ESAM AL-AMIN Tahrir or Liberation Square has been the centre of action in Cairo throughout the protests. Its the largest square in the country located in downtown Cairo where millions of demonstrators have been gathering since Jan 25. Eight separate entrances lead to it including the ones from the American Embassy and the famous Egyptian museum. Around 2 PM on Wednesday Feb 2, the execution of the plan of attack ensued in earnest. Over three thousand baltagies attacked from two entrances with thousands of rocks and stones thrown at the tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators gathered in the square, while most attackers had shields to defend themselves against the returning rocks. While a few were armed with guns, all baltagies were armed with clubs, machetes, razors, knives or other sharp objects. After about an hour of throwing stones, the second stage of the attacks proceeded as dozens of horses and camels came charging at the demonstrators in a scene reminiscent of the battles of the middle ages. The pro-democracy people fought back by their bare hands, knocking them from their rides and throwing their bodies at them. They subsequently apprehended over three hundred and fifty baltagies, turning them over to nearby army units. They confiscated their IDs which showed that most assailants were either NDP members or from the secret police. Others confessed that they were ex-cons who were paid $10 to beat up the demonstrators. The camel and horse riders confessed to have been paid $70 each. The third stage of the attack came about three hours later when dozens of assailants climbed the roofs in nearby buildings and threw hundreds of Molotov cocktails at the pro-democracy protesters below, who immediately rushed to extinguish the fires. They eventually had to put out two fires at the Egyptian museum as well. By midnight the thugs started using tear gas and live bullets from a bridge above the protesters killing five people and injuring over three dozens, ten seriously. Interestingly, one hour before the planned assault the army announced to the demonstrators on national TV that the government got the message and then implored the protesters to end the demonstrations and go home. But when the protesters begged the army units to interfere during the brutal attacks that persisted for 16 hours, the army declared that it was neutral and partially withdrew from some entrances despite its promise to protect the peaceful and unarmed demonstrators. By morning, the Tahrir Square resembled a battleground with at least 10 persons killed and over 2,500 injured people, 900 of which required transport to nearby hospitals as admitted by the Health ministry. Most of the injured suffered face and head wounds including concussions, burns and cuts because of the use of rocks, iron bars, shanks, razors, and Molotov cocktails. Al-Jazeera TV and many other TV networks around the world were broadcasting these assaults live to the bewilderment of billions of people worldwide. The heroic steadfastness of the demonstrators lead by the youth was phenomenal as they not only withstood their ground but also chased them away every time they were pushed. By the next morning the assault fizzled and the whole world condemned the Mubarak regime for such wickedness, cruelty, and total disregard of human life. The events in Tahrir Square and elsewhere strongly suggest government involvement in violence against peaceful protesters, said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the Human Rights Watch. The US and other allies should make clear that further abuse will come at a very high price. By that afternoon every major Western country has called for Mubarak to step down including the U.S, the European Union, the U.K, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway and many others. In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the violence by the pro-Mubarak crowd outrageous and deplorable and warned that it should stop immediately. In an attempt to contain the damage about what happened in Tahrir Square on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq offered his apology to the people. He also denied his governments involvement, calling for a prompt investigation and swift punishment for those who were responsible. Moreover, Vice President Suleiman appeared on state TV offering an olive branch to the opposition, declaring that all of their demands would be accepted by the government, while ignoring the main demand of Mubaraks ouster. He then pleaded for time to implement political reforms. Meanwhile, the regime in a last-ditch effort to limit the effect of the demonstrations have asked all foreign journalists to leave the country before D-Day (Departure Day), and dismantled all cameras from Tahrir Square. There is not a single network in Cairo today that can broadcast the event live. Clearly, this last ploy was designed to intimidate the demonstrators who insisted that they would not cowed. The Obama administration is evidently very frustrated with Mubarak because of his stubbornness and obliviousness to reality. President Obama bluntly declared on Tuesday, It is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now. Since the crisis began ten days ago, the U.S, which has been supporting and subsidizing the Egyptian regime for three decades, expected that its beleaguered ally would listen to its advice, limit the damage, pack up and leave. But his performance and ruthless behavior have endangered its other allies in the region, and caused long-term damage to its strategic interests, namely, Israel, stability, oil, and military bases. Egypt was one of the most important countries and allies to the US in the region. It was a cornerstone in its strategic equation. If Egypt were to be lost to a more independent leader, the strategic balance of power in the region would radically shift against Americas interest or its allies. In turn this change might cause a major re-assessment of the long-term American strategy in the region, especially in regard to policies related to Israel and counter-terrorism. Thus, Vice President Suleiman is considered by the US and other Western allies, as the best person who could fulfill this role of maintaining the status quo. Thus, the more Mubarak maneuvered to stay in power, the less likely this prospect would be realized. As Omar Suleiman is promoted to become the new President of Egypt, this appointment will be hailed by Western governments and media as a great victory by the pro-democracy forces and as the expression of the will of the Egyptian people. Political and economic reforms will then be promised to the people, in an effort that allows great leeway in internal reforms but keep foreign policy intact. However, this move will undoubtedly divide the country. The leaders of the revolution, namely the youth, who have led the demonstrations for the past two weeks and sacrificed blood for it, would continue to press for total and clean break from the previous regime. They will also be supported by popular and grass-roots movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, other opposition movements, which have little or no popular support were largely created by the Mubarak regime as a dcor to portray a democratic image, will accept Suleiman and embrace the new arrangements in order to have a seat at the table and get a piece of the pie. The Egyptian public will likely be split as well. With the monopoly of the government over the state media and other means of government information control, the new regime may bet on getting a slack from the public while it consolidates its power. Alternatively, the youth movement, which started its march towards freedom and democracy using social media and independent means of communications, while spearheading the most robust and forceful democracy movement in the whole region, may actually have the last word. Esam Al-Amin can be reached at CounterPunch (Concluded)