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THE SITUATION ROOM
Egypt's 'Day of Departure'; Mubarak: Ready to Reach Out?; Mixed Signals About Unemployment
Aired February 4, 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: Thanks very much.
Here are the latest developments in Egypt happening now. A rising death toll on what was called a Day of Departure in Egypt. Massive crowds are peacefully rallying around the country demanding the fall of a dictator. But outside Cairo's Tahrir Square, there are fierce new clashes erupting between gangs of pro-and anti-government demonstrators. We're going there.
Also, some journalists now attempting to head back into the streets after two days of attacks, arrests and harassment, severely paralyzing their ability to broadcast on the air.
And President Obama issues his strongest message yet to the Egyptian government -- warning -- and I'm quoting him now -- "Going back to the old days is not going to work."
Let's start with the bloody fighting right now between opposing protesters. That fighting spreading to new parts of Cairo.
CNN's Ivan Watson is joining us now with the very latest -- Ivan -- Ivan, I know you're in Tahrir Square. And it looks like there's some significant crowds still gathered, even though it's now just past midnight.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Thousands of people here, more than we've seen in the past. And -- and a really a remarkable turnaround here, considering that throughout the day on -- and night on Wednesday and Thursday, this was basically a war zone. And on Friday, it was a giant political rally made possible, in part, by the Egyptian military, providing a bit more security, and apparently holding back some of the pro-government demonstrators.
That said, while the scene here has been peaceful -- there's been music, there have been speeches, there has been poetry and dancing in the square, in the side streets branching off of Tahrir Square, we have seen pitched battles taking place between gangs of pro-and anti- government demonstrators and, again, these tactics almost medieval, where the -- the teenagers, the youth go out with these makeshift shields and barricades and claim one street after another, block by block, hurling stones at each other and claiming territory and then rushing their wounded back to first aid centers right here in Tahrir Square -- Wolf. BLITZER: The notion that earlier in the day, there was going to be a march, these demonstrators would go from where you are, what, six, seven miles to the presidential palace, demanding that President Mubarak step down, that never materialized, I take it.
WATSON: That never happened. And this was a fixed -- a fixed gathering of people right here. And while the military provided an outer perimeter of security around the -- the opposition's barricades that they have put up around here, further out, eyewitnesses were telling me that plain-clothes police were running security, and, in some cases, turning away some of the people who wanted to come and join in the rally here.
So the secret police are still operating throughout the city. And they are believed to be some of the people who have been behind the campaign of attacks against local and international media. According
to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 100 such incidents in the past three days.
BLITZER: Well, talk about your experience today, as opposed to, let's say, yesterday. We know yesterday was harrowing. It was very dangerous.
But today, it seems to have improved a bit, is that fair to say, for journalists working the story?
WATSON: Well, it has improved in the sense that I'm here, within the barricades that are controlled by the opposition. And in this space at this time, the opposition is very welcoming of reporters. They want to get their message out to Egypt and to the outside world.
The problem is, is that the equation changes when you get out to the areas where the pro-government supporters are operating, where the secret police are operating. There, it's a completely different story.
In addition to that, secret police are -- previously, they ordered CNN, my colleagues at another location, not to film of their balconies into the square and into the city down here. They were expressly ordered and threatened with the confiscation of their equipment, other companies, as well, as part of what was clearly an effort to limit the images coming out of here and going out to the outside world.
BLITZER: But unlike yesterday, Ivan, we are now showing live pictures from Tahrir Square.
So, what, we've just ignored this order from the secret police and gone ahead and done our job, is that what -- is that what I hear you saying?
WATSON: We're in a -- we're in a location that the secret police don't seem to have access to today -- Wolf. BLITZER: I'll leave it on that. But we'll stay in close touch. And we've got those live pictures coming in and we're happy about that.
This is a very, very fluid story, as we've been saying.
Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, has more now on what was happening throughout the day over at Tahrir Square.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First, there was the Day of Rage, then the One Million Egyptian March and today is the Day of Departure or farewell, where Egyptians say farewell to their president of 30 years, President Hosni Mubarak.
This is a continuing process whereby people come out on the street, basically thugs, provocateurs working on behalf of the government, it seems, attacking journalists across Cairo. But as people here will tell you, those were not Egyptians, these are the real Egyptians, who have come out here to protest for democracy and an end to the rule of President Hosni Mubarak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The members of the regime at top have to know that if they get more blood on their hands, there will be consequences in the form of international accountability, personal travel bans for themselves and their family. There's no way out for this -- for them -- except capitulation.
WEDEMAN: There does seem to be a gradual acceptance by the authorities that these demonstrations just can't be stopped.
So what we've seen today is that the army, including paratroopers, have been deployed to try to keep any sort of anti- -- or, rather, pro-government supporters away from this demonstration. And also, the organizers have got a very good system now where they check IDs. They search bags. They frisk people to make sure they don't bring any weapons into the square.
So today, it's been a very peaceful day. There had been no trouble. We're hearing that on the outskirts, there may be pro- Mubarak demonstrators. But until now, nothing has happened.
(voice-over): For the most part, it's an opportunity for chanting, dancing, singing and some creativity. Mohammed Mahalowi (ph) has made garbage into a form defiance, naming each bag after a prominent figure from the ruling elite.
(on camera): The people here in this square have incredible energy. They have been able to keep this up for quite some time.
But the question is, how much longer can they do it?
The economy is at a standstill. Tourists have disappeared. Banks are closed. Schools are closed. There's not really much functioning at the moment. So it's a bit of a stalemate that's been reached.
But -- and some people in this country may be fed up. But as President Hosni Mubarak told ABC News, he's fed up. And as somebody here told me, when you're fed up, just leave.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Madantereia (ph), Cairo.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: The Egyptian government has repeatedly denied any involvement in causing this week's violence.
Let's get to the White House right now, where President Obama's message to the Egyptian government is getting even tougher.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is not us who will determine that future. But I have also said that in light of what's happened over the last two weeks, going back to the old ways is not going to work. Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work. Attempting to shut down information flows is not going to work. In order for Egypt to have a bright future, which I believe it can have, the only thing that will work is moving an orderly transition process, that begins right now, that engages all the parties, that leads to democratic practices, fair and free elections and a representative government that is responsive to the grievances of the Egyptian people.
Now, I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he's also a patriot. And what I suggested to him is that he needs to consult with those who are around him in his government. He needs to listen to what's being voiced by the Egyptian people and make a judgment about a pathway forward that is orderly, but that is meaningful and serious.
And I believe that he's already said that he's not going to run for reelection. This is somebody who has been in power for a very long time in Egypt. Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important for him to ask himself, for the Egyptian government to ask itself, as well as the opposition to ask itself, is, how do we make that transition effective and lasting and legitimate?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian and get some more details on this.
You notice, I'm sure it's easy to notice, he stops just short of saying that President Mubarak must step down now.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And that's because aides tell me here at White House they're very concerned about what that image would be like on the global stage, of the United States essentially calling the shots, of telling President Mubarak to step down. They want this to be a decision made by the Egyptian people. And so that's why you hear the president and others in the administration talking broadly about this need for a peaceful transition.
But the president saying that, ultimately, he hopes that President Mubarak will make the right decision.
The second point, though, as one official told me, they are also concerned about the power vacuum -- what would happen if President Mubarak stepped down, for example, tomorrow. So there are concerns that some of the violence that we have seen out there would only escalate.
And so that's why there are high level discussions ongoing at this time, taking a look at the various different options so they can have a peaceful transition -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Based on everything you've heard, Dan, is the administration satisfied with the pace of change in Egypt?
LOTHIAN: Not at all, Wolf. In fact, Robert Gibbs today was very blunt about that, saying that the administration is not satisfied with the pace of the transition there at this point, because there continues to be this violence and singling out what has been happening, the attacks on journalists. They find it disturbing, this, quote, "systematic targeting" of journalists is really confounding the White House here. And so that's why you continue hearing that push for non-violence and for restraint.
BLITZER: All right, Dan, thanks very much.
Dan will watch the story at the White House.
We're not leaving the crisis in Cairo.
Just ahead, the growing struggle to get food and supplies to the massive crowds who are protesting.
And what will the new Egypt look like?
Could it pose new threats to the United States?
What's going on on that front?
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the situation in Egypt right now. A newly energized opposition is putting a once all powerful president, Hosni Mubarak, on notice that things are very different right now.
Let's dig deeper with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.
He's in New York -- I want to get to your cover story in the new edition of "Time Magazine," our sister publication, Fareed.
But talk a little bit about this transition. We heard some strong words from the president of the United States.
Take us behind-the-scenes.
What's going on here?
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, it's very interesting, Wolf, because what we are witnessing right now is a very interesting power play between Mubarak, the oppo -- the opposition, but, crucially, the military. Remember, Egypt is not a personalized dictatorship of one man. It is a military dictatorship. And what we have seen over the last week is that Mubarak has given ground to the military.
The new cabinet has 50 percent of former military people, former generals. The new governors, if you look at all the governors of Egypt now, it is 80 percent former generals. The key people running Egypt are now the field marshal, who is defense minister, the prime minister and Omar Suleiman, the vice president, all former generals.
The people who have been thrown out of the cabinet are the businessmen, the economic reformers, the technocrats. So in a sense, the military is consolidating power, perhaps hoping that they -- they can sacrifice, ultimately, Mubarak himself, but retain the basic structure of the regime.
So when President Obama talks about a transition, it's very important to understand this is not a transition just away from Hosni Mubarak, but it must be a transition to a civilian democratic Egypt, not simply of reconstitution of military dictatorship under another garb.
BLITZER: Because I was under the impression that the opposition, the people who are in Tahrir Square protesting, and elsewhere, they're really against Mubarak.
But what -- what are you suggesting, that they're also against the military? Because I thought the military was that one institution in Egypt that was respected across the board?
ZAKARIA: Well, it's interesting, the military is seen as professional. It is seen as disciplined and it's a conscript army. So people love the troops. They love the foot soldiers. But the generals are really the people who run this regime. So when people don't like the regime, what they are talking about is the military dictatorship at the top. And my point is if you lose Mubarak but you have all the other generals running the -- the old system, you haven't really changed very much.
And so part of the -- the transition has to be to a new constitution, to a new governance structure. Otherwise, I think, Wolf, you end up with a situation like Pakistan, where you have a pseudo democracy, but at the end of the day, all power is still held by the military.
We've got to try and get a clean transition, where Egypt has a chance to develop a civilian democratic government.
BLITZER: Because if you speak with U.S. officials, as I do, on a daily basis, you get -- I get the sense what they would like to see is Mubarak step down, the vice president, Suleiman, take over for an interim period, leading toward free and fair elections, let's say, six months or eight months down the road and that everyone could participate -- in the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in those elections.
But is that realistic?
ZAKARIA: That's the question. And will the -- the system be rigged in a way that those elections are really not free and fair?
Remember, all opposition parties in Egypt right now are basically phony parties. The only people who are allowed to form parties are people who are on government payroll or corrupt in some way and the government has intelligence files on them. The real opposition movements, as you say, the Muslim Brotherhood, but also the liberal parties like Ayman Nour (ph), the Marxist parties, the trade unions, these -- these guys have never really been allowed to -- to create genuine political movements.
So, you know, the real test here is are we going to see a change of the regime or are we simply going to see a change of, you know, Mubarak goes and Omar Suleiman comes in and a bunch of -- of other former generals run Egypt?
The Egyptian military is professional, but they also believe that they are the only thing that stands between the country and instability and chaos. And we have to try to get Egypt to a point where it can have a fair shot at democracy which, after all, ultimately means the civilians are in control of the military, not the other way around.
BLITZER: In your cover story in "Time Magazine," you say, ironically, one of the reasons why this -- this revolt in Egypt has taken place is because, economically, things were getting a little bit better. Explain.
ZAKARIA: Well, Egypt was stagnant and moribund for decades, as many other countries in the world. Then what happened about five or six years ago is they appointed a cabinet of economic reformers. These guys dismantled a bunch of the subsidies, the tariffs and growth started shooting up.
Egypt was growing at 7 percent a year in 2006, 2007.. And what that does is it stirs things up. It stirs people's expectations. People see the rest of the world. Egypt now got connected to the rest of the world -- satellite television, Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC all became widespread -- Facebook, Twitter, this whole phenomena of now being part of the world. But things aren't going great. And you have a military dictatorship and so the mismatch between economic change and political change or economic reform and no political reform became even greater.
And then you add to it the immediate causes, which are youth unemployment and high food prices, but in a strange sense, you know, you see much less of this going on in Syria, Wolf, because Syria is totally stagnant economically. You've seen none of it in North Korea because it's totally stagnant. Once you start to change things in a dictatorship, you stir up forces that you cannot control.
BLITZER: Excellent point.
Fareed is going to have, of course, a lot more on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
The U.S., Fareed, for joining us.
ZAKARIA: As always, a pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: A van apparently rams into protesters in Cairo, Egypt. Now the U.S. Embassy in Cairo wants to know if the van is actually one of its own and if it was stolen and deliberately driven into the crowd.
Plus, one of the voices of the opposition in Egypt says it's being targeted by thugs, its offices ransacked. Stand by for details.
BLITZER: You're looking at some anti-Egyptian government protesters out there. They're protesting President Hosni Mubarak. This happens to be in New York City, in Times Square. We're watching this rally underway right now.
We're also going right back to Cairo. There are new developments happening. We'll go back there in just a moment.
But I want to get some other important news, including the latest on the case against the alleged Arizona shooter.
Lisa Sylvester is here.
She's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, federal authorities will get the first go at the man who allegedly shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others. Officials say the federal government will prosecute Jared Lee Loughner first, followed by state prosecutors. Feds will prosecute Loughner on charges related to the attempted assassination of Giffords and the mass shooting in Tucson.
Pakistani police say the two men shot and killed by a U.S. diplomat were likely robbers. Raymond Davis has been in jail since last week. Davis says the men attacked him while trying to rob him. The U.S. Embassy says Davis shot them in self-defense. He remains in jail, despite U.S. calls for his release.
And snow in Texas?
Yes, Texas. It could threaten some fans' Super Bowl plans. American Airlines cancelled 630 flights out of Dallas today. The area is under a winter storm warning. Temperatures there are in the low 20s. And some places have as much as six inches of snow. Of course, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be facing off on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.
And this Sunday marks what would have been Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. So tune into CNN Sunday when John King hosts special coverage of the centennial celebration at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. It all starts Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. And I know, Wolf, you will be watching.
BLITZER: I'll be watching that. And then I'll be watching the Super Bowl, of course. The --
SYLVESTER: And you could be flipping (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: The good news is that Super Bowl is indoors, in that domed Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. So 110,000 folks won't have to worry about the cold and the snow outside. They'll be inside. And I'm sure that Reagan --
SYLVESTER: This -- yes, they --
BLITZER: -- that Reagan event will be indoors, as well, so --
SYLVESTER: Yes. (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: -- they won't have to worry about it. California usually has pretty good weather.
Thanks. We'll get right back to you.
We're going to have a lot more on the crisis unfolding right now in Egypt, including new questions about getting food and supplies to the masses of protesters.
And what will it take for the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, to actually give up power?
I'll ask a leading Middle East analyst.
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, days of violence turning into a so-called Day of Departure in Egypt today. But President Hosni Mubarak says he's not going anywhere for now.
We're going to check in with CNN's Anderson Cooper. He's in Cairo. We'll check in with him for the latest developments.
And the political rebellion in Egypt took a lot of people by surprise.
Were U.S. intelligence officials among them?
They're pushing back hard at the criticism they're getting right now. We're checking what's going on.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
As the massive protests in Cairo enter a 12th day, there are now questions about how these anti-government demonstrators will get what they need to push ahead.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen has that part of the story.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're right in front of one of the checkpoints leading into Tahrir Square, and of course one of the problems that the protesters have here is getting enough food, enough water, and enough supplies in to keep all of these people going for such a long time, because some of them have been here for over a week. And their system is one where everybody brings a little bit, and, therefore, everybody has enough to survive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's something called in Islam the karful (ph). I mean, we all gathered, and you have the bread, you have the cheese. We all gathered for food.
PLEITGEN (on camera): And you give other people as well?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We all help us all.
PLEITGEN: So it's the spirit of sharing here, then. Sharing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right it is. Yes.
PLEITGEN: Thank you.
All right. So a lot of people are actually coming in for the camerawoman as well, and they are giving us and other protesters groceries, food, and drink to survive. It really is the sort of atmosphere that you see here, one of sharing, where many people are bringing in a little amount of something and handing it out to the protesters. Of course, many of which have been in the square for such a long time.
(voice-over): The protesters tell us while they have enough supplies right now, one of the problems they have been having is that people have been trying to confiscate their supplies before they are able to get them in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The thugs and the military started confiscating the medical supplies and food and drink at times. So people started smuggling them in their jackets, in their coats.
PLEITGEN (on camera): All the protesters that we've been speaking to say at this point, they are not lacking either food, drink or any medical supplies. But, of course, it still is a challenge to try to get all this stuff in However, it doesn't seem to be hurting morale at all. The folks here say they are in it for the long run, and they keep telling me they're going to stay here until Hosni Mubarak steps down.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Cairo, Egypt.
BLITZER: All right. Let's check in with CNN's Nic Robertson. He's in Alexandria, Egypt, where the situation -- well, I'll let Nic describe it.
What's the situation in Alexandria like today, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was another large demonstration, one of the largest demonstrations that we've seen. They marched slowly through the city center.
It ended up very close to a large army base just a few miles away from the center of the city, and that's where it remained throughout the evening. We went to visit the demonstration, but it was very tense around that area. A lot of stick-wielding young men in the dark alleys leading up to the protesters, people coming out asking us for identification, what were we doing there? Why were foreigners there at that time of night?
It ended up with us being escorted to an army base. That's how tense the situation was.
It was an anti-Mubarak rally, a large anti-Mubarak rally, but it is clear that there are still pro-government elements circling around on the outskirts of that rally. And the young men were afraid that there was the very real potential for violence this evening.
So, this is a city, again, that has seen a large anti-Mubarak demonstration, seen little result, little change from the government on the face of it, and have seen essentially just a notch up in the escalation of tension around the streets here -- Wolf. BLITZER: Is it your sense, Nic, where you are, in Alexandria, which is the second largest city in Egypt, that there are elements directly trying to target members of the news media?
ROBERTSON: What there is, is a huge caution, even antipathy and anger, towards foreign journalists. And it does seem to be something of foreigners of any description, in any profession, and this seems to be generated by what people are hearing on the state media, that there are foreign elements involved here, people are very concerned that we might be showing a negative side of Egypt.
They say if you go up there, you'll see the demonstrations and you'll broadcast to the rest of the world that Egypt is in chaos, and we don't want those pictures getting out. So there's a real level of concern that what the international media are doing in Egypt is portraying a very negative side of Egypt.
Of course, the demonstrators themselves are very happy to have the image of this -- they call it a revolution -- to have that shown. But there are plenty of people out there who are not afraid to get close to demonstrators, who are not afraid at all to pull foreigners off to one side and stop them reporting on the situation.
And the man escorting us away from that particular protest said, "People like you are spies. You could be spies. We don't know who you are. You should have permission to be here."
Of course, in the face of what is essentially a revolution going on, on the streets, it's a very strange thing to hear, "You should have permission to do it." There are no police, and the army are sitting in their barracks and checkpoints.
But that's the mood on the streets, and that is really one of the difficulties now, to get to the center in places like Alexandria with the protests going on. People are actively trying to stop you.
BLITZER: The police, I take it they're not members of the uniformed police force, but undercover, plainclothes police. I assume they are all over the place. Is that right?
ROBERTSON: I think it's a very fair assumption, Wolf. You can't tell who they are on the streets.
Sometimes there are small groups of them standing on street corners. It looks obvious that in the scenario that we witnessed tonight after dark, walking along a main thoroughfare with small dark alleyways leading off, stick-wielding men guarding the alleyways, some of them were sympathetic to what we wanted to do, but others very clearly not. Impossible to know if these were former uniformed policemen, secret policemen, but very clearly, their intention was not to let us pass -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Be careful over there, Nic. Thanks very much. We'll check back with you.
A video of a van apparently ramming Egyptian protesters goes viral. Now the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is speaking out about allegations that the van is actually one of its own and was stolen.
And the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, insists chaos -- chaos -- would result if he were to resign. But is he willing to reach out to the opposition before the September elections? We're taking a much closer look.
BLITZER: As tens of thousands rallied in Cairo and Alexandria today, President Obama says initial talks between President Mubarak's government and the opposition are now under way.
Let's discuss it with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, the president was very specific. I'm going to play three clips, what he said a few days ago, what he said the other day, and what he said today. And listen to the change in tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech, and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.
What is clear and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.
In light of what's happened over the last two weeks, going back to the old ways is not going to work. Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work. Attempting to shut down information flows is not going to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Gloria. It looks like he's getting more frustrated by the day.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Yes, clearly more frustrated, and particularly after a day like yesterday, where we saw violence.
We saw the military standing by while violence occurred. We saw journalists being rounded up. It was clear that the president thought that this was unacceptable, that there's a certainly level of human rights and decency, and that peaceful protesters ought to be allowed to protest. And I think you heard that kind of frustration in his voice today as he said, again, to Mubarak, the time to leave is now.
Behind the scenes, as you know, Wolf, there is -- there are discussions going on, lots of tentacles to them, about the possibility of a transition. The big problem, of course, is how do you convince Hosni Mubarak that he's got to step down? He's kind of a stubborn guy.
BLITZER: Fouad Ajami, the Middle East analyst from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, is with us as well.
Fouad, do you think there's any realistic chance in the coming days -- days -- that President Mubarak will in fact step down?
FOUAD AJAMI, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: I'm not going to make any predictions. You will not be surprised with this.
I think the story has had this kind of seesaw pattern, if you will. Twenty-four hours ago, 36 hours ago, the story took a dark turn. And suddenly, the regime unleashed its goons on the public, and then they pulled back.
I think it's a tribute, we have to admit, to American diplomacy. There is public diplomacy, what we say in public to Hosni Mubarak, and then there's private diplomacy, what we are saying to the generals, what we are saying to Mubarak himself, that repression will not work, that you can't really call off the storm.
So I think it must be just about the end for Hosni Mubarak. You can hear in some of the statements made by Omar Suleiman, the vice president, and some of the statements by Prime Minister Shafiq, you can see the crack. You're beginning to see that maybe there is a possibility that Mubarak needs an honorable exit. This is what the prime minister said.
Another statement, that Egyptians are good people, they're generous people, said Suleiman. They don't put their father out. He's our father, and we have to provide him with an honorable exit. I think it's about the end.
BLITZER: All right. I want both of you to stand by, because we're going to continue this conversation, and we've got a lot more questions.
We want to take a quick break. We're not leaving this crisis in Egypt.
Just ahead, a live update. We'll check in with our own Anderson Cooper. He's on the scene in Cairo.
Plus, did the country's political revolution catch members of the U.S. intelligence community off guard? We're getting new information on this issue, a sensitive one as well.
BLITZER: We'll get back to Cairo in a moment, but there's other news we're following, including some mixed signals in the new unemployment numbers that came out today. The unemployment rate fell, but the number of jobs added last month is far below what was expected.
Let's bring in Lisa. She's working this story for us.
The unemployment number goes down. The unemployment rate goes down. But they only created a few new jobs.
SYLVESTER: Yes. This is quite the mystery, isn't it? Thirty-six thousand jobs is all that they had created, Wolf, and economists were actually expected four times as many jobs. Yet, as you mentioned, the unemployment rate fell, 9.4 percent to 9 percent.
So, why the difference? Well, you have to look at how these numbers are derived.
The unemployment number is a survey of individuals, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, essentially. They pick up the phone, they call people, and they ask, "Are you employed? Are you looking for work?"
The payroll, or the jobs number, on the other hand, is a survey of companies. And they are asked, "Are you hiring?" Normally these numbers move in tandem, but that was not the case in January. It is a little unusual, but it can happen.
But the bottom line is this -- companies are not adding to their payrolls as people had hoped, and unemployment is still way off from pre-recession levels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Green (ph) -- give him the strength and the courage, lord. Help him to find a job.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Seeking help not just from the government, some now are turning to a higher source. A handful of people showed up outside a D.C. unemployment office to pray, including former IT worker Wade Montgomery, out of work since 2008.
WADE MONTGOMERY, UNEMPLOYED WORKER: I'm cautiously optimistic that in the near future, something will open up for me. I must stay optimistic. I must believe that America has jobs, will create jobs.
SYLVESTER: Montgomery is holding on to hope after seeing the unemployment rate nudge downward from 9.4 percent to 9 percent, but the January jobs report is a mixed bag. Economists were expecting the economy to add 149,000 jobs. Instead, only 36,000 new positions were added. If you tally up all the jobs lost month after month during the recession, the U.S. has a huge jobs deficit.
HEIDI SHIERHOLZ, ECONOMY POLICY INSTITUTE: Even if the fundamentals would have said we would add 100,000 more jobs than that, there would still be pretty slow jobs growth compared to the 11.4 million jobs gap we have in the labor market. So we're still in the era of a slog. We're in a pretty rocky recovery.
SYLVESTER: Shierholz says to get back to the way things were in 2007, with a pre-recession unemployment rate of 5 percent, the economy would have to add about 285,000 jobs every month for the next five years.
The Obama administration says look at the big picture. We're not losing jobs, we're adding, albeit at a very slow rate.
HILDA SOLIS, LABOR SECRETARY: We are on a good trajectory. We are picking up, and there are signs. So I feel optimistic.
SYLVESTER: Back outside that unemployment office, if government policy isn't enough, maybe a little prayer will help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
SYLVESTER: The 2012 presidential race, of course, is appearing on the horizon. Political scientists say what matters are the months leading up to the election. The question is, is the trend positive? Are we gaining jobs?
That, of course, is going to help the incumbents. On the other hand, if we're losing jobs, if that trend is downward, that's going to hurt them.
BLITZER: Jobs, jobs, jobs, issue number one coming up in the next elections.
Thanks very much for that, Lisa.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo now says some of its vans were stolen, and one of those vans apparently ran into a crowd of protesters.
We're going back to Cairo. That story, coming up next.
BLITZER: Look at that van as it's speeding through. Video that we got just a while ago. It's pretty damning, I must say.
New indications that that white than that was scene in that video, apparently mowing down Egyptian protesters. This is a disturbing YouTube video that could have serious ramifications for the U.S. government.
Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is joining us now with the details.
Those pictures are very dramatic, very scary.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are Wolf. And, you know, the video is being shown on some television network, and also on some Web sites.
And the State Department is concerned that it could fuel some anti-American sentiment. Some two dozen people reportedly were injured in that incident, but the department claims embassy personnel were not involved.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): The video shown on YouTube is shocking. A long white van streaks toward a crowd at top speed, plowing right through them without stopping. As people scream and scatter, the van races off in the opposite direction. The camera pans back to reveal the crowd in a panic.
The video is dated January 28th. It appears to show a street that leads to Tahrir Square, the heart of anti-Mubarak demonstrations.
The van is similar to those used by the American Embassy in Cairo. But the State Department claims it is certain no embassy employees or diplomats were involved in this incident. The department says on January 28th, more than 20 vehicles belonging to the embassy were stolen or destroyed.
DOUGHERTY: And the embassy tells us that the vans were parked in a motor pool location, and embassy motor pool location. They say that they've heard reports that some of those vehicles were involved in other criminal acts.
And if that is true, Wolf, they are saying that they deplore those acts and also their perpetrators.
BLITZER: That's the second video we've seen in as many days of a car simply ramming through a crowd in Cairo, just killing people, or seriously injuring them, at a minimum. It's shocking video.
Jill, thanks very much.
We're going to have more on Egypt coming up, including the political opposition group which could play a significant role in the country's future. But what exactly is the Muslim Brotherhood's relationship with the United States right now?
And we'll have a live update from our own Anderson Cooper in Cairo, following two days of attacks that nearly -- nearly -- kept him off the air.
BLITZER: The opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt says its offices were attacked today by security forces and "a gang of thugs."
CNN's Mary Snow is working this story for us.
Only a few days ago, a lot of Americans probably never heard of this group, but tell us what it's all about.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a group that was banned politically in Egypt, but now it is seen as likely having a role in a post-Mubarak government. But there are a lot of questions about what kind of a role religion would play in a secular government, and they're also raising questions about some of the positions that the group has taken.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SNOW (voice-over): The Muslim Brotherhood, seen here last year, has been part of Egypt's political seen for more than 80 years. It's the largest opposition group inside the country, but it's also technically illegal since Egypt bans parties that are based on religion.
Now, with the possibility of the group playing a role in Egypt's future, we wanted to know whether they would support freedom of religion and freedom of the press. A spokesman for the organization answered that question on CNN's "PARKER SPITZER."
MOHAMED MORSY, SPOKESMAN, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: Oh, yes. Sure. Sure.
ELIOT SPITZER, COO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": For all religions?
MORSY: For all religions.
SPITZER: For Christians, Jews, Muslims?
MORSY: Yes. Yes. Yes. Why not?
SNOW: But when pressed about Israel --
SPITZER: Will you then right now disavow the use of violence against the state of Israel?
MORSY: We do not use violence against anyone. What's going on, on the Palestinian land, is resistance.
SPITZER: All right.
MORSY: The resistance is acceptable by all mankind. And it's the right of people to resist imperialism.
SNOW: As for the question of whether the group could recognize Israel, one Middle East scholar says he doubts it. As to how radical the group is, there is a history of tension between al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.
AJAMI: Al Qaeda has a special animus for the Muslim Brotherhood. And the relationship between Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leading figure in al Qaeda, who is Egyptian, his animus toward the Muslim Brotherhood runs very deep.
SNOW: As for the U.S.' relationship with the group, Jon Alterman, a Middle East scholar, attended a White House meeting this week on the situation in Egypt.
JON ALTERMAN, CSIS MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM: I think there's this sort of confidence that if the Muslim Brotherhood were involved in politics, there -- it wouldn't necessarily take over politics, and there would be ways to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood more effectively than people do currently suppressing the organization.
SNOW: But others watching the uprising urge caution about the Muslim Brotherhood, including Leslie Gelb, who served as an assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration.
LESLIE GELB, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I don't know for sure whether we do need to worry about them. What I'm saying is there's plenty in the background. There's plenty in what they've said publicly to make us very, very skeptical about what they would do.
SNOW: And Wolf, the Obama administration has been cautious when talking about a potential future role for the Muslim Brotherhood. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would only say all parties must accept democracy and reject violence -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you.