Egypt uprising: The first strike in the counteroffensive

Nicholas Burns, a former senior state department official in the Bush Administration who is now at Harvard, agrees with the view here from Cairo that the pro-Mubarak forces who have initiated clashes on the streets were dispatched by the regime (he disagrees, of course, with the view of Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, who thinks the protesters should just go home.)

"The attacks appear to be the first strike in a counter-offensive by Egyptian security forces to take back the streets of Cairo and reverse the momentum of the reformers who, until Wednesday, appeared on the verge of unseating Mubarak after thirty years in power. Watching the discipline and uniformity of the pro-Mubarak forces in Cairo on Wednesday led many around the world, myself included, to suspect that they were acting in concert with security forces or were part of the security establishment themselves. Whoever they were, they have turned this crisis in a new and more menacing direction."

Burns praises President Obama for his handling of the situation – from the perspective of US interests – so far. But he warns this could drag on. "One week gone in a drama that may turn out to be a marathon extending months into the future, the Administration, like the rest of us, has had to scramble to keep up with events."

The only revolution like this I ever witnessed was the one that tossed Indonesia's Soeharto out in 1998 – in double-quick time. But I'm starting to side with those that think this could drag on a while yet. I've been in Egypt for less than two days. I hope to get back to regular blogging soon. But probably not until Saturday, with the excitement and uncertainty of Friday afternoon looming.

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