'This Week' Transcript: Crisis in Egypt
Transcript: Crisis in Egypt
WASHINGTON, Jan 30, 2011 — -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AMANPOUR (voice-over): This morning, a special "This Week."Nation on the brink, an ancient civilization, land of the pyramids andhome of the pharaohs, now swept up in a massive political uprisingwith uncertain consequences for all of us.
Which side will blink first? We go inside a historic politicalshowdown. What will the outcome mean for America?
OBAMA: The United States will continue to stand up for therights of the Egyptian people.
AMANPOUR: We get the very latest from Secretary of State HillaryClinton and an exclusive interview with Egypt's ambassador to theUnited States, Sameh Shoukry. Live from Cairo, a special "This Week,""Crisis in Egypt," starts now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good morning. How often have we asked, when willdemocracy come to this part of the world? And what will it look like?Well, here we are in what looks like a massive tectonic shift, firstTunisia and now Egypt, the biggest, most populous Arab country andAmerica's biggest ally.
Here, for the sixth straight day, tens of thousands of people areout on the streets. The military is arrayed in tanks and on foot.The question: Will the army fire if ordered to do so?
For Complete Coverage of the Crisis in Egypt, Featuring Exclusive Reporting From Christiane Amanpour, Click Here
Today, in the last 10 minutes, we have heard and seen fighterjets buzzing Tahrir Square, where the crowds are, an enormous,alarming, incredible sound. They have been flying low.
But the protesters are still out there. They've been reacting.They're carrying slogans and chanting right now down below me"Illegitimate." Despite the reforms that President Mubarak has doneshuffling the government, the people are saying that's not enough andthat he must go.
So far, what they're saying and what we're seeing -- and you canhear the fighter jets behind me now -- they are saying that this issecular, this is a popular uprising. We have seen no signs, noslogans, no clerics of any Islamic favor or flavor.
And in the meantime, as we wait and watch and wonder how long thegovernment here can hang on, the United States and other countries areurging their nationals to leave. The U.S. wants all Americans outand, we understand, is arranging special planes to bring them homestarting tomorrow, Monday.
We saw many, many people stranded at Cairo's airport when welanded last night.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): It was nighttime, well after curfew whenwe landed in Cairo. We found the airport full of stranded tourists,desperate to leave the country, and residents returning, but afraid toventure into town until the curfew was lifted in the morning.
(on-screen): We've got a small car. As you can see, all thebaggage has been strapped to the -- to the roof of the car, and we'regoing to try and get to our hotel tonight.
(voice-over): It's a long drive from the airport into Cairo.And at first, it was eerily quiet. But every hundred yards or so, wewere stopped.
(on-screen): We're driving from the airport into town. It'spractically deserted, very few cars. But there are bands ofvigilantes, ad hoc neighborhood watch groups, young men and boys outwith wooden batons, metal bars, even machetes. They are watching outfor looters and any kind of crime spree, because there is no security.
(voice-over): They had gathered to protect their property. Andwhile it was tense, they were also friendly and waved us through.
(on-screen): So you've mobilized your own security?
(UNKNOWN): Absolutely. There's no...
AMANPOUR: Is there none?
(UNKNOWN): There's nothing (inaudible)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): By morning, police are still nowhere tobe seen, but the army is out in force, especially here around Tahrir,or Liberation Square, and yet the people keep coming.
(on-screen): In full view of the tanks of the army deployed,these people are shouting that the people want the regime's downfall.
(voice-over): Mubarak's steps to try to pacify the protesters byreshuffling the government has simply stiffened their resolve. Theysay they want him gone.
(UNKNOWN): All the people, Egyptian people (inaudible) go out,go to the Hell, and your family (ph).
AMANPOUR: And the tense standoff between the president and thepeople continues.
It's been an extraordinary week in Cairo and across Egypt. Dayafter day, tens of thousands of Egyptians young and old demonstratingin dramatic defiance of President Hosni Mubarak, braving water cannonand rubber bullet, daring to believe the unthinkable, that thispopular uprising might actually mean the end for a military strongmanwho has ruled his country with an iron fist for three decades.
To the United States, Mubarak is a rare pillar of strength in thetroubled Middle East, a staunch ally, and one of only two Arab leaderswho've made peace with Israel.
To his own people, however, Mubarak is an authoritarian whoserepressive regime has imprisoned dissidents and engaged in widespreadtorture. This, alongside the grinding poverty and mass unemployment,is driving the protests.
The past few days have been marked by sometimes violent clasheswith police, as protesters openly defied a government-imposed curfew.On Friday, restaurants and even Mubarak's party headquarters were setablaze. Dozens have been killed, and some of the bodies have beencarried through the streets.
Mubarak himself finally addressed the nation in the early hoursof Saturday morning, announcing that he would dismiss the currentgovernment, but making it clear that he wasn't going anywhere.
MUBARAK (through translator): And -- and putting a newgovernment in place that will achieve our new goals, one that protectsthe security and safety of all Egyptians. This is my responsibility.
AMANPOUR: President Obama, who'd spoken to Mubarak for 30minutes by phone, had this to say.
OBAMA: Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptianpeople. And suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.
AMANPOUR: The United States gives Mubarak's government more than$1 billion in aid every year.
(UNKNOWN): They're throwing tear gas.
AMANPOUR: Now, tear gas canisters marked "Made in America" areraining down on protesters who are demanding freedom. Saturday, theprotests continued, and now there was also widespread looting,including at the famed Cairo Museum, home to priceless antiquities.
(UNKNOWN): They destroyed two mummies, and they opened one case.What really scares me now is the building that located each side ofthe -- of the Cairo museum. This building is burning. If thisbuilding is destroyed, it will go above the Cairo museum. And thiswill be a disaster.
AMANPOUR: The military has so far held its fire. Soldiers havebeen received warmly, and they're actually giving protesters ridesthrough the city on their tanks.
The army is a revered institution in Egypt. And the big questionis whether they will stand by the embattled president, even if heorders them to fire into the crowds.
Mubarak, meanwhile, appointed his first-ever vice president, OmarSuleiman, the head of Egypt's intelligence service. Suleiman has longbeen one of Mubarak's most trusted advisers. He is the chief go-between with Israel, and he also has deep ties to the United States.
But Egyptians in the streets tell us they don't see this aschange. They tell us they won't stop until Mubarak and his wholecircle are gone. What they want, they say, is the chance to freelyelect their government for the first time in the history of thisancient land.
AMANPOUR: Perhaps no one is watching this situation more closelythan Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and she joins us this morningfrom the State Department.
Has the United States administration, whether yourself, whetherthe president, or Secretary Gates, told the Egyptian governmentspecifically that any military crackdown will result in a cutoff ofU.S. military assistance?
CLINTON: No. Right now, we're monitoring the actions of theEgyptian military, and they are, as I'm sure your contacts are tellingyou, demonstrating restraint, working to try to differentiate betweenpeaceful protesters, whom we all support, and potential looters andother criminal elements who are obviously a danger to the Egyptianpeople.
We have sent a very clear message that we want to see restraint,we do not want to see violence by any security forces, and we continueto convey that message. There is no discussion as of this time aboutcutting off any aid. We always are looking and reviewing our aid.
But, you know, right now, we are trying to convey a message thatis very clear, that we want to ensure there is no violence and noprovocation that results in violence and that we want to see thesereforms and a process of national dialogue begun so that the people ofEgypt can see their legitimate grievances addressed.
AMANPOUR: Madam Secretary, do you believe that what PresidentMubarak has done already, which is to appoint a first-ever vicepresident and to shuffle the government, does that amount to enoughreform? Is that all you've asked him to do?
CLINTON: Oh, of course not. But there has been for 30 years aboth public and private dialogue with the Egyptian government,sometimes more public, sometimes more private, but all with the samemessage, from Republican and Democratic administrations, that thereneeds to be reform.
One of the items on that long list was appointing a vicepresident. That has happened. But that is -- that is the beginning,the bare beginning of what needs to happen, which is a process thatleads to the kind of concrete steps to achieve democratic and economicreform that we've been urging and that President Mubarak himselfdiscussed in his speech the other day.
AMANPOUR: There are people still on the streets in greatnumbers. On Tuesday, you said that the U.S. government's assessmentis that the government of Egypt is stable. Do you believe that was amistake? Or do you think today that the government of Egypt isstable?
CLINTON: Well, Christiane, you know, I know that everybody wantsa yes-or-no answer to what are very complicated issues. Obviously,this is a volatile situation. Egypt has been a partner of the UnitedStates for over three decades, has been a partner in achievinghistoric peace with Israel, a partner in, you know, trying tostabilize a region that is subject to a lot of challenges.
And we have been consistent across those three decades in arguingthat real stability only comes from the kind of democraticparticipation that gives people a chance to feel that they are beingheard. And by that I mean real democracy, not a democracy for sixmonths or a year and then evolving into essentially a militarydictatorship or a so-called democracy that then leads to what we sawin Iran.
So we've been very clear about what is in Egypt's long-terminterests. And we continue to be clear. And that is what we want tosee come from this very -- this great outpouring of -- of desire forthe people of Egypt to have their universal human rights recognized.And that is what we hope will come.
AMANPOUR: A lot of the people here on the streets are telling usthat they're angry, they think the U.S. is hedging its bets.
CLINTON: I just want to reiterate what both President Obama andI have been saying. I said it in Doha. I've said it before.President Obama said it himself when he was in Cairo at the beginningof his administration.
We believe that democracy, human rights, economic reform are inthe best interests of the Egyptian people. Any government that doesnot try to move in that direction cannot meet the legitimate needs ofthe people. And in the 21st century, it is highly vulnerable to whatwe have seen in the region and beyond. People are not going to standby any longer and not be given the opportunity to fulfill their ownGod-given potential.
ABC News Live
24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events