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Crisis in Egypt

Aired January 31, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're live in Cairo, where it is 5:00 a.m. on this the eighth day of the uprising in Cairo. What this day holds nobody can tell. And this may be a make or break day for the Mubarak regime. They're calling it a million man march. That is scheduled, scheduled to start in some four hours from now.

How many people will actually show up? We don't know. Where they will go, we're not sure. What will happen, we simply can't tell. The Mubarak regime is certainly trying to make it as difficult as possible for the protesters to gather, shutting off train service. The last Internet provider, ISP, has shut down as well.

And we anticipate that cell phone service will be cut shortly. The Egyptian military has promised not to harm protesters, but as we saw today in Liberation Square, this situation can turn violent very, very quickly.

From terror to triumph, we still don't know exactly what occurred in that situation that caused the military troops to fire in the air. In the end the crowd was chanting the people and the military are one. But take a look at the fear on the face of that Egyptian soldier holding his gun at the protesters ready to shoot. Others finally shot in the air. That is a look of fear, and you rarely get to see that so clearly in the face of one soldier here.

The military obviously playing a crucial role. And how they react to the protest today may be a turning point, may be a critical juncture. We will talk to Ben Wedeman and others about that and what they anticipate.

But I want to tell you a few of the other updates. As we said cell phone service is likely to be cut here. American civilians are trying to evacuate as much as possible. As many as 1,000 Americans were evacuated on Monday in special U.S. government charters that they have to reimburse the U.S. government for. They were sent to sites in Europe. And from there it's up to them to book their onward travel.

U.S. Marines, a special contingent of U.S. Marines is coming to the United States Embassy to secure the embassy here in Cairo. Nonessential diplomatic personnel, their families are also being evacuated here.

It is a very tense situation on this the eighth day. The U.S. now has named a special envoy to Cairo, a former ambassador to Cairo, a retired state official who will be meeting with the Mubarak regime. But what that regime decides to do frankly at this point is anybody's guess.

I want to show you a little bit of what we saw today in the hours that we spent in Liberation Square. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): Tense moments today near Liberation Square. Soldiers fire into the air to keep protesters at bay. The threat of violence is constant, but nothing so far has stopped the daily demonstrations for change.

(on camera): It's about 4:00 in the afternoon. Curfew began an hour ago. But still more and more people are arriving here in Liberation Square. They're incredibly enthusiastic, even though it's the seventh day of protests. They're determined to keep this going. They're chanting saying they're not going to leave this square until Mubarak leaves.

(voice-over): Young and old, they seem to come from all walks of life, all with the same message for Mubarak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that he's got to learn the message. I mean, I don't know what kind of language do we have to say it to him in, but he's got to learn that people don't want him. They have seen what the police forces can do in his name and they will not accept him anymore.

COOPER: Overhead, a military helicopter circles constantly, a reminder that Mubarak's government is still in place.

(on camera): It's difficult to get a sense of how large the crowd really is here in Liberation Square. But it does -- but you get a feel for it when you actually try to move through. It's actually incredibly crowded. People are just packed wall to wall. There's no central leadership or anything. There's sort of different groups chanting different slogans, all of them, of course, anti-Mubarak.

(voice-over): Hour after hour, the chanting continues. Many are tired but they refuse to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see freedom here. This is just the basic, basic needs for any human being, shelter to live in, food, education, medicine.

COOPER (on camera): That's what people are wanting here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. But the whole world are afraid that this government is going to turn into the harbor for terrorists. This is actually not. We hate terrorists as much as the whole world.

COOPER: This is not about fundamentalism?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no way, no way. No, no. People are actually under poverty level. They live in Egypt right now. And this is the time for some kind of change to happen. Otherwise, we're never going to be able to change. No way. COOPER (voice-over): The Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood has begun to take part in the protests, but no one group here is calling the shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need just democracy. We have no problem with Israel. We have peace agreement. We respect it. Mubarak tried to let the people think that Muslim Brothers will control the country and will start making a war with Israel. That is not true.

COOPER (on camera): So if Mubarak leaves you don't think the Muslim Brotherhood would take over?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. We're not going to allow them. We're not going to allow them.

COOPER (voice-over): Tomorrow a massive protest has been called; the pressure keeps building. The protesters hope something soon has got to give.


COOPER: Some of the people and the scenes we saw today in Liberation Square.

And as we said, it's just four hours until this massive protest is planned.

I'm joined now by Ben Wedeman and Ivan Watson here in Cairo and also in Alexandria, I'm joined by Nic Robertson, who is there.

Ben, what are you anticipating is going to happen today?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course the job of anticipating has become very risky here, because this whole protest movement has just sort of popped up in the last week, so it's very difficult to say.

But we know that people are walking to Cairo from the Nile Delta. We know that despite the fact the government has cut the Internet, you can't send SMSes, BlackBerrys don't work and within moments we expect the cell phone system to go down, we know that word has passed just by word of Moussaoui throughout the entire country.

So I think we can anticipate a huge demonstration. Million, it could be more, it could be slightly less. But this will be probably be the biggest demonstration we have seen in Cairo yet.

COOPER: Are you nervous about it?

WEDEMAN: Of course I'm nervous. I'm nervous because I have a family here, and we have seen since that this has begun, the security situation in Cairo has deteriorated dramatically.

This is one of the safest cities on Earth under normal circumstances, but at the moment we see the police, even though they're back in small numbers, just disappeared. They were pulled out of the country -- out of the city in the morning of Saturday. And basically, security is now in the hands of the army in some areas, but for the most part in Cairo, it's the job of people in the neighborhood going out with baseball bats, shotguns, whatever they can find because the worry is that this current political uproar is just sending this country down the drain economically. The infrastructure isn't working. People are scared.

COOPER: We have heard from demonstrators that they plan to actually go to the residence of President Mubarak. Is that likely?

WEDEMAN: I know that between the Tahrir Square and (INAUDIBLE) palace on the eastern edge of this city, there are around 20 army checkpoints. It's going to be very difficult for them to go, unless simply the army steps aside and says, you can go. Otherwise it could be very difficult. We have heard that one of the targets of the demonstrations is state TV just up the block from here. There you had it surrounded by tanks. They have now put barriers on the roads, so there is a real anticipation that they could move toward some of these strategic sites.

COOPER: Ivan, you were out at the Pyramids today, which are close to -- the Pyramids at Giza, I believe, which are very close to the scene. I just want to show some of that video that you saw.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soldiers have been deployed all around this city, and the tanks are even parked here at one of the ancient wonders of the world, the Great Pyramids of Giza.

An army officer insisted the Pyramids are still open for tourists, but the soldiers wouldn't let us come any closer.

This is part of what has Egyptians so scared right now, a number of hotels and cabarets and casinos like this that were torched and looted in the first days of the protests.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: It does seem, Ivan, it seems to me that the Egyptian military had kind of clamped down today, in terms of making it more difficult for protesters to get access and journalists to get access. Was that your experience?

WATSON: Yes, it looked like they had taken a more you could say aggressive posture.

And what was really striking is we had heard some reports that, hey, the police were supposed to be back out on the streets. I saw a handful of traffic cops, really. And instead, what was really striking was seeing just how much the military had fanned out throughout the city, in force all the way up until Giza, and especially in front of everything from telecommunications buildings, the cell phone buildings to Parliament and important intersections as well apparently trying to fill in some of that law and order vacuum that Ben was just talking about. COOPER: Nic Robertson, you were in Alexandria, which is to the north of where we are in Cairo. There is a march planned there as well. What are you anticipating, what are you hearing about what's going to happen?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They say there will be a million people here, they say they're going to focus on gathering in the Martyrs Square.

Martyrs Square is also where the main rail station is here. So they already know that if the rail networks are hit and trains can't run then they know they're going to lose people there. And they know they're going to have difficulty organizing if their cell phones aren't working.

But they have been through that on Friday, and they say that they're going to push ahead regardless. It's hard to imagine that they will get a million people in this city. But they know that this is a day where they need to really push up the momentum. And they, unlike Cairo, perhaps, have fewer choices of sort of buildings, government buildings that they can really target that might make a difference in toppling President Mubarak. But regardless, they're going to gather, they say and keep pushing and keep the momentum going. Some people say it might be done by Friday, and other people are kind of less optimistic about it, this say they may take a whole lot longer, Anderson.

COOPER: Ben, how much longer can this go on for without something breaking one way or the other?

WEDEMAN: It really can't go on much longer, because the economy's at a standstill, the stock market's been closed now for two days. Last week it just went through the floor, it crashed.

Banks aren't working, universities, schools, the railroad system isn't working, the Internet. I mean, basically, the country has come to a screeching halt. And the feeling is, that people within the regime around Mubarak are going to have to calculate that eventually the costs of this shutdown are going to get so high that when they do take over, if they do take over from Mubarak, they're going to be dealing with a massive mess in this country. So we're really teetering on the brink of chaos in this country.

COOPER: We were talking before we went on the air, and you made some really interesting points about how people live here, that a vast majority of people are living one day to the next. They're working one day in order to earn families that night to eat. And because they're not working and banks are closed, people just don't have money.

WEDEMAN: Yes, I mean, basically 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. And what you earn in the day, you feed your country in the evening -- I mean your family in the evening. And so this explains why there's been so much looting, so much ransacking of stores and whatnot. Because people live such a day-to-day existence. COOPER: We will have a lot more with Ben Wedeman and Ivan Watson, Nic Robertson as well throughout the hour, the best correspondents in the region. We're going to continue to draw on their expertise.

We will also show you the latest on American civilians trying to get out of this country. As I said, more than 1,000 evacuated by U.S. charters today. The airport is a disaster zone right now in terms of trying to get out. It's very difficult for people. We will also talk to two Americans who are stranded here right now and hoping to get out in the days ahead.

We will be right back.



COOPER: It's easy to find a number of businesses which have been looted in downtown Cairo. This is a Samsung customer service center. This one got broken into on Friday night. They said a large group of people came, broke in, tried to take whatever they could.

Since then, we have seen these civilian militias, these local neighborhood groups which have popped up on just about every street corner, particularly after curfew. They have armed themselves with guns in some cases, but more often than not with knives and clubs and sticks to try to not only protect their homes, but also protect businesses on that street.


COOPER: In a moment, we will talk to two young Americans who have been living here for several months and are looking to get out, trying to get out in the next couple of days. We will tell you about how difficult that is for them.

But first I just want to tell you there are some 50,000 Americans who live and work in Egypt, though the exact number who are in the country at this point nobody really knows, unless they have registered with the State Department, which most have not.

Some 2,400 or so Americans have asked the U.S. State Department -- 2,600 -- excuse me -- have asked the U.S. State Department for aid in getting out of the country. Starting today the American government started flying out voluntary evacuations, families of diplomats, but also tourists and others, Americans who are living here who wanted to get out. They have flown out about 900 on so. On Monday they hope to fly out another 1,000 or so on this day, Tuesday. It's already Tuesday here.

I want to check in with Jill Dougherty, who has the latest on the evacuation.

Jill, what is the scene? JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, really they're using everything that they possibly can to get the word out. That's the main thing, because communications are basically down.

They do have a good Web site, the State Department's Web site has a lot information if you can get Internet coverage. There's also using radio, TV, social media, e-mail, whatever is possible.

And interestingly, they're also encouraging people who have relatives who may be outside of the country outside of Egypt to contact if possible their relatives and help them out and give them some information. One thing that they do point out is, the airport apparently does not have a curfew, but the city does. So they're saying, you know, if there's a curfew in place, that Americans shouldn't be going across the city to the airport -- Anderson.

COOPER: And at this point also, they're now going to be sending U.S. Marines to basically secure the U.S. Embassy here in Cairo as well, correct?

DOUGHERTY: Yes. They have sent a team that's going in there, they're pretty heavily armed and they will be beefing up what you normally get at the embassy, and then also, Anderson, in terms of beefing up, they're also beefing up the evacuation for Americans, because there are pockets of Americans throughout the country that may need some help. And so this is what P.J. Crowley, the State Department spokesperson, told us about today about that.


P.J. CROWLEY, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Tomorrow we expect to begin to add other extensions. We might have two flights tomorrow going to Frankfurt, but as we also have begun to do surveys around the country, we will, as soon as we can, have flights go into Aswan and Luxor in the next day or two, you know, as we've identified pockets of American citizens in those locations as well.


DOUGHERTY: Yes. So they're using charter flights, they actually used a Canadian plane today, a U.S. military plane, and eventually they're hoping, as you said, tomorrow they will be starting out and trying to do at least as well as they did today in getting people out.

COOPER: Appreciate that report. We will continue to follow that.

I want to introduce you to Jessie (ph) Sobrina and Tom Traylor, two Americans who have been living here.

You guys have been here what for five or six months?



COOPER: So at what point did you decide it's time to get out?

TRAYLOR: For me that decision was made -- normally I'm pretty comfortable walking around the city just about anywhere. But in the last few days as I have been out and people have identified me as an American, as an American they have been saying that we're pretty upset about your country's position on supporting Mubarak. And the minute that they started being hostile towards me, that was like, OK, I need to find somewhere else to go.

COOPER: Do you feel that as well?

SOBRINA: I do. For me actually the turning point was about a day beforehand. Just as a female, I couldn't be roaming the streets as much as Tom had the opportunity do. So, the anti-American sentiment I didn't really experience the same extent.

That's -- at the organization that I work for, I write reports mostly for the upper class businessmen. And given the economy, my job's really...


COOPER: And you live in a neighborhood. How's the security there? There's no police around, so is it one of those neighborhood watches?

TRAYLOR: Yes. We're very pretty fortunate because we live in Zamalek that the building we live in, because there are so many Egyptian families outside of our building at any one time, there could be like 20 to 50 armed men protecting our building. So we're very fortunate in that respect.

I can imagine being in some other neighborhood without having that, and it could be, you know, even with that -- still that presence, we still hear gunfire every night.

COOPER: There's no doubt there's a lot of folks at the U.S. State Department working very hard. They're probably understaffed trying to get people out. But we're hearing a lot of frustration from Americans who aren't able to contact -- the U.S. State Department put out a statement the other day saying, well, contact our Web site. But obviously there's no Internet service here. What's your experience been? Have you called them?

SOBRINA: I registered upon arriving here at the end of August.

And then one of the roommates that we're staying with called and said, here are the individuals are here. Here's our home phone lines, and cell phones have been in and out. We haven't had any direct contact. And everything we have heard about the State Department has been through the media and not directly from a embassy representative. The most helpful advice we have gotten are from friends who are working from the embassy, not directly from them. COOPER: So are you planning to take a commercial -- because commercial flights are still going, but a lot of commercial flights have been canceled or delayed and the airport scene is just a nightmare. I met someone when I flew in I guess it was on Sunday who had been there for 48 hours and still had no word. How will you try to get out?

TRAYLOR: Well, fortunately for us, because we have a place to live, we're able to contact our families, and we're having them get tickets for us and because we have a place to live, we can kind of hang out for a little bit try to get past the rush of all the tourists getting out, all the foreign tourists getting out as well. We're able to contact our families, they're getting tickets for us, and then we're just going to kind of wait it out in Zamalek until hopefully by the time we leave on Friday and Saturday, it will be a little calmer there.

COOPER: So you think Saturday you have a flight out?

TRAYLOR: As far as I know, right now Saturday I have a flight out. Now, whether that happens, as we're hearing from our friends that are at the airport right now that you could have a flight and the flight could be delayed for 24 to 48 hours.

COOPER: So your friends are stuck at the airport?


SOBRINA: My grandmother was there for 36 hours. She actually came to visit me on Thursday and ended up being stuck there for an extended period of time.

COOPER: Your grandmother picked the worst time to visit you. I'm sure your grandmother loves you very much, but..

SOBRINA: She made it to London, though so that is good. And my flight is going out to Paris on Friday afternoon, hopefully. And we're going to try to get there about 24 hours in advance.

COOPER: What do you want people in the United States to know about what's happening here from your perspective?

TRAYLOR: I would say from my perspective, the first thing I would like people to know is that fort most part the protesters that I have encountered, and I have been out a lot during the day, these are individuals that just want their freedom.

A very telling side for me is that there's a point where I was observing one of the protests last Tuesday, and myself and a couple other foreigners were maybe a little too close to the front and as people started to run away from the police, some Egyptian men saw us and they surrounded us to protect us from the crowd leaving.

And I found that most of the time, that that's how the protesters are reacting, this is all about them wanting freedom. And so they have been very, very gracious to me as a foreigner. COOPER: Are you concerned about what may happen today in the hours ahead?

TRAYLOR: Absolutely. We're hearing from the friends that we have that this is going to be a very, very large day. And so this is a day for me that I'm going to be inside.

COOPER: Jessie (ph) and Tom, I want to thank you for being with us. I know it's even a risk coming here. So we do appreciate that, and wish you the best of luck in getting out.

TRAYLOR: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

When we come back, we're going to have the conversation I had with Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei today, a former IAEA official, Nobel Peace laureate, who is here, returned here on Thursday. We will talk to him about what he sees the next steps being.



COOPER: There's a much heavier presence of the Egyptian soldiers on the streets in Cairo. And they're having a little bit of a heavier hand today.

They're blocking off certain traffic routes and they're blocking off certain exits and entrances to this square. So it's harder and harder to get to the square. I think a lot of people say that they are trying to give a show of force or give a sense that they're in control of the situation.


COOPER: One of the things that President Hosni Mubarak has done efficiently and effectively overt last 30 years he's been in power is never really allowing significant opposition forces to grow in this country.

So if he is removed from power, or steps down from power, there's a real question about who would move in to fill that vacuum. Would it be the military? Would some other political figure arise? Would the Muslim Brotherhood take on a greater role?

And, frankly, no one knows the answers to those questions, but one name that's become more well known in the last couple days is Mohamed ElBaradei. He was the former head of the IAEA. That's maybe where you have heard his name, if you have heard it at all.

But he's lived much of the last three decades outside of Egypt. Even though he's Egyptian, he's lived outside of Egypt, so he doesn't really have a huge popular base of support in this country. He only returned to this country on Thursday. But his name and -- it has become more well known, and he's taken on more of a prominent role in the last several days.

And there's talk -- he has said that he's had talks with the opposition figures and with the protest organizers to try to talk about forming some sort of government of national unity, if and when President Mubarak does leave. I talked to Mohamed ElBaradei earlier on Monday.


COOPER: What is happening today? What are you doing today?

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, what I'm doing today is trying to see the way forward, Anderson. Clearly, people are going to continue to demonstrate.

There is a large demonstration planned for tomorrow. It might be even bigger on Friday if things does not move. I think the No. 1 priority for the people in the industry everywhere right now is for Mr. Mubarak to get a dignified exit.

COOPER: There is concern in some quarters of the United States about what comes after Mubarak. What do you say to try to alleviate people's concerns?

ELBARADEI: I think -- I think that there's friction, frankly, in some portions, anyway. One that, you know, if -- if a democracy were to come here, you know, they might automatically be hostile. Well, that's not true at all. I mean, you know, we -- peace between democracies is much more durable than peace between dictators.

COOPER: How controlled are things right now, in terms of, you know, every day knowing what's going to happen?

ELBARADEI: Nobody knows. I mean, that is also...

COOPER: You don't even know?

ELBARADEI: I don't even know. I mean, as you can see, Mubarak is keeping -- mum is the word. Nobody knows what he's thinking, why is he staying?

As I mentioned yesterday I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he now for the sake of the country should just go. And nobody knows what is -- what the new government is going to look like. People are not accepting, just shuffling of people, because it's -- the demand for change is quite different from -- from what -- you know, cosmetic changes. They need a drastic shift.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton talked about calling for a transition to democracy, which they say they've been calling for for 30 years.

ELBARADEI: Yes, but -- but if you call for 30 years and you have seen the outcome is things getting from bad to worse, don't you think there's something wrong? And don't you think that people then will not believe that you believe in your basic values, freedom, democracy? You really have to be -- I mean, you cannot change things in Egypt, but you have to stand up and make it loud and clear that you are not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of a dictator. Mubarak has been supportive of the peace process. Mubarak has been helpful in many regional issues, but have no reason to believe that a democracy here will not be as supportive of stability. But it will be durable.

COOPER: When you heard that Vice President Biden had said that he didn't consider Mubarak a dictator, what did you think?

ELBARADEI: Did he say that?

COOPER: Yes. This was days ago.

ELBARADEI: I know Joe Biden. I'll ask him to come here for a day and let us talk. I'll take him out on a day in the street and talk to the people. If he finds one single Egyptian saying that Mubarak is not a ruthless dictator, I'll be surprised.

COOPER: And your message to President Obama is what?

ELBARADEI: My message to President Obama -- and I have lots of respect for him. I worked with him in the last year of my tenure at IAEA and have admiration for him. But I tell him, you need to review your policy. You need to let go of Mubarak. You need to be -- you shouldn't be behind the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) leader, start with the confidence in the people and not with the people who are smothering them.

COOPER: Are you concerned that -- that the protesters won't be able to maintain their energy, that they won't continue to come out every day?

ELBARADEI: I don't think so. I think -- I think they're determined. I mean, I have been talking to some of the leaders today. I mean, I think they -- they are not going to let go until they see the back of Mubarak, frankly. And the earlier he will do that the better for the country. I -- my fear, Anderson, that we would have more violence, that that would happen.

COOPER: Do you fear a crackdown by Mubarak?

ELBARADEI: I don't see. I think if think do that, that is -- that would be a bloody country. I mean, people now, as you have seen, they have been empowered. I mean, they have been beaten. And they are not going to stop short of change of regime, change of Mubarak.

COOPER: and if there is a transitional government, would you run for president?

ELBARADEI: This is not -- again, this is not my priority at all. At my -- at this stage, all I want to see is Egypt modern, moderate, democratic. And -- and I would be -- I would have achieved the last mission of my life, if you like.

But I always said, if people want me to run, I would not let them down. But that's not my priority.

COOPER: Can you predict what's going to happen? I mean, do you have a sense of, if Mubarak leaves, when he might do that?

ELBARADEI: I think that n the next two weeks things have to be clear. And I think within the next two weeks if things are not clear, I -- I am afraid that things will escalate. There's no -- there is no -- going down, as I said.

COOPER: Thanks again.

ELBARADEI: Thanks a lot.

COOPER: Thank you.


COOPER: I'm joined now by Robin Wright, senior fellow of the Institute for Peace. Also by John King, host of "JOHN KING USA."

John, what are you hearing out of the White House in terms of how they are viewing the situation here?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of points I actually agree with Mr. ElBaradei in that interview. They think the next two weeks are critical. They also think, Anderson, the next 24 hours could be critical.

The administration wants him to leave. They're not saying that quite publicly, but privately, they want him to leave. They're conveying that message. They don't want him to leave in a vacuum, however. They want him to work with his current, newly constituted government. Work with Mr. ElBaradei and other people in the protest community to form some sort of an interim relationship that would then allow a period of time for democratic institution building and democratic elections.

But they do believe -- they believe, No. 1, Mr. Mubarak is resisting that advice and digging in, and they think tomorrow could be critical. If there are huge numbers of people in the streets, how does the army react? And does the army then go to the president and say, "Mr. Mubarak, you need to go"? That could be the key moment.

COOPER: And Robin Wright, in terms of a transition to democracy, it is made all the more difficult because as I said, President Mubarak has not allowed there to be democratic institutions in this country. Has not allowed there to be real legitimate opposition groups.

ROBIN WRIGHT, SENIOR FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR PEACE: And that's such a great deal of uncertainty. And for the Obama administration that also makes life much more difficult.

It's an issue of trying to also create a sense of transition beyond Egypt in the region generally. You have very nervous allies, whether it's in Saudi Arabia or Israel, concerned about what Egypt's transition might look like and what it might lead to. And what impact it might have, because Egypt, as you know, has been always the intellectual center, the political trendsetter in the region.

And so there's a lot to think about when it comes to who are the players? And there are so few out there. There's a kind of hysteria in Washington about the Muslim Brotherhood, which has so far managed, in any election, to get no more than 20 percent. It does have a solid 20 percent, but it is not considered, I think, among Egyptians as the obvious alternative. That's one of the problems. ElBaradei is new. The Muslim Brotherhood doesn't have the kind of significant support.

So who are the players? All the political parties that have been tolerated over the years have been very small and insignificant in terms of providing the leadership. This is why Egypt is so interesting right now. It's something entirely different.

COOPER: It is very interesting, Robin and John, to Robin's last point, John. When you're out with the protesters, they make -- I mean, they bend over backwards to try to explain to me and all of us that the Muslim Brotherhood is only playing a small role in this, and that it is young people who are really the ones in the forefront of these demonstrations. It's not the Muslim Brotherhood; it's not Mohamed ElBaradei. It is young people.

And even today we were videotaping people praying during one of the demonstrations. We had a number of people come up and say, "Make sure you understand these are just prayers. This is not a sign that we are all Islamists and that this is some sort of fundamentalist demonstration."

How real is that fear in the White House, John?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, No. 1, the administration agrees with the assessment you just gave and the assessment Robin just gave. That the Muslim Brotherhood is maybe 25, maybe 30 percent if there's an election tomorrow.

What they do fear, though, is because there are no other democratic institutions, no other political parties have been allowed to form and grow. That if you did this tomorrow, if you did this in two weeks, then what would happen? Who would step into that background? Maybe some radical elements of the Muslim Brotherhood. Maybe some other radical elements. Maybe Iran will try to interfere, outside forces will try to interfere.

Without any democratic institutions beyond President Mubarak, that is the administration's fear, because why -- they hope, Anderson, that President Mubarak will get the message, turn to his vice president and his military chief, and negotiate a transitional government that brings in Mr. ElBaradei, brings in some other people from the demonstrations and then has a several month cooling off period where you organize elections. That's what they want.

They don't believe at this moment President Mubarak has gotten that message. They're trying. The president of the United States has called him. The prime minister of the U.K. has called him. Prime Minister Merkel has called him. However, what they would like but they know they can't get is for King Abdullah in Saudi Arab or Kind Abdullah in Jordan to deliver that message. But the domino effect that Robin just spoke about, that they don't believe the leaders who know him best, whom he trusts most will deliver the message because of the domino effect it would have on them.

COOPER: Do we know where Mubarak would try to go and live? Would he try to live in the United States?

KING: That's a great question. Robin knows a bit more about the region than I do. Most people think he would not come to the United States.

Would he go to London, where his family is? Would he go elsewhere in the Middle East if that happened? Make no mistake, if the United States could help privately negotiate a departure for him, they would be happy to do so.

COOPER: Robin Wright, I appreciate you being with us. These are heady days here and difficult hours ahead. We're going to follow it. John King, as well. We're going to have more, live from Cairo. We also just want to give you an update on the massive storm that is hitting the Midwest and also plans to be heading east. We'll have that and more from Cairo in just a minute with us.



COOPER: Even now though there's not a large organization controlling these -- these demonstrations, there are people trying to do the best they can, trying to police, order, trying to keep things orderly, make sure this doesn't erupt into violence.

There are even people who are handing out food. They're handing out dates like these to the crowd. Because people spend so much time here, they get hungry.


COOPER: And that sense of policing thee crowds, self-policing is going to be critical in the hours ahead as we anticipate a massive demonstration here in Cairo, also one called for Alexandria.

And again, these could be critical hours in the few hours ahead. We're coming up on the 6 a.m. hour here. The demonstration is anticipated to begin around 9. The rallying point is just a few blocks from where I'm standing in Liberation Square. We're going to have complete coverage.

Let's check in, though, with Isha Sesay, who has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Anderson. A federal judge in Florida has ruled President Obama's health- care reform law is unconstitutional. The judge wrote that Congress overstepped its authority in passing the law, because it contains the provision requiring most Americans to buy health insurance by 2014. The Justice Department says it will appeal the ruling.

A California man has been charged with making terrorist threats after allegedly targeting a mosque in Michigan called the Islamic Center of America. Roger Sutton was arrested in the mosque parking lot. Allegedly, there was a large amount of fireworks in his car. He's being held on bond.

Oil prices are spiking amid concerns about the situation in Egypt. The price settled at just over $92 per barrel today, the highest close since October 2008.

And a massive winter storm is heading toward the United States with more than 20 states expected to get at least some of it. Meteorologist Chad Myers joins us now with the very latest. Chad, just how bad is it?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's going to get worse. And it's just starting, but it will be all the way -- these warnings, all the way from Boston, all the way back down to El Paso, Texas.

And if you're in this, this is the zone of snow. There will be just a slight area of ice below that, south of that, about 15 miles. Some spots could pick up an inch of ice. That will bring down power lines, trees, and the like. That's what this is. That pink area there, that's the icing going on.

Here comes the snow. Oklahoma City tonight, Tulsa, back up through Springfield and into St. Louis, then Chicago and then finally, into Detroit. It is a big storm. It continues to be a big storm.

As we move in, the good news is, it's a fast storm. This storm will take 36 hours to go from Texas to Massachusetts. If it would be 50 hours or 100 hours, the snow would be much deeper. I'm assuming and expecting that we're going to se 10 to 20 inches to be the max everywhere here in this dark purple. But there may be some spots higher than that.

The problem is not going to be so much the snow. Obviously, 15 inches of snow is a lot. But if you're south of this line, south of Scranton, south of Pittsburgh, all the way even back down into Louisville and Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, that's the line of ice that could be more problem than the snow. Isha?

SESAY: Oh, boy. Weather woes for a lot of people. We appreciate it.

Anderson, let me send it back to you in Cairo.

COOPER: Snow, it sounds a world away, Isha, from where we are right now. We are -- as I said, we're about three hours away from this demonstration. I can tell you, I already hear protesters off in the distance, people chanting off in the distance after morning prayers. It is going to be a very interesting day here to say the least. Potentially a dangerous day, but potentially also a critical day for the future of this country.

I hope you stay with our coverage. We'll also be on the air, of course, tomorrow night live from Cairo as well with all the developments on Tuesday.

When we come back, though, our coverage continues. I want to show you some of the most remarkable moments that we have witnessed over the last 48 hours over this weekend. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Just been checking my BlackBerry. It looks like cell- phone service is still on here in Cairo, though we have been told to anticipate a shutoff of cell-phone service. All Internet connections now are down. The last ISP server went down a short time ago.

Also, train service has been cut to Cairo, all efforts by the government to make -- to lessen the impact of this large demonstration which is anticipated to start in just a few hours.

I can already hear some protesters coming from one area, heading toward Liberation Square to join up with a larger group. That's the staging point just a few blocks in that direction.

Again, we're going to continue to cover it, be up all day and all -- into tomorrow night to bring you the latest information. But we want to take a look back, some of the most dramatic moments that we saw today, Monday here, and also some of the most dramatic moments we saw over the weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's over. Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). What do you want?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mubarak must leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no choice. The first choice, Mubarak leave and the second choice, we die here. We have no choice.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Doctors in a makeshift hospital set up in a small mosque, treat the wounded from the clashes.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (CHANTING) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hate this person. He's an illegal person. He's (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He is our enemy.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How do you get the president out of the country? Because at the moment he sees the demonstration as resolutionist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hate Mubarak. We hate Mubarak.

ROBERTSON: This is what we're seeing that we haven't seen before as well. "Foreign governments, stop hypocrisy, stand for Egyptians and freedom."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been an unmistakable show of military force. Fighter jets flying low over Liberation Square. It's been a symbol of defiance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The body of a young man killed in clashes with interior ministry forces, is carried through the square.

WEDEMAN: There's another important side of this story. This country's economy, its infrastructure has come to a screeching halt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soldiers have been deployed all around the city. And the tanks are even parked here at one of the ancient wonders of the world, the great pyramids of Giza.

ROBERTSON: The demonstrators say that's the army firing to warn them to stay away. These people wouldn't be out on the streets if the government was in control.

WEDEMAN: At the moment, much of the attention is on this, Liberty Square, the heart of the protest movement.

COOPER: Are you scared to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not scared. There's a lot of people here. So why am I scared?

COOPER: They're calling for freedom, and change and justice. Those are the words your hear a lot. And their -- their demands haven't changed. They want Mubarak out.

ElBaradei is over there in the crowd, and everyone wants to get a look at him, wants to hear anything he might have to say.

What is your message to President Mubarak?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He should leave tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now this protest movement, they say they're willing to stay out here for as long as it takes until Hosni Mubarak leaves. So certainly, there is no indication that the movement is in any way waning. And it seems to be growing stronger by the day.


COOPER: Well, all of our correspondents and camera crews and producers and engineers here working literally around the clock, day after day to bring you the best coverage we can. Stay with CNN online and on television for the latest coverage from Egypt.

Join us again on 360 tomorrow night at 10 p.m. Eastern. I'll see you then.