The establishment and army stick together, get rid of Mubarak, but preserve the regime. The changes put in charge a former Air Force commander (the same job Mubarak once held) and the intelligence chief. The elite stays united, toughs it out, does a skillful combination of coopting and repressing the demonstrations, and offering some populist reforms. The old regime continues. In that case, it is only a minor adjustment.
Disgusted with the Mubaraks — Hosni’s stubborn refusal to step down; his son Gamal’s disgraceful cowardice, showing he fully deserved his insulting nickname “the boy” — the regime throws them overboard.
The elite loses its nerve and fragments, in part demoralized by a lack of Western — especially U.S. — support. The Muslim Brotherhood throws its full weight behind the rebellion. Soldiers refuse to fire at or join the opposition. Eventually, a radical regime emerges, with the Muslim Brotherhood as either ruler or power behind the throne. Remember that the “moderate democratic” leaders have been largely radical and willing to work with the Brotherhood. In that case, it is a fundamental transformation.
The new regime turns against the West, tears up the peace treaty with Israel (in practice if not formally), and joins hands with Hamas. Iranian influence isn’t important with this regime, but that will be small comfort as it launches its own subversive efforts and even goes to war against Israel at some point in the future. This will be the biggest disaster for the region and the West since the Iranian revolution 30 years ago. And in some ways it will be worse.
Neither side backs down bringing bloody civil war.
Absolutely critical here is the Muslim Brotherhood’s decision. Should it be cautious or decide that the moment for revolution has arrived? The choice is not clear because if it picks wrong it could be destroyed. Have no doubt, though, that the Brotherhood is the only non-government group with disciplined followers, real organization, and mass support. In an election where it was harassed, repressed, and cheated — thus undercounting its support — the Brotherhood officially received 20 percent of the vote.
The regime’s survival is by no means impossible, but if that is going to happen it is going to have to mobilize quickly. Meanwhile, the same U.S. policymakers who stood by as enemy Iran crushed democratic protestors is pushing too hard on a friendly Egyptian regime to make big concessions.