Egypt's military has kept out of this week's clashes between police and protesters demanding the ousting of 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak, but it could eventually decide his fate, echoing events in Tunisia.
A Tunisian army general's refusal to back Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's crackdown on protesters is widely regarded as a turning point that forced the former president to quit Tunisia on January 14 after weeks of protests.
Egypt's military might not react in the same way, but after watching the interior ministry's police and security forces struggle to contain four days of unprecedented street protests, the generals may well be considering their options.
"Indicators confirmed the Egyptian armed forces are ready to intervene in Suez and other parts of Egypt if necessary," said a security source in Cairo on Thursday, refusing to be named. Egypt's sprawling armed forces -- the world's 10th biggest and more than 468,000-strong -- have been at the heart of power since army officers staged the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy. Nevertheless, a source with insight into how some officers are thinking scorned the "sloppy" performance of the police and security forces against the protests of the last few days and suggested the military would step in if Egypt fell into chaos.