reported at 12:08 p.m. EST that an Egyptian government official said Mubarak plans to hand over power to the Egyptian military, which would give the government a pass on following the Constitution's provisions for succession and other relevant issues. (The same official said that this is "not a coup in the traditional sense.")
According to the Egyptian Constitution, if a president steps down before his term is up, the speaker of the parliament steps in as acting president until elections can be held – not Suleiman, and not a member of the Egyptian military.
Blake Hounshell, the managing editor of Foreign Policy who is in Cairo now, reported on Twitter that Mohammed El Baradei, a key opposition figure in the protests, said that neither Suleiman nor anyone associated with Mubarak's government has any credibility with the protesters.
So, it's murky what is going to happen – if Mubarak even steps down. Dan Murphy, the Monitor's correspondent reporting from Cairo, said that all signs in Cairo pointed to something big happening, likely tonight:
"With mass protests expected to resume Friday – organizers are expecting the biggest turnout in Cairo yet, with demonstrators scheduled to stream in from around the country – there has been a frenzy of activity today from the military and the ruling National Democratic Party that all make the convincing case that something is afoot.
"Lending weight to that likelihood were statements today from the powerful Egyptian military and from a senior member of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party. Hossam Badrawi, the NDP’s secretary general, strongly implied to CNN that Mubarak might step down by tomorrow."
Check back within the hour for another report from Mr. Murphy from Tahrir Square, where he is waiting with the protesters to see what happens next.
Editor's note: Monitor staff photographer Ann Hermes shot video of Tuesday's protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square, which you can see below.