'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 and home of the pharaohs, now swept up in a massive political uprising with uncertain consequences for all of us.

Which side will blink first? We go inside a historic political showdown. What will the outcome mean for America?

OBAMA: The United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people.

AMANPOUR: We get the very latest from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and an exclusive interview with Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry. Live from Cairo, a special "This Week," "Crisis in Egypt," starts now.


AMANPOUR: Good morning. How often have we asked, when will democracy 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, first Tunisia and now Egypt, the biggest, most populous Arab country and America's biggest ally.

Here, for the sixth straight day, tens of thousands of people are out 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 fighter jets 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 done shuffling the government, the people are saying that's not enough and that he must go.

So far, what they're saying and what we're seeing -- and you can hear the fighter jets behind me now -- they are saying that this is secular, this is a popular uprising. We have seen no signs, no slogans, no clerics of any Islamic favor or flavor.

And in the meantime, as we wait and watch and wonder how long the government here can hang on, the United States and other countries are urging their nationals to leave. The U.S. wants all Americans out and, we understand, is arranging special planes to bring them home starting tomorrow, Monday.

We saw many, many people stranded at Cairo's airport when we landed last night.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): It was nighttime, well after curfew when we landed in Cairo. We found the airport full of stranded tourists, desperate to leave the country, and residents returning, but afraid to venture into town until the curfew was lifted in the morning.

(on-screen): We've got a small car. As you can see, all the baggage has been strapped to the -- to the roof of the car, and we're going 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, we were stopped.

(on-screen): We're driving from the airport into town. It's practically deserted, very few cars. But there are bands of vigilantes, ad hoc neighborhood watch groups, young men and boys out with wooden batons, metal bars, even machetes. They are watching out for looters and any kind of crime spree, because there is no security.

(voice-over): They had gathered to protect their property. And while 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 to be 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 by reshuffling the government has simply stiffened their resolve. They say 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 the people continues.

It's been an extraordinary week in Cairo and across Egypt. Day after day, tens of thousands of Egyptians young and old demonstrating in dramatic defiance of President Hosni Mubarak, braving water cannon and rubber bullet, daring to believe the unthinkable, that this popular uprising might actually mean the end for a military strongman who has ruled his country with an iron fist for three decades.

To the United States, Mubarak is a rare pillar of strength in the troubled Middle East, a staunch ally, and one of only two Arab leaders who've made peace with Israel.

To his own people, however, Mubarak is an authoritarian whose repressive regime has imprisoned dissidents and engaged in widespread torture. This, alongside the grinding poverty and mass unemployment, is driving the protests.

The past few days have been marked by sometimes violent clashes with police, as protesters openly defied a government-imposed curfew. On Friday, restaurants and even Mubarak's party headquarters were set ablaze. Dozens have been killed, and some of the bodies have been carried through the streets.

Mubarak himself finally addressed the nation in the early hours of Saturday morning, announcing that he would dismiss the current government, but making it clear that he wasn't going anywhere.

MUBARAK (through translator): And -- and putting a new government in place that will achieve our new goals, one that protects the security and safety of all Egyptians. This is my responsibility.

AMANPOUR: President Obama, who'd spoken to Mubarak for 30 minutes by phone, had this to say.

OBAMA: Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. 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" are raining down on protesters who are demanding freedom. Saturday, the protests 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 of the -- of the Cairo museum. This building is burning. If this building is destroyed, it will go above the Cairo museum. And this will be a disaster.

AMANPOUR: The military has so far held its fire. Soldiers have been received warmly, and they're actually giving protesters rides through the city on their tanks.

The army is a revered institution in Egypt. And the big question is whether they will stand by the embattled president, even if he orders them to fire into the crowds.

Mubarak, meanwhile, appointed his first-ever vice president, Omar Suleiman, the head of Egypt's intelligence service. Suleiman has long been 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 as change. They tell us they won't stop until Mubarak and his whole circle are gone. What they want, they say, is the chance to freely elect their government for the first time in the history of this ancient land.


AMANPOUR: Perhaps no one is watching this situation more closely than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and she joins us this morning from the State Department.

Has the United States administration, whether yourself, whether the president, or Secretary Gates, told the Egyptian government specifically that any military crackdown will result in a cutoff of U.S. military assistance?

CLINTON: No. Right now, we're monitoring the actions of the Egyptian military, and they are, as I'm sure your contacts are telling you, demonstrating restraint, working to try to differentiate between peaceful protesters, whom we all support, and potential looters and other criminal elements who are obviously a danger to the Egyptian people.

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 continue to convey that message. There is no discussion as of this time about cutting off any aid. We always are looking and reviewing our aid.

But, you know, right now, we are trying to convey a message that is very clear, that we want to ensure there is no violence and no provocation that results in violence and that we want to see these reforms and a process of national dialogue begun so that the people of Egypt can see their legitimate grievances addressed.

AMANPOUR: Madam Secretary, do you believe that what President Mubarak has done already, which is to appoint a first-ever vice president and to shuffle the government, does that amount to enough reform? Is that all you've asked him to do?

CLINTON: Oh, of course not. But there has been for 30 years a both public and private dialogue with the Egyptian government, sometimes more public, sometimes more private, but all with the same message, from Republican and Democratic administrations, that there needs to be reform.

One of the items on that long list was appointing a vice president. That has happened. But that is -- that is the beginning, the bare beginning of what needs to happen, which is a process that leads to the kind of concrete steps to achieve democratic and economic reform that we've been urging and that President Mubarak himself discussed in his speech the other day.

AMANPOUR: There are people still on the streets in great numbers. On Tuesday, you said that the U.S. government's assessment is that the government of Egypt is stable. Do you believe that was a mistake? Or do you think today that the government of Egypt is stable?

CLINTON: Well, Christiane, you know, I know that everybody wants a yes-or-no answer to what are very complicated issues. Obviously, this is a volatile situation. Egypt has been a partner of the United States for over three decades, has been a partner in achieving historic peace with Israel, a partner in, you know, trying to stabilize a region that is subject to a lot of challenges.

And we have been consistent across those three decades in arguing that real stability only comes from the kind of democratic participation that gives people a chance to feel that they are being heard. And by that I mean real democracy, not a democracy for six months or a year and then evolving into essentially a military dictatorship or a so-called democracy that then leads to what we saw in Iran.

So we've been very clear about what is in Egypt's long-term interests. And we continue to be clear. And that is what we want to see come from this very -- this great outpouring of -- of desire for the 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 us that they're angry, they think the U.S. is hedging its bets.

CLINTON: I just want to reiterate what both President Obama and I 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 beginning of his administration.

We believe that democracy, human rights, economic reform are in the best interests of the Egyptian people. Any government that does not try to move in that direction cannot meet the legitimate needs of the people. And in the 21st century, it is highly vulnerable to what we have seen in the region and beyond. People are not going to stand by any longer and not be given the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential.

So what I'm hoping is that there can be a very difficult set of decisions made, that the government will be able to maintain a peaceful relationship with peaceful protesters, that where there is criminal activity, looting and the like, that can be handled in an appropriate way, respecting human rights.

But then we can see a national dialogue begin, where the government of Egypt recognizes that it must -- that it must take those concrete steps that many of us have been urging for democratic and economic reform. I think that is the best way for Egypt to navigate through this without unforeseen consequences that could further undermine the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people.

AMANPOUR: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for joining us.

CLINTON: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And when we return, can the Egyptian government ride out this storm? My exclusive interview with Egypt's ambassador to the United States when we return, a special edition of "This Week," "Crisis in Egypt."


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to a special edition of "This Week," "Crisis in Egypt," live here in Cairo. We're asking, can the government hold on? Can President Mubarak continue to govern? There are no government officials who we can speak to here in Cairo, so we turn now for an exclusive interview to Egypt's ambassador to the United States joining us in Washington, Ambassador Sameh Shoukry.

Thank you for being with us this morning.

SHOUKRY: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, I've been on the streets now for the sixth straight day. The people are out there. The military has been deployed. What is the government of Egypt expecting the military to do?

SHOUKRY: The military has been deployed in protection of the demonstrations and keeping order, peace and order on the streets of Cairo. And it continues to operate undertaking its responsibilities, as many have seen. It was received with great affection by the people and the demonstrators and continues to play an important role.

It's an institution that the Egyptians hold in immense pride and one that has always come to provide safety and security and a safety valve for the Egyptian society.

AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador, though, how long will President Mubarak continue to tolerate this number of people in the streets?

SHOUKRY: From the outset, the freedom of expression had been guaranteed. Egypt has been on a road of economic, political, democratic reform for the last 20 years or more, and it has achieved great strides in that regard. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press had been evolving and advancing with very important strides. I believe, in the president's speech, he indicated that there would be a guarantee of the freedom and -- and ability of all Egyptians to express their points of view in a peaceful manner.

AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador, you say that there've been important reforms for many years now, but, you know, on the streets, people aren't hearing that, and they don't feel it. And they're telling us right now that, no matter what President Mubarak does, they want him out. Are you afraid for the future?

SHOUKRY: Well, certainly Egypt is going through a difficult time, but Egypt is a resourceful country, a country of a long history, and its major strength is in its people and their ability to overcome adverse situations.

The process of reform is an ongoing one. And definitely the people on the streets have indicated a desire for speedier reforms. That I'm sure is the direction that Egypt will take within the institutions that are still in operation that are cognizant to what is the word that is coming out from the streets.

AMANPOUR: When you look at what's happening on the streets, do you fear for the future here? SHOUKRY: I think it's a demonstration of people involving themselves more actively in their future and their -- the composition of their government and how they want to see the future for themselves and their children and the values that will cover the Egyptian society. This is a right that -- and a value that we all respect.

AMANPOUR: As I say, they are saying that what's happening is not enough. What more should the government do to bring more freedom, political pluralism? There is no meaningful political space here. What more can the government do, and should it?

SHOUKRY: Well, the government is being formed -- the president has indicated a willingness to continue the national dialogue. And, of course, a consensus, a national consensus must be arrived at in terms of the direction of the reform process.

All of these things will be developed within the context of the conversation between various political representatives, those in the media, and other opinion-makers in Egypt. And it is a process that needs to be undertaken with the necessary speed and caution, in terms of impacting the social welfare of the population.

AMANPOUR: You know, so many Egyptian prominent people are leaving, businesspeople are leaving. And as I say again, the mood on the street is uncompromising. Do you expect President Mubarak to stay and battle it out or to leave?

SHOUKRY: People in Egypt have shown during this time a great deal of solidarity, a great deal of desire to see their country develop and prosper. And I believe that every loyal Egyptian will continue to undertake his responsibilities and contribute towards the improvement of his homeland.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Ambassador Sameh Shoukry, thank you for joining us from Washington.

SHOUKRY: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: When we return, we'll have much more about what's going on, on the ground, as our special, "Crisis in Egypt," continues.


AMANPOUR: As we've been broadcasting and consistently over the last 30 minutes, Air Force jets have been buzzing the square and the area of downtown Cairo where we are right now. Flying high, flying low, enormous, ear-drum-ripping sounds, potentially probably to intimidate the crowd.

Our producer down there in Tahrir Square, where tens of thousands of people are still there, are saying that they are not reacting well to this show of force.

Joined now by Lama Hasan, ABC's Lama Hasan, our colleague who's been here for the last few days.

This is a first, a show of military strength in the air. There's also military helicopters. People are not happy. What have they been saying to you in general over the last few days?

HASAN: It's remarkable, Christiane, because everywhere we went, every protest that we went to, every single protester said the same thing: They've had enough.

They used the word "kefaya" in Arabic. They've had enough of President Mubarak's rule. They say for the last 30 years they've suffered under him. They're tired of the corruption. They're tired of the high unemployment, the soaring food crisis. They told us they just want to live. They want to be able to find jobs. They want to be able to eat. So now they say is the time for change.

AMANPOUR: What -- what we're seeing and what we've seen is a fairly good-natured relationship between the army and the people, apart from those first few days when the police were obviously cracking down. Now it's developed into a better relationship. But this looks like a dramatic raising of tensions with these buzzing of Air Force jets.

HASAN: Well, this certainly is a turn of events. And I think the people will be even more emboldened by this. Some of the protesters that we spoke to yesterday said that they are not going to be deterred, they are defiant, and they're going to stay and protest until they bring down President Mubarak. They've had enough. They say now is the time for change. And they believe they can do it.

AMANPOUR: Lama Hasan, thank you so much for joining us. And we're now going to talk to Mohamed ElBaradei. You all know him. He used to be head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, a thorn in the U.S. side during the Iraq war, didn't want the U.S. to go to war with Iraq. And now, over the last year, he's come back to try to lead this protest movement.

It wasn't going anywhere for a while. He left, and now he's back again. We spoke to him earlier today.


AMANPOUR: Mr. ElBaradei, are the latest moves by President Mubarak sufficient, appointing a vice president, a prime minister?

ELBARADEI: Christiane, it doesn't even begin to address people's concerns. People's concerns right now is Mubarak has to go, immediately. The first step, if we need to get out of this mess -- and it's total mess, security is not there, it's a total chaos situation right now -- first step, he has to go.

Second step, we have to have a government of national salvation, in coordination with the army, so the people and the army will get together, go for a transitional period, where then we prepare for a free and fair election, a new constitution, and then move on toward a democracy.

Third point, that the army has the horrible task of ensuring security. Prisoners got out of prison. It's -- the -- the security force, which is over a million, has been disbanded. It's a criminal act. I don't know who did that.

AMANPOUR: You think the army will turn on the people, if they get the order?

ELBARADEI: I don't think it would ever turn on the people. I think the army is very much on the people's side, and the army is put in then impossible situation. I mean, normally, what should happen is that the police should be in the city to protect people and infrastructure. Somebody gives the order to the police to disband. And then what you have right now is thugs. You know, thugs are looting. And, you know -- and it's -- it's -- it's a horrible situation right now.

AMANPOUR: How do you assess the reaction of the U.S. administration?

ELBARADEI: Well, I think it's -- it's -- it -- it came here like -- like lead. You know, people expected the U.S. to be on the side of the people, you know, who are -- legitimate needs for democracy, social justice, it's -- and to let go of a dictator, you know?

AMANPOUR: But now President Obama is saying that the rights of the people need to be protected and reforms need to happen.

ELBARADEI: Sure. But, Christiane, he's also saying, I look to the government, you know, i.e., Mubarak, you know, to implement democracy. I mean, to ask a dictator to implement democratic measure after 30 years in power is an oxymoron. So they need to let go of Mubarak. They need to side with the people. They need to go for, you know, transition, smooth transition, through a government of national salvation. This is only way out.

AMANPOUR: As you know, the administration is very concerned that if Mubarak goes, the inevitable replacement is the Muslim Brotherhood or some kind of Islamic fundamentalism.

ELBARADEI: This is total bogus that the (ph) Muslim Brotherhood are religiously conservative. They are no way extremists. They are no way using violence. They are not a majority of the Egyptian people. They will not be more than maybe 20 percent of the Egyptian people. You have to include them like, you know, new evangelical, you know, groups in the U.S., like the orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.

I mean, that is -- you -- they are not. This is -- this is what the regime used to -- sold to the -- to the West and to the U.S. "It's either us, repression, or -- or -- or Al Qaida-type Islamists." That is -- that's not -- this is not Egypt.

AMANPOUR: Are the Islamists behind this uprising?

ELBARADEI: Not at all. I mean, what -- what you saw is the young people. I mean, it's all 30 and below. It is organized plan, implemented by people who are 30 and below who are -- absolutely have no ideology other than they want to see future hope, a respect for their dignity, and -- and basic needs.

AMANPOUR: How do you think this is going to end?

ELBARADEI: Well, I think -- I think everybody should understand, you know, that it will not end until Mubarak leaves today, until we agree with the army on a national unity government, until the army got hold of the street. If we do these three steps, you know, and ensure in the process the basic needs of the people, then we get a smooth transition, an Egypt that is democratic, that is moderate.

You know, it does not mean that Egypt will be hostile to the U.S. This is -- again, we traditionally in Egypt, in the Arab world, have always been friends with the U.S., friends with Europe, and I -- I have no doubt that that will continue, but under the basis of a stability and not pseudo-stability, where -- where you are oppressing people in -- in the country.

AMANPOUR: Mr. ElBaradei, thank you for joining us.

ELBARADEI: Thank you very much, Christiane, for having me.


AMANPOUR: And to delve deeper into this very issue, we're joined now by a man who has helped navigate U.S. foreign policy, way back during the Iranian revolution. He is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who used to be President Carter's national security adviser, joins us now. Thank you for being with us. I want to start by asking you, does Mubarak have to go? Or, as the administration seems to hope, he can implement enough reforms to get through this moment? Is that realistic?

BRZEZINSKI: I don't think that's realistic. What could be realistic is that Mubarak himself becomes convinced, with outside advice, that it is in his interest, as well as in Egypt's interests, that he goes and that he sets in motion a process which facilitates that.

I think the alternatives otherwise are much tougher. Either the army cracks down and the populace increasingly turns to fundamentalism, radicalism in reaction to the crackdown, or the regime perpetuates itself and an explosion comes later and even more violently.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you then, because clearly the administration is grappling with a decades-long problem, how to have democracy in this part of the world without fundamentalism filling the vacuum. Do you think that is still -- particularly as you watch what happened in Tunisia, secular, young -- here in Egypt, it's mostly secular. We don't see the Islamic forces right now. Do you think that is still a fear?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, it still is a fear, but there are some examples which are warning to us, and there are some examples which are a possible source of encouragement. The warning is, of course, what happened in Iran, the takeover by theological fundamentalist regime hostile to the outside world, and particularly to us.

The other alternative -- and it's also an equal important historical nation -- is Turkey, where the army has played a role of the guarantor of democracy, a guarantor of democracy, even sometimes in an authoritarian transition. And the army has made possible the evolution of Turkey.

Now, if you look at the region in which you are now present, there are three great nations in that region: Egypt, with enormous history and civilization and culture; Iran, similarly so; and Turkey, with an imperial past of enormous impression.

Now, Turkey, certainly, I think provides the most relevant example. And Mubarak I think could play still a constrictive role by accepting the reality and making that change possible himself.


TAPPER: We lost Christiane for the time being. In the meantime, we're going have a roundtable discussion in just a moment with George Will, from Al Jazeera, Abderrahim Foukara, ABC News' own Martha Raddatz, and ABC News' own Sam Donaldson, as a special edition of "This Week," "Crisis in Egypt," continues.


TAPPER: Welcome back to our special "This Week," "Crisis in Egypt." Christiane will be back with us later from Cairo, but first our roundtable with George Will, Al Jazeera bureau chief Abderrahim Foukara -- I'm sorry, Abderrahim Foukara -- ABC News' own Martha Raddatz and ABC News' own Sam Donaldson. Thanks, one and all, for being here.

First of all, George, how does this crisis that we are spending so much time this morning and in the last few days talking about, how does it affect the American people?

WILL: Well, in three ways. First of all, this is a political contagion in a very sensitive region of the world. It began when a 26-year-old street vendor of fruit set himself on fire in a Tunisian city. It wasn't even in the capital. Now the next-door neighbor, Egypt, is ablaze, and who knows where it will go, given the dry tinder over there? The 300 million people in the Arab world, 60 percent of them under 25 years old, a quarter of those unemployed.

Second, this is what economists call an exogenous event. We are having a fragile recovery in this country. The immediate reaction of the Dow on Friday was to lose 166 points. Someone -- I mean, I don't know if anyone wants to say $5 gasoline yet, but it could happen. You could have a great energy supply.

But, third, this is Israel's nightmare. They have Iran and the presence of Hezbollah in the northern border. They have Hamas in Gaza. Egypt has been enforcing the embargo of weapons on Gaza, on Hamas in Gaza, coming through tunnels and elsewhere. What happens if Egypt drops out of that?

TAPPER: Abed, before we begin, there's been a lot of talk about the Egyptian government stopping the satellite feed of Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English in Cairo. What is the status of that? And what do you think that says about the way that the government there is trying to monitor the freedom of information?

FOUKARA: Obviously, the offices of Al Jazeera in Cairo have been shut down. The -- as you mentioned, satellite, Nilesat, owned by the Egyptians on which -- on whose frequencies Al Jazeera has traditionally broadcast, has been switched off. So Al Jazeera has switched now to an Arab site.

Look, this is a classic example of a government in the region going in one way and its people going in another way, as far as coverage is concerned. We've heard this story about Al Jazeera from previous governments before.

I don't want to make too much propaganda for Al Jazeera, but let me just say this: Al Jazeera is an imperfect medium in an imperfect world. But the importance of what's going on in the Middle East right now, this is the story of a generation. Al Jazeera, despite its imperfections, has brought this story to 300 million people in the Arab world and beyond. This is a story of huge importance and consequence of the United States. And Al Jazeera is, in its own way, bringing this story to the United States, to the Arab world.

A few years ago, several years ago, Bill Clinton talked of Al Jazeera as a beacon of democracy. Should that be true, and to the extent that the United States is invested in the future of democracy in the Middle East, Al Jazeera will be an asset. It has provided a platform on which people in the Arab world, from one corner of it to the other, have expressed their grievances and aspirations.

TAPPER: Martha, one of the things that's so interesting watching this crisis unfold is the way that we cover the Egyptian military as if it is its own branch of government. How is the Egyptian army going to respond? What is going to happen with the Egyptian military? Explain this to people.

RADDATZ: Well, of course, all eyes are on the military. You heard Christiane talk about that, as well. And I think people say, there's -- there's choice A, the military will side with Mubarak; choice B, the military will side with the people. But I say it's choice C: The military will take care of itself.

They are the most highly respected institution in Egypt, as you can see. People are climbing on tanks, they're waving. It's pretty clear to me they haven't been given orders to fire on people. You heard the ambassador say they're just there to protect institutions. They're going to surround buildings to make sure they're OK, but somebody's got to blink at some point.

And the military, I think, first and foremost, is going to say, what does this mean for me? Do I want to lose the respect of the nation? So I would think that it is unlikely they would fire on the people and that you really might see a change.

Now, Suleiman, the vice president now, he's a military man, as well. He certainly wants to earn the respect of the military. You have to have the respect of the military there.

TAPPER: Sam, I follow in your footsteps as White House correspondent for ABC News. When you were there during the Carter years, you saw something like this -- not exactly the same -- but something like this unfold in Iran. How is President Obama handling this crisis, especially with that historical perspective you bring?

DONALDSON: I think pretty well at this point, because we're in the middle of a fluid situation, and the United States has really two imperatives, to be for democracy, to be for freedom of choice by peoples around the world, and he has said that, and restraint, of course, from the standpoint of suppression of this.

But on the other hand, we have learned the hard way that a Pax Americana cannot be imposed on other people. We tried it in Iran. In 1953, our CIA overthrew a democratically elected prime minister, a reformer who was bringing reforms to the country named Mohammed Mosaddegh, because we wanted the oil. Well, we established the shah in power. When he was overthrown by the people, it hasn't worked out that well for us. And in Iraq, I think we're in a situation where we don't know the end of this.

RADDATZ: We're kind of like the fence-sitters now, right? Sam...

DONALDSON: But we have no choice.

RADDATZ: Yeah, we have no choice, but it's the fence-sitters that everybody talks about, they're going to side with the winner. And I think that's what you're seeing in the administration. And it's a very difficult fence to ride.

DONALDSON: I read in the newspaper this morning, Elliot Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state and in the George W. Bush administration National Security Council, he didn't say we should intervene militarily, not by a long shot, but he implied that we needed to do more than just speak out. He didn't tell us what more, of course. But I don't think we're going to send in the Third Armored Division into Egypt or anywhere else now.

TAPPER: George?

WILL: Well, picking up on what Martha said, we have seen authoritarian regimes more or less successfully overturned, the Philippines and South Korea, but generally what happens is the very aspects of the society that bring about an upheaval like this and we're seeing in Egypt right now is the weakness of civil society, no parties, no press, no tradition of persuasion, courts, et cetera.

Therefore, the one institution that exists that brings order is the military. The archetypal modern revolution was the French revolution. Order was restored by a Corsican captain of artillery called Napoleon, hence, the tradition of Bonapartism, which we might see come back in Egypt.

TAPPER: Abed, do you think that it's possible that Mubarak is letting some chaos reign right now so that Egyptians, who basically want to live their lives, even if they want their freedoms -- they -- they don't want to die, they want their stores to be able to open on Sunday -- so that they embrace a -- a restoration of order, a martial law? Do you think it's possible that Mubarak is doing that?

FOUKARA: It is entirely possible. And should that be the case, what happened in Tunisia has proven the failure of that strategy, because we had a similar thing. After the president of Tunisia fled the country, there were bands of gangsters who in some cases turned out to be secret police or goaded by secret police to do that -- to undertake that -- that -- that sort of action in Tunisia. We've seen in Egypt militias of civilian Egyptians basically taking care of the protection of various places, such as the National Museum. So there is definitely that scenario in Egypt.

I just want to quickly go back to the issue of the army. The United States has, obviously, through the decades invested in military-to-military cooperation with the Egyptians. I think...

RADDATZ: They were here just last week.

FOUKARA: They were here just last week. The -- the -- the chief of the Egyptian army was here in -- in Washington. He cut his visit short, went back to Cairo for the obvious reasons.

It seems to me that that kind of investment was the right investment, because eventually the army will always play a role in whatever happens in Egypt.

I think the second component that I would like to talk about now is that, in the same way the United States has invested time and treasure and other things in the Egyptian army, they need -- the Obama administration needs to be investing in democracy. This is not about the Muslim Brotherhood leading this or -- do not exclude that they may have something to do with it. This is about the Middle East not going back to what it was just two months ago.

So the United States needs to be on the right side. If the United States had the kind of openness in Egypt, we would have a much better picture of what's going to happen in Egypt in the future. But because of 30 years of iron fist, we do not now, but it's not too late for the United States.

DONALDSON: I agree we need to be on the right side from the standpoint of talking about democracy, urging peoples to move toward that, if they can. But my question to you would be, what should we do now? Should we demand publicly that President Mubarak leave? And if we do that, should we now demand that Abdullah leave Jordan? Should we now demand that the house of Saud fall in Saudi Arabia? Where does that end? But, basically, forgive me, for U.S. interests, where does that leave us?

TAPPER: And, yeah, as they say, be careful what you wish for when it comes to democracy, as we saw in Gaza, and this is something that the Egyptians have been impressing upon the U.S. As we saw in Gaza, there were elections there, and they elected Hamas.

Martha, this has been a very difficult time for this White House, you and I both know from covering it. Talk a little bit about -- and we only have a minute left in this segment -- talk a little bit about the sturm und drang and the angst they've had in that building?

RADDATZ: Well, you and I have been talking for several days about this and -- and watching the administration really all tied up about this. On Friday, making calls to administration officials, it was basically, we don't really know what to do. We don't know really where we're going with this. And you and I were also talking about these -- these statements they put out. Well, you have to do these three things. You have to-- you have to have a dialogue. You have to get away with emergency law, do away with emergency law.

Basically what they're saying is, just do what you did two weeks ago. They're not saying, let's take it forward very far. So it's been really tied up in knots, the administration.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. And more on the crisis in Egypt and Christiane Amanpour from Cairo when "This Week" returns.


TAPPER: And a special edition of "This Week," "Crisis in Egypt" continues. We will continue with our roundtable.

As always, George Will, from Al Jazeera's D.C. bureau, Abed Foukara, ABC News' own Martha Raddatz and ABC News' own Sam Donaldson.

Abed, I want to start with you. I think a lot of Americans are probably looking at what's going on in Egypt and thinking, "Oh, my god. What is going to happen to that country? Should we be afraid of what happens next?"

FOUKARA: I mean, there's definitely reason to be afraid and to worry. This is a time of great peril in Egypt, no doubt about it. But I think if the Egyptian people, the Egyptian political formations, the Egyptian army, and the United States government somehow manage to get Egypt to safety through this, then the domino effect theory -- based on the history of the region -- does not necessarily have to hold.

What I'm trying to say is, if you get a -- a stable government in Egypt, that somehow somewhat changes the course of the country in ways that Egyptians have been clamoring for in these protests, other governments in the region do not necessarily have to topple, but they will have to readjust. And I think that that would be the best outcome that the region and the United States could hope for.

TAPPER: Well, that's the best-case scenario. George, what's the worst-case scenario?

WILL: Well, the worst case is for us to assume that we can master these events. Beginning in the fall of 2001, when we easily toppled the Taliban, and March 2003, when we easily toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, since those two events, we have been learning the hard lesson -- or at least being taught, whether we've learned it or not's another matter -- that it's easier to set in train events and to bring down regimes than it is to fashion a replacement for them. So we should have great modesty about the ability of the United States to influence events far around the world in cultures we do not understand.

TAPPER: And what do you think, Martha? What are you -- what are you going to be watching going forward? And what are you worried about?

RADDATZ: Well, I think the one thing that we forget is, this -- this really is a dialogue between -- and the angst in the White House -- is, it's national security or human rights and democracy? And you've got to talk about national security, because that is really the important thing here to -- to Americans.

Egypt has helped fight terrorism in that region. They are the anchor for the U.S. in that region. And one other thing we haven't really talked about or thought about is that, at the end of this year, U.S. troops are supposed to all be out of Iraq, so that region has a degree of instability there already which could be worse by the end of the year.

So they -- they need Egypt. They need the support of Egypt. I agree that perhaps it'll be an even more stable situation. Perhaps who you get in there will be remarkable. But the U.S. counts on the support from Egypt, counts on the support to counter everything else in that region.

TAPPER: And just to remind our views, it's not just counterterrorism. Egypt has been allied with the United States when it comes to Iran's nuclear program...

RADDATZ: Radical Islamists.

TAPPER: ... radical Islamists...

RADDATZ: Absolutely.

TAPPER: ... when it comes to recognizing the new Iraqi government, when it comes to the Mideast peace process. Sam, you were saying you're concerned that the new government might not recognize the peace treaty it has with Israel that Anwar Sadat gave his life for.

DONALDSON: Well, I watched Jimmy Carter help these two leaders, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, put together this historic peace -- it kept the peace. Egypt is still the most powerful of all of the military nations in the Arab world. It's kept the peace.

If that should somehow unravel because of events in Cairo, the whole region would be the poorer for it. But I think the lesson that everyone here has talked about, we're not saying that we should put American interests for oil or any other -- of -- above the people of Egypt.

We hope that democracy -- and we hope that it will work out there, but we do have to, as Martha put it, pay attention to that. In 1954, we created the nation of South Vietnam. That didn't work out. The Vietnamese wanted to live together. They do today, and we have perfect relations with North and South Vietnam, which is one country.

RADDATZ: And as smarty-pants as we all try to be, we have no idea. I mean, this is a situation where you've got social media thrown in there. You've got a country that's uniting in ways we've never seen before. So you really have to wonder what's going to happen. We don't know. The administration didn't know. That's why we've had these few days of back-and-forth, and what do we say?

DONALDSON: May I say just a word -- talks about propaganda for Al Jazeera -- thank you for what you're doing. People say Al Jazeera fanned the flames here by bringing the fact that democracy is in existence and that people are being suppressed. That's what we need; we need more communication in the world. It's not Al Jazeera's fault...

RADDATZ: They watched Tunisia...

DONALDSON: ... that Mubarak is under a siege now.

WILL: On the other hand, we in the media tend to think the media drives the world. And I have a feeling this would be going on across this region regardless of the media.

DONALDSON: But the world drives the world to the extent the world knows about what's happening everywhere else. That's what media does.

TAPPER: We only have 30 seconds. Abed, quick question for you, OK? This new guy, this new vice president, Suleiman, is he going -- is his appointment going to satisfy the Egyptian street?

FOUKARA: Well, two things. The fact that Mubarak has appointed a vice president for the first time in his 30 years is a significant event. I mean, remember, Mubarak has said several times, I will continue to rule Egypt literally until the last breath in my body. So the fact is he has appointed this guy -- that he's military from the old guard is a different story.

TAPPER: All right. The roundtable will continue in the green room at abcnews.com/thisweek, where you can also find our fact checks, in conjunction with PolitiFact.

Christiane will be back with a final word live from Cairo after this.


AMANPOUR: Back live in Cairo now.

And curfew has fallen, and yet thousands of people are still in the streets, still in Liberation Square, and so is the army. During my many years of covering this part of the world, like so many people, I've wondered how change, if ever, would come here? Would it be by evolution or revolution? And what, as we asked before, what would it look like?

Well, at the very least, now it seems a tipping point has been reached with this uprising. At the very least, fear, generations of fear have been shaken off, and the people have raised their voices for freedom. You know, when this uprising started on Tuesday, President Obama was delivering his State of the Union address, extolling America as having been founded on the strength of an idea. Well, now the people here say that they, too, are grabbing that idea of democracy, of self- representation in government, and of economic opportunity.

It was here in Cairo during his first year as president that Obama came to speak to the Muslim world. It was his first interview that he gave to an Arab television station where he said that the United States could no longer afford to have yet another generation of Muslim youth who see the United States as the enemy.

Well, now here people are rising. They want, they say, democracy. They say that they have extended their hand, they've put their hand out, and they hope the United States is ready to grab it.

That's all for "This Week." I'm Christiane Amanpour live in Cairo. Stay with ABC News for continuing coverage of this breaking story.