As Cairo re-opened banks and businesses today amid a tireless pro-democracy movement, there were a few indications some Egyptian government officials appear ready to try to find a dignified and respectful way for Hosni Mubarak to resign with a degree of honor, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the discussions.
How long it will take to implement such a plan remains unknown, but Mubarak's departure is a centerpiece of all-party talks between the government and factions representing the pro-democracy protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood, the sources indicated.
"I can only keep saying what I have said previously, that it's extremely fluid," said a European diplomatic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Closer to home, the Obama administration is showing signs of becoming increasingly frustrated with the tactics of a tone-deaf Mubarak, whose strong-arm tactics carried out by lawless goon squads have resulted in near universal sympathy for the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Near universal sympathy is the key phase there. A handful of Arab monarchs, multi-national capitalists, some but not all neocon ideologues and a few nostalgic politicians, diplomats and scholars are still urging President Obama to prop up the doomed dictator.
Obama's own special envoy, who met this week with Mubarak and newly installed Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman believes Mubarak should not be ousted as he begins his promised democratic transition.
"The President must stay in office in order to steer those changes through,"Wisner told the Munich Security Conference.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Mubarak should be treated with respect for his loyalty to the U.S. and his role as a Middle East peace broker. "I think President Mubarak needs to be treated as he deserved over the years, because he has been a good friend," Cheney said at the ceremony marking 100 years since President Ronald Reagan's birth.
Even Tea Party hostess Sarah Palin, with her vast knowledge of foreign policy (she can still see Russia from her house), took a swipe at the Obama administration's Egypt diplomacy, borrowing from a campaign ad that Hillary Clinton used against Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary.
“It’s a difficult situation,” Palin said in an interview this weekend with the Christian Broadcasting Network. “This is that 3 a.m. White House phone call, and it seems for many of us trying to get that information from our leader in the White House, it seems that that call went right to the answering machine.”
Obama has erased much of the doubt (even cast in the columns of this web log) where his heart lies in this struggle for human rights, a good living and the freedoms that are enjoyed in the West and next door with Egypt's ally Israel. The President wants Mubarak to go.
In a role he has become comfortable with, Vice President Biden pressed Egyptian Vice President Omar Soleiman "for the need for a concrete reform agenda, a clear timeline, and immediate steps that demonstrate to the public and the opposition that the Egyptian government is committed to reform," the White House said in a statement.
"Vice President Biden asked about progress in beginning credible, inclusive negotiations for Egypt’s transition to a democratic government to address the aspirations of the Egyptian people," the statement added.
For his part, Obama discussed "the importance of an orderly, peaceful transition, beginning now," with key allies, who also wield influence with the Egyptian government, the White House said. Obama spoke by phone with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (see also previous item below).
Cameron warned the longer it takes for a transitional government to form in Egypt, the greater the likelihood of extremists hijacking the pro-democracy movement. "We need change, reform and transition to get stability," Cameron said at the Munich conference. "The longer that is put off, the more likely we are to get an Egypt that we wouldn't welcome."