1. How will Mubarak handle the transition to new power?
The best case isn't great, and the worst case borders on the unthinkable. Mubarak has to play five-dimensional chess: figure out how to relinquish authority without creating a vacuum that leads to a takeover by a hostile force; evaluate the interests of the military; maintain good terms with the United States; abandon the dream of having his son succeed him; and protect his legacy. And he must do all that from a position of extreme weakness.
2. What will the demonstrators do? Will more people come out?
Driving this story: the people in the streets. So far, nothing has deterred them -- not the police, not the curfews, not the military, not Mubarak's speech. If the crowds continue to grow and keep their rhetoric and actions focused on aspirations of democracy and freedom, they will effectively leave the government no choice but to change -- no matter what any president or government does.
3. Will the army fire on the demonstrators?
The army's apparent unwillingness to suppress dissent is a surprise and an indication that the military senses the public mood for change. It is probably in the United States' interest for the future Egyptian government to have a strong military presence, or, at least, military backing, If the unrest triggers a violent response, the military will lose some of its standing in Egypt as an admired and respected institution. That will complicate matters for Obama.
4. Will the Obama administration make clear that American aid cannot go to a government that shoots peaceful demonstrators?
The President and Secretary of State have been remarkably outspoken in criticizing the actions of the Mubarak government and demanding democratic reform. Some critics will say it is too little, too late, but it is quite a change from the rhetoric of just a week ago.
Threatening to cut off military assistance and foreign aid to Egypt if the government starts to use significant force against the demonstrators would be a grave and risky move, but one the Obama administration might feel pressured to make.
5. Will there be similar threats from Congress?
The administration is vulnerable to criticism from both the right and the left for failing to champion human rights and democracy over stability and status quo. So far, congressional condemnation has been muted. But the situation is in flux on the ground in Egypt and in the halls of the Capitol.
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