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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Crisis in Egypt
Aired February 10, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Breaking news tonight. Chaos in Cairo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't do anything with his ass in the country.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you're very angry now, I assume.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course we are. We all are.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Mubarak refuses to leave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPT (Through Translator): I have to respond to your calls but I am also embarrassed and I will not accept to listen to any foreign interventions or dictations.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Tonight, what happens now? Can the army keep control? What should the U.S. do with the revolution's strength?
Using the global resources of CNN around the world, this is a special edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
It close to dawn in Egypt and in Cairo, thousands of angry demonstrators are still filling Tahrir Square. Meanwhile thousands more are reportedly massing outside the presidential palace. The anger growing by the minute to President Mubarak's speech in which he refused to leave.
And tonight President Obama has said that does not appear to be what the Egyptian people want. All are agreed the next few hours are critical. And once again, we're according every angle of this fast- moving and historic story with CNN -- CNN's worldwide reach.
Ben Wedeman and Ivan Watson, live in Cairo. And here, Wolf Blitzer, John King, and joining us another familiar face, ABC News' Christiane Amanpour.
We're going to start immediately with Ben Wedeman in Cairo. Ben, bring me up to speed with what is happening right now.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we see is the continued presence of thousands of demonstrators in Tahrir Square. They spread some are still outside the state TV headquarters which of course is surrounded by army tanks.
Others, a few hundred, we're told, have made their way in the direction of the presidential palace. They haven't gotten really near it because that also is surrounded by rings of armor from the Egyptian army. But of course, this is just what, it's 4:00 in the morning in Cairo. Tomorrow is Friday. A traditional day of prayer and protest. The expectations are those protests are going to grow to proportions we have yet to see in Cairo -- Piers.
MORGAN: Ben, it's been another completely random day of events in Cairo. It's very hard and it has been from the start of this crisis to try and predict what's going to happen. Two big moments today. One, everyone expected President Mubarak to go and he didn't. And then after that, I kind of expected like most people, for the square to erupt in fury. And that didn't happen either.
Explain both of these events from where you stand.
WEDEMAN: Well, it is really hard to say why President Mubarak did not, as was so widely expected, step down. All the indications from the head of the ruling National Democratic Party, from Leon Panetta of the CIA, from sources around Cairo, was that he would make that call.
Why at the last moment he decided not to remains really a mystery. But I think you've got an indication from his repeated references to foreign interference. And how he would not bow to that foreign interference. And that's a very sensitive point in Egypt and always has been.
President Mubarak does not want to be seen as caving in to American pressure and resigning. And as far as the reaction of the crowd, actually, it was one of fury. The speech was not even over when we heard this roar coming from the crowd of ath-hab (ph), which is Arabic for go, leave. And really, they were enraged and infuriated in a way that we haven't seen yet.
What did not transpire was sort of a violent storming of state TV or of the presidential palace. They didn't have the numbers and the crowd continues to chant this one word, silmia (ph), which in Arabic means peaceful. And so it does appear that they want to maintain a peaceful protest.
But certainly, the emotions and the obstinance of President Mubarak could lead to more violent reaction tomorrow. But it's difficult to say at this point if that's actually going to be the case.
MORGAN: Ben, thank you.
We're now joined by Ivan Watson who's also live in Tahrir Square tonight.
Ivan, just tell me what your perspective is. We've been going on now for nearly two weeks in Cairo. It's been ebbing and flowing as a dramatic story. Everyone expected today to be a day of history and has ended up a day of confusion. And no one seems quite sure what the hell is going on.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Piers, these demonstrators never cease to astound me. I can't believe it. We saw immediately after the speech, the chant saying go away, go away. We saw columns of hundreds of demonstrators swearing that they were going to march to the presidential palace, to the TV station.
And there was the fear of a confrontation with the military. But now it's 3:00 in the morning. And the crowd is relentlessly upbeat. And I would stay the new symbol of the Egyptian protester is something as simple as a blanket because there are thousands of people packed on to the sidewalk like sardines under blankets.
That's the immediate response of so many people now to Hosni Mubarak's stubbornness and refusal to step down. They have simply decided to have a massive sleep-in. There were already tents here, there were already significant numbers of people camping out here in Tahrir Square.
But now many, many more people have just decided to show their defiance by just sleeping here on a chilly night. Their families here with their children, there are young men, young women. And people are frustrated, they're angry at their president. But they're smiling and they're still playing music around here. It's really an amazing example of passive resistance.
MORGAN: Ivan, thank you very much for that. Certainly extraordinary.
I want to go now to Sarah Sirgany who's a deputy editor of the "Daily News" in Egypt. She is in the square as well and joins me now by phone.
Sarah, what is your take on this as a young Egyptian? I would have expected pretty violent scenes to have erupted after Mubarak's speech when he made it clear, he wasn't going to give the people what they wanted. But they didn't happen which is incredibly laudable. But is it going to effective to have a peaceful protest now?
SARAH SIRGANY, DAILY NEWS EGYPT/INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: It's not here -- I cannot say for sure. But -- the protesters have made it clear from the beginning that it's peaceful regardless of any provocation. Regardless of any crackdown that they're subjected to. They want to keep it peaceful.
They hope this attitude, this way of just peaceful protests, standing in front of the TV building or close to the presidential palace or surrounding the parliament would be in itself making a point of what they want without any sort of clashes or loss of lives or bloodshed. MORGAN: Sarah, why should any Egyptian in Cairo, in Tahrir Square tonight, why should they believe a word that President Mubarak is now saying, given that he's told so many lies particularly in recent weeks and months?
SIRGANY: Aside from the fact that there has been a loss in trust a long time ago, long before any of the demonstrations even started, there is also a lot of confusion. Since the president made the speech, when he delegated his powers -- there are some sort of transfer of powers to Omar Suleiman, he said it very briefly. Some people even missed it.
At the same time we're still not sure exactly how much of his power did he delegate to Omar Suleiman. He said according to the Constitution. But that in itself is very vague. And officials who appeared on TV stations so far have been vague in their descriptions or when they were questioned about the details of this transfer of power.
They haven't provided enough answers. So it's not just anger. It's distrust. It's a lot of confusion. I myself do not understand exactly how the situation has been in terms of power in Egypt.
MORGAN: Sarah, thank you. I couldn't agree more. It's very confusing and it remains so this evening. Thank you for your time.
ABC News' Christiane Amanpour has returned from Cairo early this week.
Christiane, thank you for joining me again. What on earth is going on right now in Cairo right now?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS' "THIS WEEK": It looks like it's a real dialogue that's happening right now between the president and the protesters. You saw what he did in that speech. He talked directly to them, the people of Liberation Square, Tahrir Square, he said.
And he talked about understanding them. Feeling their pain, hearing their message. And once he said that he was staying and that he would stay through the elections, although not stand for the elections, but shepherd the process through, the answer came back from the crowd. It was a huge roar of discontent.
But clearly each time he speaks he's giving a little bit more. And what he's done today is handed over a good deal, a substantial amount of his powers to the vice president. And the vice president came on afterwards and said, look, we're hearing you. We're doing it. It takes time.
And do you know, Piers, this business of taking time is what we're hearing from the United States government? What I just heard from the Israeli government? The Israeli government has not spoken at all and they are so concerned that what's happening there being right next door.
I just spoke to the defense minister Ehud Barak exclusively, and he told me yes, he understands that they need time. And he believes that this is about shepherding the process through constitutional reform, making room for proper elections, and giving Hosni Mubarak a dignified way out -- Piers.
MORGAN: What was extraordinary to me was that so many news outlets were pretty well guaranteeing that he was going to step down. We had the director of the CIA telling Congress this was likely to happen.
Did something change or was this always the plan, do you think?
AMANPOUR: Well, from what I understand, the director of the CIA quoted media reports and said that they were monitoring it closely and didn't have any additional information.
But you're right. Media reports were full of this. And there is obviously a lot of wishful thinking and interpreting about what's going on. And by the way, we were justifiably confused because one minister -- the prime minister was saying to one organization, well, he's likely to step down.
The military chief of Cairo, the Cairo Garrison, came into the crowd in Tahrir Square and told the people, grabbing the mike that everything you've asked for, your demands will be met tonight. He was very cryptic about it. Didn't exactly say what but clearly people interpreted what they wanted from that.
But on the other hand, the minister of information who I know is very close to the president and is with the president on a daily basis said this afternoon that there's no way the president is definitely not stepping down.
So basically what he said today was practically what he said to me when I met him at the presidential palace last week that yes, I'm going, that yes, I've heard the voice of the people. But not just yet. When it's the right time which is in September before the elections.
Now if the group there agrees, whether it's the president, the military, the people, the opposition, that this time period should be shortened, then that could happen. But right he's saying that he's is staying to shepherd through the constitutional process.
MORGAN: Do you believe this plan is going to work?
AMANPOUR: You know, Piers, people have been trying to figure out what's going on for the last 17 days. Some have said there's bound to be a crackdown. Again I asked about this to the relevant authorities. And nobody -- and everybody is assuring me rather that the military is not going to intervene against the people.
Some are suggesting that there may be a power struggle right now between the military and the president and his officials. That perhaps the military think that it's best for them to step in. I think one thing we should really look for and closely monitor now is the next statement from the military. What happened this morning was that the military high council gave a statement. They had a special meeting chaired by the defense minister. Also the chief of staff was there. The president was not there. He usually chairs these meetings but he was not there. The military said in case of a vacuum, we will take responsibility, as they put it, for the protection of the people and for the country.
Let's see what the military comes out and says next.
MORGAN: Well, the one thing we can be sure of is any conventional wisdom on this is unlikely to happen.
Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much.
Confusion and anger are growing hourly in Egypt at this moment. If you're in Egypt tonight, tweet me with your story, atPiersMorgan.
When we come back, two of our biggest names at CNN, John King and Wolf Blitzer, on how long can Hosni Mubarak hang on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a peace moment for us. We need -- we need freedom.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: More dramatic scenes in Cairo tonight where the situation appears close to spinning out of control. Here to try to make sense of it all, CNN's Wolf Blitzer and John King.
Wolf, let me go straight to you. You did an exclusive interview with the Egyptian ambassador today to the United States in which he seems to be under the impression that President Mubarak has effectively stepped down.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN'S SITUATION ROOM: Yes, he goes even further. He says that President Mubarak really has no power left. He was very precise saying that for all practical purposes, he's really not the president anymore. That the Vice President Omar Suleiman is the president.
Let me play a little clip for you and our viewers, Piers, and then we'll discuss it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Who was the head of state of Egypt right now?
SAMEH SHOUKRY, EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: The head of state of Egypt is the president who has transmitted all his powers to the vice president.
BLITZER: All right. So just to be precise, the head of state is still Hosni Mubarak.
SHOUKRY: The de jury head of state is Hosni Mubarak. The de facto head of state is Omar Suleiman.
BLITZER: And de jury means the legal head of state. The official head of state but the de facto meaning, for all practical purposes, you're saying Suleiman is the president.
SHOUKRY: For all -- for undertaking all decisions and responsibilities under the Constitution, it's the Vice President Omar Suleiman.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was very precise. He called us to try to clarify that. I don't think to a lot of the protesters, Piers, though, it makes a whole lot of difference whether Suleiman is in charge or Mubarak is in charge. They want both of them to go. They don't see a lot of difference between these two leaders.
MORGAN: I mean, Wolf, you know, if it wasn't so serious, you're thinking about watching some "Saturday Night Live" sketch. I mean it's absolutely ridiculous when you have characters like the guy you just interviewed trying to insist that Mubarak is gone when he is plainly still there.
BLITZER: Yes. He hasn't gone anywhere. He's staying in Cairo as far as we can tell. One of his supporters actually sent me an e- mail as saying think of Mubarak now as the queen of England. She's got some sort of -- sort of powers, if you will, but they're not all that real. But the real power resides with Suleiman. But as I said I'm not so sure that makes a whole lot of difference.
And one of the things we did see in the statement that President Obama put out, he said, they've got to be clear. They've got to tell the people of Egypt what is going on. They can't be diplomatic. They can't have nuances.
The president of the United States in that statement making it very clear that the Egyptian leadership, Mubarak, Suleiman, they have not gone far enough in clarifying exactly what they want.
MORGAN: Go to John King now.
John, I mean, President Obama's comments tonight seem bordering on fury from where I'm looking.
JOHN KING, CNN'S JOHN KING, USA: It is a written statement, Piers. He did not come out in public and speak to the cameras because the White House did not want him out in public just yet. But there is no doubt, when you read the statement, they are very disappointed and they are angry at the White House.
To Wolf's point about being more clear. I'm told tonight -- and in a moment I'll read you some of the president's words. But I'm told tonight that because the speeches were so vague and so defiant, both President Mubarak and Vice President Suleiman, the administration says they want the Egyptian to go back on television and make very clear that he is stepping aside, make very clear the timetable.
They say if you actually look at the documents that have been given to the parliament, that there are some building blocks there for giving up the power, for diminution of presidential power, and for perhaps building blocks towards this dialogue.
But they say no one believes it. Not at the White House, not on the streets. Because those speeches were so vague and so defiant. So they're demanding that the Egyptian government be more clear.
I'll read a bit of statement from the president. "The Egyptian people have been told there was a transition of authority. But it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient. Too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the Egyptian people and the world."
That is an attempt from the White House to say, Mr. President, nowhere near good enough. Mr. Mubarak, you must be more clear. You must make clear. You don't have your hands on the day to day leverage of government and that you're getting out of the way.
They're very disappointed tonight. They are hoping, Piers, before it turns violent, that President Mubarak gets that message. Either from his inner circle or perhaps from his army.
MORGAN: I mean, Wolf, what's happening here is that Mubarak is just simply calling President Obama's bluff, isn't he?
BLITZER: Well, he's basically saying he's not leaving and the U.S. really wanted him to leave. They wanted him to leave one way or the other. They thought he would step down. They thought he might leave the country. They thought it was time to move on. And I think it's a simple case of, it's way too little too late for Mubarak right now.
If he would have done this a week ago, certainly two weeks ago, handed over almost all of his responsibilities to a new Vice President Omar Suleiman, I think a lot of the people in Egypt would have said wow, that's pretty good. Let's move on now.
But, you know, he announced last week that he's not going to run for reelection in September. Had he done that a week or two earlier, maybe things would have changed. But right now, it seems to most of the expert analysts I've been talking to, inside the government, outside the government, Piers, they think it's too late. And that he's just got to realize what's going and it's time to move.
MORGAN: Wolf, John, thank you very much.
Joining me now from Washington, John Negroponte, former director of National Intelligence and ambassador to Iraq, and Paul Wolfowitz, former secretary of defense and president of the World Bank. Let me turn to you first, Mr. Negroponte. What is happening with intelligence here? Because we seem to have no idea about Tunisia. We had even less idea about what would happen in Egypt. And today we have the farcical side of the director of the CIA basically informing us that he believed Mubarak was stepping down when he didn't.
JOHN NEGROPONTE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Well, I don't think these things are that easy to forecast. You know, and hindsight is always 20/20 vision when you look at these things. So you miss signals but at the time there's a lot of noise.
When I was in Egypt three weeks ago, it was not at all obvious that this was going to happen. Events were occurring in Tunisia. And people were concerned about that but thing erupted rather quickly. There was a spark. Tunisia was the spark. And then off the situation went.
But I don't think this is some kind of an intelligence failure. I think it's a problem that the people and the government of Egypt have with the adequacy of their government which has been in power for 30 years, an authoritarian regime which they would like to see changed. And what we're watching is a rather messy process by which this now seems to be unfolding.
MORGAN: Paul Wolfowitz, if you were still at the Defense Apartment, what would you be advising President Obama right now?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, first of all, I think to recognize this is very much in the hands of the Egyptian people and they have behaved I would say remarkably. It's not a surprise that they were terrifically angry at the regime. The surprise is only as to exactly when this all burst out.
But it burst out in an extremely peaceful way. Not led by extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood but led by ordinary citizens, by middle class businessmen who never thought they'd be demonstrating in the streets and very courageous people.
And I think we should make it clear that we celebrate what they've done. That we wish them well. That we're going to support this effort. And I think quietly, privately, to be encouraging the Egyptian military in the course that seems to have followed so far. And I hope that it will be committed to refrain from violence.
We've seen actually in the last 30 years quite a few peaceful transitions from military based dictatorships. And the ones that have been successful have been the ones where the military kept its hands clean and didn't start killing its own citizens.
MORGAN: Yes. And that's the point I was going to make just now to both of you. I'll go to Mr. Negroponte on this.
You have been actively involved in similar situations around the world. How do you predict this one to unfurl from where we lie tonight? NEGROPONTE: Well, it's very, very difficult to tell. But clearly, the details of transition are extremely important. Some of the subject matter has been put on the table. The nature of constitutional amendment that are going to be required. Who's going to be allowed to run. What parties, what factions, what's needed in order to make this transition actually possible.
But I'm a little bit fearful that the lack of clarity in the current situation, and the anger on the street is injecting an element of impatience that may cause a further downward spiral. That's obviously not to be desired. That's simply going to prolong rather than hasten the day that we achieve some kind of a decent and orderly transition.
MORGAN: Mr. Wolfowitz, I mean, does he expect to get away with this because this looks to me like just one almighty bluff? He's basically saying to America, don't push me around, I've been here 30 years, and I'll go when I see fit.
WOLFOWITZ: Well, remember, he's not just saying it to America. He's saying to it a million of his own people who are in the streets. And I -- a big question is, what does Omar Suleiman think when he says people should go home? Does he plan to use the army to make them go home?
If he does, I certainly hope the army won't follow. The risk of violence here is really the great danger. And it's not violence from angry protesters. It's violence if the regime tries to put this down with force.
MORGAN: Mr. Negroponte, from a diplomatic point of view, you being at the sharp end of this behind the corridors negotiations many times, what do you suspect is now happening that we don't know about?
NEGROPONTE: Well, I mean, that's hard to tell. You've got the question of what's going on within the Councils of the Army, the military itself, the Egyptian military, which had announced they're in a sort of state of permanent vigil at the moment. So I'm sure they're watching all of these developments extremely closely.
I do think one point that was made earlier by Wolf and others which I think we do have to be fair here. Two or three weeks ago, this crisis wasn't even in sight. And now Mr. Mubarak has said he won't run. He's going to step down when the elections take place and he's going to step aside.
He's not stepping down but he is stepping aside so that others can carry forward the day to day responsibilities of government between now and the elections. So, you know, maybe it may not sound like enough to some people but to others, I think they might rightfully comment that, wow, that's an awful lot that's happened in a period of less than three weeks.
MORGAN: John Negroponte and Paul Wolfowitz, thank you very much for your time. The real power in Egypt lies with military. When we come back, I'll ask the man who used to run the United States military what the Egyptian army should do next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK KIRK (R), ILLINOIS: -- scenario would be a collapse of the Egyptian army, Egypt moving into the orbit of Iran, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, interruption of Suez Canal service and a spiking of the price in oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was Senator Mark Kirk just a little while ago. Also today Mohammed Elbaradei, the main opposition leader in Cairo, Tweeted, "Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now."
Will the army save Egypt? Here now is someone who probably knows the answer, General Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
General Myers, when you saw that message from Mohammed Elbaradei, has he got a point, do you think, that we may see the situation disintegrate now into what will be a military situation?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I don't think we know that. But we do know that the Egyptian military is one of the most respected institutions in the country. And it has been for a long time, going back to the wars with Israel. So those who are serving, those who have served are respected.
I don't know that we know how they're going to behave. I think that's one of the big questions in all this. Maybe it will be settled overnight, as the army is now protecting the palace, the presidential palace.
MORGAN: Senator Mark Kirk, not Little as I mistakenly just called him -- he spelled out there a dooms day scenario. Does he have a point or is that fanciful, do you think?
MYERS: Again, I don't think we know. This transition could be like the one in Poland, where basically peaceful. Obviously, the Suez Canal means a lot to the folks that are putting ships through there, to include the United States military. But it also means a lot for revenue for Egypt.
So I think any disruption of that would further exacerbate their economic woes. There are lots of tensions here both ways. I don't think we know. I personally don't se a dooms day scenario. I think the fact the protester have acquitted themselves quite well. They have not resorted to violence for the most part. And that the army has shown great restraint.
I think they are all good signs that this could turn out to be more peaceful than violent.
MORGAN: We must hope that is the case. But we have seen outbreaks of pretty awful violence there.
MYERS: There has been some. Overall, it has been relatively subdued.
MORGAN: How big is the Egyptian military? How effective are they?
MYERS: I think they have about a half million men in uniform and another half a million in the reserves. They have modern equipment, most of it our equipment. We've been selling them over the years in our military sales program.
And they're reasonably effective. They're an effective force. They're one of the most effective forces in that part of the world, as a matter of fact.
MORGAN: I want to just play you a clip, which is from the Egyptian Military Supreme Council. Then I'll ask you for your reaction after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and the commitment to protect the people and caring for the people's interests and security, and assuring the safety of the homeland, the citizens, and the gains of the great people of Egypt, and emphasizing and supporting the legitimate demands of the people, today on the 10th of February, 2011, the High Council of the Armed Forces held a meeting to discuss what could be conducted from procedures and measures to preserve the homeland, the gains and ambition of the great people of Egypt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Should we feel encouraged by what you've just heard?
MYERS: Well, I mean, it is actually great rhetoric, but I don't know that it means very much. There is no kind of there there, in terms of what they're really willing to do, which I think is probably still being discussed and negotiated and thought about in the higher circles of the Egyptian government.
Clearly, they were very close to President Mubarak, who was a military man himself. And Suleiman is a military man. So these service chiefs are all very close. And I'm sure there is a lot of talk about how does this go forward?
I think the last thing the Egyptian military would want -- the officers that I've served with, that I see over at National Defense University these days -- the last thing they would like to see is their military turn on the people of Egypt. I think that would be a very, very bad outcome. They know that.
So I at least personally am hopeful that that will never come to pass.
MORGAN: Finally, General Myers, could you envision any situation where the American military might have to get involved here?
MYERS: Well, you know, you can draw all scenarios. But no. I can't see a situation where the American military would have to be involved. I think if you take a look broader -- more broadly at the region, perhaps there are some scenarios that -- where that might be necessary.
But I just can't see that at this point. Then again, it is always hard to look around the corner.
MORGAN: It is indeed. Thank you very much, General Myers.
When we come back, what happens now in Egypt? And will revolution spread?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think of Hosni Mubarak's speech?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is useless, absolutely useless. People are there, are willing to die. OK? Willing to die for freedom. Give me liberty or give me death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Furious protests throughout Egypt tonight. What happens next? Joining me now, Robin Wright, journalist and foreign policy analyst, and Reza Aslan, Middle East scholar and author of "No God But Good."
Let me go to you first, Robin. I mean, what is going to happen next?
ROBIN WRIGHT, JOURNALIST: Remember that the median age in Egypt is 24 years old. The young people dominate today the momentum, the political agenda. I think this is what will resonate over the next few days. There's real anger at the president, that he did not address their concerns, that he pulled a bluff on them, basically.
And so I think that as this unfolds over the next few days, you have that dynamic. And then you also have something that no one has talked about yet. That is the number of strikes that have taken place over the last few days.
This is a dynamic that helped bring down the Shah at the end. It was the economic component when he could not continue to run his state without a functioning economy. And the danger is that you get not just the young people, but an extraordinary cross section of Egyptian industries, key places like the Suez Canal, where people go on strike.
That makes it very difficult for the military to stand by and allow Hosni Mubarak to continue to rule.
MORGAN: Reza, let me turn to you. What seems perplexing to me is the amount of peaceful protesting that we're seeing post the Mubarak speech. I would have expected at least sporadic outbreaks of violence from people who are clearly very angry. They seem determined to do this in a peaceful way.
If you are Mubarak, and you are to many people's eyes a dictator, aren't you sitting back thinking, well, this is OK. This is manageable. It is not violent. I don't need to worry too much.
REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "NO GOD BUT GOD": On the contrary. If it turned violent, then he could actually say that he can unleash the full force of his police state upon them.
You know, Robin brought up the Iranian revolution, so I'll continue the metaphor. It was when the Shah came on television and said that he would change his ways that everyone knew the end had come.
This was a profound show of weakness on the part of Hosni Mubarak. At this point, you know, the countdown has begun. And I think the protesters know that if they maintain their peaceful nature, and certainly come tomorrow, when you're going to see probably the largest number of protests we've seen in the three weeks that this has continued on, then the argument of Mubarak that he has to stay in power in order to maintain order really falls flat.
MORGAN: Yes, Robin, let me turn to you now. What is the mood, do you think, of the people? Obviously, they're trying to maintain peace. They are enraged by the fact he hasn't gone. Even if he does go, his vice president is, in many people's eyes, as bad as he is.
WRIGHT: Absolutely. I think one of the things that's been very interesting in this very brief 17-day period is to see the evolution of the demands, and that it is not just reform. It then became the president. Then became the vice president.
And now I think, to a certain degree, you heard on Liberation Square, Tahrir Square tonight, people even saying no to the military. So I think that there is -- these are the people who are setting the agenda in Egypt today. And I think the striking thing about it is that as adamant as they are, they have made an extraordinary effort to engage in civil disobedience.
This is something in a region that introduced the suicide bomb at the end of the 20th century. It's particularly striking that people are not using violence and that are deliberately talking among themselves, issuing pamphlets, issuing instructions on how not to engage in troops, and even talking about going up to the soldiers and giving them flowers or giving them a hug.
MORGAN: It is quite extraordinary to watch, given what we've seen in other parts of that region before. Reza, let me ask you, I suppose the obvious question next is should it turn into bloodshed, and then spill into other parts of the region, how far could this domino effect go?
Could we see potentially the unthinkable -- it would have certainly been a month ago -- of the house of Saud becoming imperiled by what is going on?
ASLAN: Well, Egypt is the largest Arab country in the world. It is the cultural heart of the Arab world. Some would say even the cultural heart of the Islamic world. And so many people would say as Egypt goes, so goes the region.
You have to understand, Piers, that most of the people in the Middle East have been told repeatedly for decades now that they have two choices. Either the American backed oppressive, secular dictatorships that are so much a part of the governments of that region, or fundamentalist Islamist theocracy.
The Egyptian people are proving that there is a third choice. There is another way. And if they can be allowed to build that new society, a pluralistic democratic society, one in which religion plays a role in society and in government, but not to the point where it is an oppressive theocratic state like you have in Iran, then the rest of the region is going to look to Egypt as a paradigm, as an example that could work in their own country.
So if there is a domino effect, I can only see that turning out for the better.
MORGAN: Reza Aslan, Robin Wright, thank you both very much.
The revolution will be televised and Tweeted. Coming up, has social media sparked Egypt's revolution? And will it play an even bigger role going forward?
MORGAN: Rafat Ali is an expert on social media and founder of PaidContact.org, and Aladdin Elaasar is the author of "The Last Pharaoh, The Uncertain Future of Egypt in the Obama Age."
This book was banned by Mubarak, in fact.
Rafat, let me talk to you first. Could this revolution have happened without Twitter, Facebook, the Internet?
RAFAT ALI, FOUNDER PAIDCONTENT.ORG: Surely, yes. I think the speed at which it would have happened would have probably been a lot slower. I think what clearly has happened is Facebook and Twitter played slightly different roles.
Facebook is used in the organization of it. Twitter used -- is used in the amplification of it. And I think these two helped -- are the glue that holds the revolution together, whether it's inside the country or outside the country.
I think it has more affect outside in terms of amplification. What happened in Tunisia -- you could see the fact that that -- what happened there got amplified to the rest of the Arab world. And social media was certainly a part of it.
MORGAN: But do you think we have reached the stage pretty quickly where totalitarian governments just cannot control the Internet anymore. Every time they try it, it makes things worse.
ALI: Yes, I think it's almost like the fabric of the society. And it's part of the -- the fact that this revolution is about young people and the fact that Internet digital -- and let's not forget mobile phones. It's not just online. It's not just Twitter. It's not just Facebook. It's the fact that they can text each other. It's the fact that they can e-mail each other.
I think all of that together makes it very hard for them to contain it.
MORGAN: Even when they were trying to organize the initial gathering in the square, for example, the government tried to stop it happening. They tried to shut down everything, stop the trains. And yet huge crowds turned out.
So the young people, they're smart, quick thinking, very mobile and active on the Internet. They can always get around this now, aren't they? Everyone is watching around the world thinking, there's no way in the future that we can't use technology to beat these governments when they try and gag us.
ALI: Yeah, I think every revolution now is a social revolution. And the fact that all of us can participate in it, whether on the ground or through the social media, I think that's one of the most fascinating parts that's happening right now.
MORGAN: Aladdin, let me turn to you. What do you think is inside the heads of these young people? They're passionate. They're angry. Their parents have suffered enormously under Mubarak. What do you think is driving them? How are they managing to stay so calm and peaceful, when inside they must be burning with anger?
ALADDIN ELAASAR, AUTHOR, "THE LAST PHARAOH": Well, I mean, that's a good sign. It's very healthy. And it's a very civilized behavior, because we're talking about the Egyptian people who started civilization thousands of years ago. And Egyptian people are very resourceful. This is why they're going around all of these obstacles that the regime put in front of them.
And it's not political and it's not religious. So they have basic demands of better future, freedom, democracy. And they are fed up with the regime that they have -- they were basically born under that regime.
But this is a new, different generation. But also, there are a lot of other people who joined them. This is not only the young, who are about 60 percent of the population there, but there are middle aged people, older people, people from all walks of life that have joined them. And they all have common demands, which is the end of that brutal regime.
MORGAN: Aladdin, here we have a situation where you have a dictator who has tens of billions of dollars that he's effectively fleeced out of his country, at the expense of this very young, dynamic new populist, who have worked very well to be well educated and then got no jobs at the end of it.
You have kind of a perfect storm clash, don't you, between young and sort of old-style dictator here.
ELAASAR: Yes, definitely. I mean, it was going to happen. It was a disaster in the making. And I saw that coming, as you know, in my book. And I talked about that in my book, "The Last Pharaoh," that I predicted the downfall of the Mubarak regime for these obvious reasons, which are the huge gap between the super rich and the super poor. Forty percent of the people who live under the poverty line, huge employment, one fifth of the population.
Mr. Mubarak has been out of touch. And he hasn't really been running the country. So they see that that regime doesn't represent them, that someone like him in his 80s doesn't really represent those people in their early 20s, who are two thirds of the population.
This has been resonating throughout the region with similar cases, like a lot of unemployment, a lot of young people, the old guard dominating the political scene and a small elite. So this is why there are some authoritarian regimes now who are really worried about what's happening in Egypt, and have been lobbying for Mr. Mubarak to stay in and dig in, because they se a threat for them in their own country with what's happening in Egypt and Tunisia.
MORGAN: Finally, very quickly, both of you, Mubarak wants to stay until probably September. Do you think he will, Aladdin?
ELAASAR: No, I don't think so. I think his days are numbered and we will see bigger demonstration tomorrow, especially after Friday, at the end of the week. There are mass prayers. People are not buying that anymore. And it is just a matter of time. He's buying time to see where --
MORGAN: OK. Rafat, yes or no?
ALI: I think a week.
MORGAN: A week? A week's been a very long time in this story. Thank you both very much. Day is about to dawn in Cairo. Protesters are still out in the street. What happens next? We'll go live to Cairo.
MORGAN: I want to go straight to Arwa Damon, who is in Cairo in Tahrir Square tonight. What are you seeing there? What's the mood? It's obviously very early in the morning.
DAMON: Well, Piers, what we do end up seeing at night is that the crowd does dwindle. However, you do end up with these hardcore demonstrators that effectively have been spending night after night in Tahrir Square. They are the ones that are absolutely relentless.
We do see the masses increasing during the day. If what we were hearing after Mubarak's speech is that's anything to go by, people are expecting larger numbers than we have ever seen before. They're expecting the demonstrations to spread well beyond the square. And they are also expecting and fairly fearful that the government is going to try to take some sort of action against them.
One young man we spoke to said that he believed that Friday was going to be a very bloody day. But he said that he was willing to die for this cause. They all were willing to die for it, adding that so much blood had been shed they could not let that be in vain.
MORGAN: Are you beginning to feel slightly fearful that the peace we've been seeing may go into inevitable bloodshed tomorrow?
DAMON: Piers, that fear always exists. The demonstrators are ready for it. We're ready for it. We've seen it already take place here to such a degree that it shocked this entire nation, with few Egyptians now really recognizing what their country has become. And it has effectively created a very uncertain environment for everybody here.
MORGAN: Thank you very much for your time. Do stay safe there and continue your excellent reporting for us.
That's it for us tonight. Stay with CNN and CNN.com for all the latest breaking news out of Egypt. It's an extraordinary moving story.