Massive crowds which had gathered in Tahir Square in Cairo had been celebrating wildly in anticipation that Hosni Mubarak was about to announce that he was stepping down. The crowds this evening were among the largest that have yet been seen during 17 days of historic protest. All the signs seemed to be pointing to a resignation and the probability that the army would take a temporary role during the transition.
Instead, as the crowds listened in anticipation,. Mubarak simply confirmed his previous statement that he would not stand in the future elections. In a patronising speech in which he called the people his "children" he threw sops to the Egyptian people. He said he would transfer some powers to the vice president Suleiman and that he would support the amendment of some parts of the constitution.
There was no mention of the role of the newly announced army council however so it remains uncertain what role this body will now play in the crisis. One possibility is that the army is preparing a clamp down of course but it is also possible that what we are seeing are cracks emerging among the power blocks in the country.
It was easy to foresee what the reaction of the crowds of Egyptians would be. What had been a scene of festivities and celebration turned within minutes to a scene of unbelievable disappointment and anger.
This revolution has reached a very critical point. It is becoming abundantly clear that Mubarak will only go if he is abandoned by the army and if they play a role in removing him in support of the peoples demands.
The protesters again face critical decisions - how can they wind up the pressure further on the regime without giving the regime cause to instigate suppressive actions against them. It is at such points in revolutions that people in their anger may decide for example to try to storm the presidential palace or to take over the state media. These actions remain open to the protesters but there is the risk of course that this type of strategy may merely set off another train of violence.
Mubarak proved one thing with his speech tonight though. There is no fool like an old fool.