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THE SITUATION ROOM
Mubarak Will Step Down; U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner Top on List Advising President Obama
Aired February 1, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, breaking news -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak bows to pressure from his people and from the United States, announcing that he will not seek re-election in September.
But will anything less than his immediate departure satisfy the massive crowds in Cairo and beyond, all demanding change -- change right now.
And the protest cries from Egypt are echoing across the region, prompting Jordan's king to take some dramatic action himself.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: That's the sound of tens of thousands -- maybe hundreds of thousands of protesters in Egypt reacting with outrage only moments ago to President Hosni Mubarak's announcement that he will not seek re-election in September. They want him out now -- now. And they're chanting, We're not leaving!"
But in a taped statement broadcast just a little while ago, President Mubarak said he'll finish out his term working for the reforms protesters are demanding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOSNI MUBARAK, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): I've spent enough time in serving Egypt. I am now careful to conclude my work for Egypt by presenting Egypt to the next government in a constitutional way, which will protect Egypt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Arwa Damon is right in the middle of that massive crowd in Cairo, demonstrating in Tahrir Square. She's joining us of the people -- Arwa, I take it the reaction has not been necessarily positive, the statement coming from President Mubarak, he won't seek re-election.
Is it too little too late?
Is that what the crowd is saying?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the crowd is simply saying that this is entirely unacceptable. As the president was speaking, there was an eerie silence with people hushing one another. And then as he made that statement about the fact that he would be staying in office, but would not seek re-election, people broke out into screams and shouts of outrage. They removed their shoes and began waving them in the air. That's the ultimate insult in the Arab world, shouting that he was a liar, that they did not trust him, that if he stayed in power, even if it was just until September, it would give him ample time to continue the very same atrocities that he's exhibited for the last 30 years.
A woman we spoke to saying that we've heard these types of empty promises from the president for decades. We don't believe him now and we're never going to believe him in the future. There is only one thing that the crowd that was gathered there intensely watching this want, and that is for the president to leave now.
The fury that we saw there after his announcement was unmatched as to anything that we have seen from the group of demonstrators in the past. They were truly livid. They said that his statement was considered an insult, that this was evidence that he did not respect the Egyptian people and that he does not respect himself.
We can now still hear their shouts echoing across the square -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is there any indication, Arwa, based on what you're hearing from people inside that crowd, that not only will they continue tomorrow and the next day and certainly Friday, but at some point, they will try to storm one of his presidential palaces?
DAMON: Well, Wolf, one of the demonstrators, in a complete fit of rage -- you could just see it right across his face, screaming that if the president did not step down, he was going to have to save the people, that they, on Friday, would be marching to the presidential palace, that they would be relentless in their demands. They are so angry, so fed up, they say, with the way that they have been treated for the last 30 years. And now the Egyptians have finally found their own voice, people are telling us. They have come to realize that they can change, they can take destiny into their own hands. You know, they just need for the president to step down.
They are done with this type of harsh military rule. And it's not enough that he says that he will not seek re-election in September. They want him out now. And they want anyone associated with him out now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I guess that they're -- they're sensing weakness on the part of President Mubarak.
So what I hear you saying, also, is that even if he were to step down and let the vice president, Omar Suleiman, whom he appointed as vice president only over the weekend, would that satisfy this crowd, do you think?
DAMON: no. People are saying that that appointment is entirely unacceptable given that Omar Suleiman was his right-hand man. He is known to have a military background. These demonstrators are saying that they want to give what they're calling true democracy, free elections, a chance. They want to have political parties come together, hold an election, the people go out, cast their vote. And then when elected officials do not perform, they say that they will also be holding them accountable.
There's one point that has been reiterated to us and I'll give you the example of what one young man said. He said, look, us in this crowd, we're very different people. We come from all walks of Egyptian life. And we do definitely have our differences in our opinions. But there is one thing that unites all of us and that is our call for the president to step down now. He said not today -- not -- not tomorrow, but we have to have this happen today.
BLITZER: And President Mubarak showing absolutely no sign he's ready to step down. He was defiant on that notion. He said he won't seek re-election. That election is scheduled for September, even if they were to move it up. He says he will stay on as president until the next election in Egypt, whenever that might take place.
Arwa, don't go too far away.
Ivan Watson is also in Cairo for us -- Ivan, tell our viewers where you are and what you're seeing.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'm on a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square. And Arwa is probably somewhere in the throngs beneath me.
Now, we also heard this reaction, the boos that were coming out, the chants that have been coming out. You can see that people seem angry. We've also been on the phone with some of the Egyptian opposition parties, trying to get their reaction to President Mubarak's speech.
One man we spoke with was Ayman Nour, who ran against President Mubarak in 2005 in presidential elections. Later, he was thrown in jail, after losing that election, of course.
And he said that he was very depressed about President Mubarak's speech, that he -- saying that he would not run for election again said -- meant nothing new, that that was a given, that an 82-year-old man would not be running for office again. And he, Ayman Nour went on to say that the crowd in Tahrir Square clearly was just fired up even more and that this would not meet the people's demands and said that there was no guarantee in President Mubarak's speech that there would not be cheating in the next elections the likes of which we're seeing here in Egypt in the parliamentary elections in November and December, in both rounds of that, which were widely considered to have been fraudulent. And opposition parties, several of them, boycotted that election.
We also spoke with The Muslim Brotherhood. They have rejected -- they say they're very disappointed with President Mubarak's speech, as has the All-Nasseri Party. Those are three of six parties that have tried to come together with a five point plan of demands for President Mubarak.
He, in his speech, I might add, Wolf, said that there was an offer yesterday to open up a dialogue with opposition parties, but they rejected that offer to pursue their own agenda -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ivan, in all the people -- all the people in Egypt you're speaking to and our reporter reporters and producers, is there any support at all left for President Mubarak or is that over?
WATSON: No. I think it's far too early to say there is no support left for this man. There -- there were some small demonstrations today, eyewitnesses said, in favor of Hosni Mubarak. And he has run a system of patronage here for some time. I'm sure there -- there are many vested interests that would not like to see what the demonstrators here are demanding with this sign back here that says, "the people demand the removal of the regime."
That will definitely hurt people whose livelihood depend on this system -- people who have been enriched by this system.
One point, perhaps, to add, the 31st of January was supposed to be the day that civil servants' salaries were paid. They were not paid. And there have been promises made by government officials that those salaries will, in fact, be paid tomorrow.
So within those ranks, those cadres, there must be people who are still supporting the embattled Egyptian president.
BLITZER: Ivan Watson is going to be staying with us. All of our reporters are there on the scene. You heard Arwa, Ivan. Anderson Cooper is there as well, Nic Robertson. We're going to check in with all of them.
President Obama, meanwhile, is meeting with his top national security advisers. We're going to go -- have much more on what the White House is doing.
What's been the White House role in all these dramatic developments in Egypt?
The Obama administration putting pressure on the Egyptian president to step down.
Stay with us for that.
Also, Egypt's control of a vital oil shipping lane. If the crisis continues, we could all feel the impact. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is certainly following the break news, all the developments here in the United States, as well as in Egypt.
Jack is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Some estimates put the number of Egyptian protesters who are demanding reforms in that country at two million. It's worth remembering, as we discuss this story, that the United States helps control the purse strings in Egypt. American taxpayers give $1.5 billion a year in foreign aid to Egypt. That's second only to Israel.
Although the White House has said it's reviewing this aid depending on the Egyptian military's behavior, one top Republican says now is not the time to threaten to withhold any of this money.
Congresswoman Kay Granger, who chairs the House subcommittee in charge of foreign aid, says we shouldn't use the money as a stick to try to force Egypt into reforms. Granger says most of the $1.5 billion goes to the military in Egypt, which seems to be a stabilizing force among the demonstrators. Granger says Congress should only consider withholding that aid if there's evidence that U.S. military equipment is being used improperly.
Several top Democrats are on the same page, saying the U.S. should remain committed to assisting Egypt. They point to the close relationship between the two countries. Nevertheless, some experts think that cutting financial aid is the best way to get quick results. A bipartisan group of former officials says the administration ought to suspend all aid to Egypt until the government agrees to elections as soon as possible, allows banned candidates to run for office, immediately lifts the state of emergency that's been in place for decades, releases political prisoners and allows for freedom of the media and assembly. It's a long list.
It's probably not going to happen any time soon.
Here's the question -- should the United States withhold any of its $1.5 billion in annual financial aid to Egypt?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and give us your thoughts -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack.
Thanks very much.
A good question, as usual.
CNN's Anderson Cooper is joining us now on the phone.
Anderson, first of all, where are you right now? I assume you're in Cairo, but tell us what you're seeing and hearing.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" (via telephone): Well, I'm not too far from Liberation Square, and you can hear behind me certainly the call, the anger which you've been hearing from Arwa Damon and I've been walking about.
But I just interviewed Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei who is outraged by President Mubarak's statement tonight. He says this is a trick. Those were his words, a trick. He said this is an act of deception by President Mubarak, that he -- that it's an insult to those people who are in the square at this very hour, it's an insult to the Egyptian people.
He is completely not accepting what -- what President Mubarak has planned to stay in power through September. He believes this is just a trick designed to keep the president in power, Wolf.
BLITZER: What does he want to happen? I assume he wants President Mubarak to step down immediately, but then what?
COOPER: Well, he wants President Mubarak to step down, and he wants a -- as do other groups, some sort of national unity government that will be a caretaker government until elections can be held, until more Democratic institutions can -- can be formed in this country.
As you know, President Mubarak has done a very efficient job of eliminating any real opposition in this country over the last 30 years, so there's not a lot of Democratic institutions. There's not a lot of legitimate opposition groups that people have gotten behind, so there needs to be some sort of time, according to Dr. ElBaradei, to grow those groups and to get -- to get people who are going to run for president.
But the idea that Hosni Mubarak would stay in power until that time is unacceptable to him, and he says to many of the others in the protest movement that he's been speaking with.
BLITZER: Mohamed ElBaradei is the Nobel Peace Prize, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Did he indicate to you, Anderson, that he would like to serve if not lead the caretaker government that would be in power until they can organize some elections?
COOPER: You know, he says he wants to do anything that will help Egypt become a modern state in line with the rest of the world. And certainly, you know, I asked him about whether he would run for president if and when, you know, transition to democracy becomes real. You know, he says that that's something that certainly would be considered, but it's not a prime focus of his right now. That right now his focus is not only to get Hosni Mubarak to step down, but to help Egypt in whatever way he can.
BLITZER: Take us a little bit behind the scenes, Anderson. Were you out on the streets all day, you spoke to a lot of Egyptians. Give us your impressions of what you saw on this day.
COOPER: Well, you know, I spent most of the day in Liberation Square, and, you know, a lot of our correspondents there have been giving excellent reports about what it was like.
You know, it's important to remember that this is a bottom-up revolution, to the extent that it's a revolution. This is something that's happening from the bottom up, not from the few opposition groups that actually do exist here, not from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a long history here, not from someone like Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei who, as you well know, has lived overseas for much of the last 30 years.
This is something which has started with young people. It surprised most -- most people in Egypt. It surprised most Egypt observers outside the country.
And it's important to remember that I think in the days ahead because the people who are in the square at this very hour define curfew, define the president's rules and still shouting out into the night right now, those are the people who really started there and who are refusing to -- to back down, are refusing to let the status quo remain, and refusing to give in to fears.
There is fear in many parts of the Egypt, among older people, among people who are more established about chaos, about what may happen. And President Mubarak is certainly setting this up as a choice between stability and chaos. The people in the square will say that it not the case. Those are not the only two choices.
BLITZER: All right, Anderson, I know you've got to run, but you'll be back in the next hour with us.
Anderson Cooper reporting live from Cairo.
On the backdrop of President Mubarak's announcement, Yemen's president is now calling an emergency meeting of his government. Will change in Egypt reverberate throughout the Middle East?
Stay with us.
BLITZER: They are following the breaking news at the White House. Certainly all of the breaking news, keen interest -- keen U.S. interests involved right now.
Let's go to our White House correspondent Dan Lothian.
I think from the president, the vice president, secretary of state, they are all nervously watching what's happening, Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are. In fact, earlier this afternoon when those remarks were made by President Mubarak, we were told by White House officials that President Obama and others were meeting and this national security meeting here at the White House did watch the speech on television.
This is a White House that has been trying to carefully walk a fine line in this longstanding relationship with Egypt. And as you know, Wolf, they sent Frank Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt to do two things. First of all, to reinforce this longstanding relationship between the United States and Egypt, but also to deliver a dose of reality.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner is only one man in the circle of top outside experts advising President Obama, but he has a powerful voice to deliver the administration's message of an orderly transition.
P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We've sent a very clear message to Egypt publicly and privately. So it's -- this is not about a lack of communication but obviously Ambassador Wisner will have the ability to reinforce what we've already said.
LOTHIAN: He was dispatched by the White House on Monday, met with Hosni Mubarak and sources say gently tried to nudge him to step aside.
The State Department says Wisner, who served in Egypt under Presidents Reagan and Bush 41, has a history with the leadership there, and his meetings gives the White House a window into their minds.
CROWLEY: To gain a perspective on what they are thinking and what their ideas are in terms of the process that we've clearly called for.
LOTHIAN: As Egypt's embattled President Hosni Mubarak struggles to maintain control and order amid unrest, the writing has been on the wall for some time, Ambassador Wisner said, on CNN's "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT."
FRANK WISNER, U.S. ENVOY TO EGYPT: I don't think anyone and certainly not the Egyptian government is completely taken by surprise. We've known that the end of the Mubarak period would be with us in some reasonable timeframe. We've been thinking in these terms.
LOTHIAN: Now so far there has been no official reaction to President Mubarak's remarks from the White House. There was supposed to be a briefing this afternoon, that was delayed. We're waiting to find out if in fact we'll still have a briefing, or if President Obama himself will come to the microphone -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We have just heard, Dan, you probably haven't heard it yet, but we've just been informed that the president will in fact speak out in the next hour. We'll, of course, have live coverage here at CNN. President Obama getting ready to address what's going on in the situation in Egypt, indeed throughout the Middle East. We'll have live coverage. We'll await the president of the United States.
Dan Lothian at the White House for us. It's a banned Islamist group with a significant following in Egypt, so what role will the Muslim Brotherhood play when President Hosni Mubarak leaves? We'll assess.
And we're following other key developments in Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria. We're going there live as all of the breaking news out of Egypt and the Middle East continues.
BLITZER: All right, you can hear the crowd. They are angry at Liberation Square, Tahrir Square in Cairo right now, not pleased with what they heard from the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. They are angry that he says he wants to stay until the new elections take place in September. Maybe they could move them up a little bit, but they want President Mubarak out, and they want him out tonight or tomorrow, but they are restless right now.
Let's assess what's going on with a real expert on the Middle East. Professor Fouad Ajami is joining us, he is director of the Middle East Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies here in Washington.
Fouad, this is a tense situation right now. The crowd wants Mubarak out. Give us your reaction. What are we likely to see in the next few days?
PROF. FOUAD AJAMI, DIRECTOR OF MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, Wolf, this is really an important story. I mean, I'm awed at what the people on the scene for you are reporting from Cairo. History is moving with amazing velocity, and all these concessions that Mubarak is making, they would have seemed grand some days ago. And I think what you said, the classic formulation, the dilemma of despots, too little, too late.
And this is the dilemma of President Mubarak. He was late on to this, and the surprise that he's had, that his people wanted him gone, that all those concessions he makes now seem paltry. And there is something almost pathetic about this man who was such a despot, who terrified his people, now is basically pleading his case that he wants to die on his country's soil. I take that seriously from him. He doesn't want to end up like Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, but this is where he is today, and today was the tipping point.
Today was the day where Mubarak thought we would see what exactly does the opposition have. He wasn't sure. I believe today was a critical day in this confrontation of this dictator and his population.
BLITZER: You don't think he'll do what Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia did, when the riots and the demonstrations, the protesters started in Tunisia. He fled to Saudi Arabia and gave up power. You don't think President Mubarak is going to do that.
BLITZER: So you don't think he's going to do what Ben Ali, the president of Tunisia, did when the riots and the demonstrations, the protesters started in Tunisia? He fled to Saudi Arabia and gave up power. You don't think President Mubarak is going to do that?
AJAMI: Well, you know, Wolf, I'm not going to -- no one should wager a bet on this. I mean, as the crowd has had it -- and you know Arab cities and Arab society well -- they basically were chanting to Mubarak, "Go away. The plane is waiting for you."
They wanted him to unite with his buddy, with his friend, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. But this is really for him -- this was the day he waited for.
I believe the crowd was discovering its power. Mubarak was discovering his own weakness and his own vulnerability, and the vulnerability of his own regime. And you could see people are moving away from him, even his own courtiers.
On one of your broadcasts earlier there was Amr Moussa, who was his foreign ministers, one of his big apologists, now showing him the door. And he will discover there is no loyalty in these kinds of situations.
BLITZER: Is he living in a bubble? Does he not understand what's going on? Do you think they are protecting him from what's happening on the streets?
AJAMI: You know, Wolf, I think he's been living in a bubble for about 10 to 12 years. I've always said, and I've watched this, that this man had 12 good years and 18 terrible years, the insulation of Mubarak from the realities of Egypt, the insulation of the Mubarak family and the Mubarak dynasty from the dust, from the poverty, from the despair, from the anger of the Egyptians.
And once the anger came, I mean, let's remember it was an occasion, an odd occasion. A police day on January 25 -- a police day -- turned into a day of anger, and the crowd began to sense both its own efficacy and the vulnerability of the man behind the curtain.
He is truly behind the curtain. And when you see him giving these speeches, you realize -- I mean, he's never been a good speaker in the best of days. There's nothing moving. There's nothing stirring about him. No one believes his promises, and no one now really believes his threats.
BLITZER: Let's look at the region for a moment --
BLITZER: -- because the new government -- King Abdullah in Jordan announced today he's forming a new government. In Yemen, they have got a crisis going on. There's serious problems for Gadhafi in Libya, maybe even for Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
What's happening in the Middle East right now?
AJAMI: Well, it's reckoning time for the dictators. I mean, when you take a look at the Arab world, the realities of the Arab world, young populations, the youngest populations in the world, on the whole old rulers, not in Jordan and Syria, as you know, but in the other places, and then you look at the economic situations, you look at the data about torture, that eight of the Arab governments practice torture on people on a regular basis, on political prisoners, so the Arab states have failed their people.
They are security states. They are terrorist states. And I think now the people are done with them.
They wish to bring them to account. But we should not underestimate the counterrevolution, if you will. There is a revolt in the region, but the counterrevolution will also be heard from.
And in the case of someone like King Abdullah, when he says, I want to change prime minister, what difference does that make? Everyone knows the prime ministers in Jordan come and go, that the power lies in the palace. And that's, I think, what we are witnessing today.
BLITZER: Is he in trouble, King Abdullah, in Jordan?
AJAMI: You know, I don't know, Wolf. I mean, I think, fundamentally, every one of these Arab countries -- I mean, there is an Arab malady, there is an Arab reality, and there's this tsunami across the Arab world. But each Arab country is different.
I mean, take, for example, the upheaval of Tunisia. It skipped a country. It skipped Libya. The penal colony, that's what Libya, the penal colony that Gadhafi has constructed for his people. Forty-two years of buffoonery and terror, it's an odd mix in the case of Libya.
I think Jordan could ride out the storm. The Hashemite Monarchy is not so hated. But this young king is not like his father.
His father had this intimacy with the people of Jordan. The language he commanded was beautiful, lyrical Arabic. The young king is different, and I think this young king has been spending too much time -- he and his wife have been spending too much time abroad and at Davos and at such international forums.
These people have to go back to their populations. They need to bond with their populations. They need to speak to them. And the day of terrifying people with the security services, or the Muhabarad (ph), the secret police, I think we are now coming to this moment of reckoning.
BLITZER: We're going to have you stand by, Fouad Ajami, of Johns Hopkins University. I want you to stand by with us.
We're waiting for the president of the United States. He's about to address the American people on what's going on.
He's been meeting all day with his top national security advisers. We'll hear from President Obama. He also sent a special envoy to talk directly to President Mubarak, the former U.S. ambassador in Egypt, Frank Wisner. We're going to get a lot more on that. Certainly the impact of the unfolding upheaval in Egypt could be felt in a lot of ways, especially at the gas pump. If a key Egyptian shipping lane chokes down -- and that's possible -- will we see oil choke off to a trickle, and the price? What's going on?
But up next, more evidence that the disconnect in the Arab isn't necessarily confined to Egypt's borders. What's happening in the region? Much more on this part of the story when we come back.
And remember, President Obama is getting ready to address the American people on Egypt and the Middle East. We're standing by for his remarks. Those are coming up.
BLITZER: The White House just told us the president of the United States will be addressing the situation of Egypt to the American people. We're standing by to hear what President Obama has to say. Stand by with us.
In the wake of protests in Egypt, and President Mubarak's sudden announcement that he will step down, won't seek re-election, change is rippling, in fact, throughout the region.
CNN's Becky Anderson is joining us now from London with more on what's happening elsewhere in the Arab world.
As Fouad Ajami just told us, Becky, this is a tsunami potentially.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes. The winds have changed, one assumes, aren't going to stop on the streets of Egypt, where, as you say, we've seen quite historic scenes tonight.
Let's not forget though -- and you've been discussing this with your previous guest -- in Jordan, King Abdullah has sacked his entire government, Wolf, after thousands took to the streets there at the weekend calling for reform. And we spoke earlier to the prince of Jordan, who is the king's nephew, and asked him whether the change in the Jordanian government will be enough and what he thought the new prime minister should do next.
This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE HASSAN BIN TALAL, JORDAN: He is very aware of the need to modernize, to develop an independent judiciary. It's the role of the judiciary and of the legislature, but more than that, to develop a third domain of government, private sector, and civil society at large.
We simply cannot continue to host seven million people -- we would have been 2.5 million by 1990 in Jordan -- without recognizing our responsibilities to all categories of refugees, to the poor, to the disenfranchised. And this is what is upsetting people. Fourteen to 24, as I said, 100 million people out of jobs in the Arab world by 2020. We can't talk about investment in arms and triumphalist economy without recognizing that we have to start doing something for people, enabling them before it's too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Yes. Interesting stuff. That, of course, is the king's uncle, the prince of Jordan.
We also spoke to the Yemeni foreign minister earlier today, Wolf. Protesters there have planned a day of rage for Thursday. They seem to be fairly relaxed about what will happen, but it does remain to be seen whether they will hit the streets with anything like the numbers that we've seen in Egypt. And certainly the Arab world galvanized by the prospect of change -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Becky, this is going -- it started in Tunisia, Egypt, now Yemen and maybe Jordan. What about Syria? What about -- could it spread out to a non-Arab country, Iran? We saw almost two years ago, lots of street demonstrations in Iran. It didn't materialize in an overthrow of the government, but it looks like the inspiration for these demonstrations could spread dramatically.
ANDERSON: Yes. I mean, it's interesting to see what will happen in Iran, of course, because it would be the reverse to a certain extent of what was happening now. We've seen what happened in Iran over the last couple of years, and those protests very much put down on the streets.
This has been a move which has been galvanized by social media, as we know, across Tunisia, in Egypt, and to a certain extent in Yemen. We do know the social media sort of galvanized protests, but were put down very much in Iran. So it does remain to be seen what happens there.
On the issue of Iran, of course, we heard Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel yesterday warning that what he was seeing happening in Egypt could happen in Iran, and what he was talking about effectively was, are we looking at a repeat of 1979 and the fall of the shah in Iran? And is that what we're seeing now in Egypt?
However, as we know tonight, we're not seeing the end, by any stretch of the imagination, of the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak. He has said that he will not stand for re-election, but to a certain extent, Wolf, as we know, that was something that we knew already. He was never going to stand for re-election in September. Certainly, his son was looking to do so.
The point tonight is that these protesters were looking to see the end of Hosni Mubarak. They wanted to see him out of the country. And at this point he says that he has served his country well over the years, and that he will die in Egypt. And that is not what they wanted to hear -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I keep hearing that Gamal Mubarak, the son, is in London where you are, Becky. If you catch up with him, let us know. We'd love to get him on the air and get his reaction.
Becky Anderson watching what's going on from her vantage point in London.
Thank you, Becky.
Inside the "March of Millions." We're with the demonstrators as they take to the streets demanding change.
And we're also tracking a huge winter storm, by the way, here in the United States, that's already dumped record amounts of snow in some areas. Thousands of flights have been cancelled. Thousands, and we'll show you where it's heading. That's coming up next.
Remember, we're waiting to hear from President Obama as well. He's getting ready to address the nation on what's going on in Egypt.
BLITZER: All right. You're looking at a live picture of the White House. The president of the United States getting ready to address the nation on the situation in Egypt, a dramatic situation unfolding in Egypt.
Momentarily, we're told, fairly soon, the president will go before the cameras and speak. He's been meeting with his top national security advisers on Egypt for most of this day.
Deafening cheers erupting in the streets of Cairo after the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak announced a little while ago on state television he will not seek another term, but the protesters there remain very angry. They want Mubarak to leave. They don't want him to stay until new elections in September, even if the elections are moved up earlier.
Our Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is in another key city, the second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria. He's joining us now live from Alexandria.
I assume the people protesting in Alexandria, Nic, are just as angry at Mubarak as the people in Cairo.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the vast majority of them are. We are getting some reports of some kind of incident, security-type incident, violent incident where some of the protesters are camped out here in Alexandria. We're checking out those reports right now. We can't confirm exactly what's happening.
But the vast majority of people here have demanded that President Mubarak step down. Talking to some people earlier today, however, they said, well, perhaps if he just said he wasn't going to run and called elections soon -- these were people at the protest -- that will be enough. And other people told me they were concerned about the transition of power.
They said Mubarak has to go, but not right now. We need a safe pair of hands to get us through this process.
So what you've got between these different elements and protesters is differences of opinion, and it's going to be very interesting to see how that plays out. The dominant opinion is for him to go immediately, but there are others in there who are happier for a smoother transition of power -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting. And the demonstrations in Alexandria today, were they similar to the ones previous days, or much bigger?
ROBERTSON: Oh, much bigger, Wolf. They were coming in from different directions. And it was very interesting.
The location that they chose to have the final gathering, it was a few hundred yards from the main army base in Alexandria. Some of the soldiers have been told to take their heavy weapons off their armored personnel carriers. They have been told not to shoot at the protesters. But this seemed an effort by the organizers to gather in very close proximity to one of the main government institutions that's still functioning here, the army, just to sort of show their presence and their strength.
There was never any intention or fear for a clash, but it was a very strong message for the army that these protesters are close by, and they are in big numbers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Is the police force in Alexandria evident? Are they on the streets, or have they simply disappeared? I'm not talking about the military. I'm talking about the police.
ROBERTSON: Sure, Wolf. A couple of police were seen on the streets here yesterday. They were running -- doing traffic duties, but they were only located where the army was.
It's very clear here that the police in Alexandria at least don't appear to want to be anywhere where they don't have a backup of a large security force, i.e. the army. So they are not out on the streets, they're not providing security to the neighborhoods.
I'm looking just over there by the hotel where we're located. There's still the vigilante groups on the street corners. They're everywhere. They are only a few hundred yards down the road here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Did the government shut down all the mobile phone networks today as they said they would?
ROBERTSON: It was a mixed bag. Sometimes e-mail was working on some services. Most phones seem to continue to work. The Internet services were still down, but it just seemed that they sort of changed some of the settings, so services that worked yesterday didn't work today. It wasn't as an effective mobile data network service today as it has been previously, but not a complete shutdown by any means -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nic. We're going to stay in touch with you. Nic Robertson is in Alexandria, Egypt, for us.
Remember, we're standing by to hear from the president of the United States. We're told he'll be addressing the nation from the White House fairly soon. We'll of course have live coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM once he speaks on Egypt. He's been meeting with his top national security advisers most of this day.
Should the U.S. withhold any of its $1.5 billion in financial aid to Egypt? That's Jack Cafferty's question. He'll read your e-mail. That's coming up.
But up next, oil, Egypt and the Suez Canal, how that combination and the current crisis could translate to a big hit at the fuel pump.
BLITZER: We're told the president will make a major statement on Egypt, the situation in the Middle East. President Obama getting ready to address the nation on that subject, having met most of this day with his top national security advisers on the situation in Egypt.
The crisis in Egypt has certainly driven oil prices to a two-year high, although they backed off a little bit today.
Let's bring in Lisa Sylvester. She's taking a look at the situation for us.
Egypt, not necessarily a big oil producer, but it does have a big influence on the price of oil.
SYLVESTER: It certainly does, Wolf.
The oil that Egypt producers is actually for domestic consumption, but there are concerns over Egypt's Suez Canal. And here's a breakdown.
Eight percent of global sea trade passes through there, 1.8 million barrels of oil is shipped from the Middle East to the rest of the world. Thirty-five thousand ships travel through there every year, and the uncertainty is driving up gas prices.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Here is Egypt, not a major exporter of oil. But the real concern is the Suez Canal, which Egypt controls. It is a key shipping lane that connects the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
The political crisis in Egypt has so far not disrupted the flow of goods through the region, but even the mere possibility has rattled investors. We sat down with Jamie Webster, oil analyst with PFC Energy, who predicts higher gas prices.
JAMIE WEBSTER, OIL ANALYST, PFC ENERGY: This event kind of helped push up the global oil price above $100 today. It was up a couple of dollars the day before.
There were already some pressures on it that was fueling sentiment to bring it higher. And this just raises a concern primarily because of the Suez Canal that we're kind of at a moment where there's some potential for supply disruptions.
SYLVESTER (on camera): Now possibly $4 a gallon?
WEBSTER: It's a potential. I don't want to raise it too much and say yes, we're having $4 a gallon this summer. More likely, we're probably going to be in the $3, mid-$3 range.
SYLVESTER: A lot of families would say even that's quite a bit.
(voice-over): Talk of higher gas prices in the U.S. has Darius Stewart's (ph) attention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The prices is already high. And to go up, it's going to be a real strain, I know, for a lot of people, especially with the economy the way that it is.
SYLVESTER: If the canal is closed, oil tankers and other shipping traffic would have to travel around the Horn of Africa. But there is another worry. Could the unrest in Egypt catch on in other countries like the oil-rich Saudi Arabia?
WEBSTER: Saudi Arabia has a couple of things that Tunisia and Egypt do not have. One, there is a broad support for the current regime. King Abdullah is fairly well liked within the region. He has done a very good job. And the Saudi infrastructure is set up to have fairly expansive (INAUDIBLE) networks.
And so a lot of people are really -- have a voice in -- maybe not a democratic voice in terms of what we view in the West, but they have a voice in terms of an economic voice. They are benefiting economically from the regime.
SYLVESTER: Now, in Egypt, though, in addition to the Suez Canal, there is also a pipeline near the canal. The Sumed pipeline carries 2.5 million barrels a day from the oil-producing countries to Europe, and analysts say the pipeline and its pumping stations are another vulnerable target -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much. Good explanation.
CNN's Anderson Cooper is standing by. He's live in Egypt, covering all the breaking news for us. We're going to check in with Anderson when we come back.