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Egypt Makes History, but Future Still Cloudy

For 18 days, throngs of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Cairo seeking the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, whose nearly 30-year rule was marked by political oppression, allegations of corruption and growing poverty.

With the announcement Friday that he would indeed step down from power - a day after he defiantly said that he wouldn't bow to outside pressure to resign - the masses of anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere throughout the country had reason to celebrate.

Special Section: Anger in the Arab World

But even with this hugely symbolic victory for the protesters, uncertainty still hovers over Egypt's political future. Here are just some questions that remain unanswered:

Will the protesters be satisfied?

Mubarak's ouster has been the most visible goal for the opposition movement and it was met with joyous outbursts. But the broader goals of seeking constitutional reform, strengthening democratic institutions and relieving the stifling poverty felt by much of the country still need to be fulfilled.

The question has now turned to how the military, long Egypt's most powerful institution and now its official ruler, will handle the transition in power. Earlier in the day, the Armed Forces Supreme Council - the military's top body - vowed to guide the country to greater democracy. In a statement later in the day, the military said it would not act as a substitute for a "legitimate" government but would later announce measures and arrangements to introduce the changes Egyptians want.

After Mubarak, What's Next for Egypt?

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Retired Gen Mahmoud Khalaf told CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy that the army will withdraw from power in six months to a year - "or maybe less." He said the army was the only institution that could "control the transformation" that is about to take place

Abdel-Rahman Samir, one of the youth organizers of the protests, said the protest movement would now open negotiations with the military over democratic reform but vowed protests would continue to ensure change is carried out.

"We still don't have any guarantees yet - if we end the whole situation now the it's like we haven't done anything," he said. "So we need to keep sitting in Tahrir until we get all our demands."

But, he added, "I feel fantastic. .... I feel like we have worked so hard, we planted a seed for a year and a half and now we are now finally sowing the fruits."

Who might play roles in Egypt's political future?

If the military is true to its word and guides the Egyptian government on a course to democracy, there are a wide range of factions that could play an integral role in determining the country's future.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Tagammu Party, El Wafd, the Democratic Front Party, El Ghad Party, and the National Assembly for Change all boycotted 2010's parliamentary elections, which may well give any candidate they endorse credibility in the eyes of those thronging the streets right now.

There are also individual players that have come to the forefront after protesters took to the streets, like ex-IAEA chief and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei; Google regional manager and face-of-the-protests Wael Ghonim; and, perhaps most importantly, Amr Moussa, the current secretary-general of the Arab League.

Then there are, of course, the ruling elite, people who have clung to and helped prop up Mubarak's regime for all or part of his 30 years in power. They still control a vast amount of the wealth and top government posts in Egypt, making them formidable forces. Most notable among this ruling class is Omar Suleiman, the current vice president and former chief of the feared Egypt General Intelligence Services.

Among those to keep an eye on after Mubarak finally exits Egypt's political scene:

Amr Moussa, the chief of the Arab League - The current secretary general of the Arab League - a political coalition of Arab states - is often cited as a favorite to ascend to the presidency in a post-Mubarak Egypt. In a recent Washington Institute phone poll asking Egyptians the open-ended question of who should be Egypt's next president, his name was cited 26 percent of the time, by far the most of any potential candidate.

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Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi - Considering that all four of Egypt's post-independence presidents have come from the military, it is impossible to rule out Field Marshall Tantawi in Egypt's political future. Even before protests began, a WikiLeaks cable revealed that the U.S. considered him a potential political threat to Mubarak.

Ayman Nour, head of the liberal El-Ghad ("Tomorrow") party - Nour is Egypt's leading opposition politician. He lost the 2005 presidential election to Mubarak and was later charged with fraud in the election. While many street protesters denounce established opposition parties, claiming they have been co-opted by Mubarak's government, he is an established and credible opponent of everything Mubarak stands for. A lawyer, Nour has repeatedly been seen amongst anti-government protesters since Jan. 25. He has not made any announcements about whether he would run in future elections. He only received 1 percent of the vote in the aforementioned presidential poll.

Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN's nuclear watchdog and Nobel Laureate - ElBaradei quickly became a figurehead of the protesters after demonstrations began, although he has signaled repeatedly that he has no intention on becoming Egypt's next president. He has, however, said he is eager to lead any official government transition effort. He received 3 percent of the vote in the aforementioned presidential poll. (He also happens to be Moussa's cousin.)

Ahmad Shafiq, prime minister - Shafiq got some credibility with Egyptians when he said last week that the street demonstrators were helping Egypt "correct its path." However, this former Egyptian Air Force chief still maintains a strong insider status (he was appointed by Mubarak to the PM chair after protests began,) which may hurt him in any attempts to ascend to the presidency. He got just 2 percent of the vote in the aforementioned presidential poll.

Wael Ghonim, Google regional manager and youth protest leader - While Ghonim is wildly popular for his leading role in the youth protest movement, as well as his emotional plea following his twelve days of detention, he is among the least likely candidates, largely due to his age. At just 30 years old, with no political experience and limited capital, he would have to work incredibly hard to convince a majority of Egypt's 80 million citizens that he would be worthy of leading them.

Mohamed Badi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood - Recently elected to lead the Brotherhood, Badi is very likely to have an important role in any official transition. However, contrary to what many Western conservatives have been hysterically warning of, several members have stated repeatedly that the MB will not be putting forward a presidential candidate.

What will happen to Mubarak himself?

While Mubarak adamantly stated Thursday that he would "die on Egyptian soil," his future in his homeland is murky.

On Friday, he left Cairo for Sharm el Sheikh, where his family owns hotels and land, though it was unclear if or when he would return. There has also been speculation that he might leave the country altogether.

If Mubarak flees Egypt, he could possibly head to Saudi Arabia, where Tunisia's ex-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was welcomed by the Saudi monarchy after his ouster on Jan. 14.

Or perhaps he may go to London, Paris, Madrid, Dubai, Washington, D.C., New York or Frankfurt - if their governments welcome him -- where according to a report from IHS Global Insight, the Mubarak family owns property.

Key to Mubarak's future will be the fate of his family's wealth. Reports of Mubarak's personal assets range from $2 billion to $70 billion (though U.S. officials described the top figure as wildly exaggerated, according to NBC News). But accessing it all might be problematic for him. On Friday, Switzerland froze any assets belonging to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or his family.

Also, a leading figure of the protest movement, Google executive Wael Ghonim, called for Mubarak to surrender any money attained improperly.

"The money Mubarak and his family stole out of the Egyptian people should go to families of martyrs and to reconstruct Egypt," Ghonim tweeted.

How will Egypt's upheaval affect U.S. relations in the region?

Given Egypt's role as U.S. ally and important voice in the Mideast peace efforts, how will his departure affect those relationships?

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With Mubarak giving up power, more than three decades of strong Egypt-U.S. ties hang in the balance. Egypt, which received more than $1 billion in military and economic aid from the U.S. in the last year alone, is a powerful purveyor of American influence in the Middle East - from Arab-Israeli peace talks to countering Iran and fighting terrorism. Indeed, Mubarak long stood by the United States - from supporting the original Gulf War to the later invasion of Iraq.

Since the late 70s, Egypt has been a key U.S. partner in seeking to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and Mubarak often intervened personally to push negotiations. Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, recently called Egypt the "epicenter" for both Arab political trends and the West's ability to interact with them. Amid the current upheaval in Egypt, the U.S. has been quick to quell any anxiety on this issue, vowing unwavering support for Israel.

It's also no secret that the U.S. is concerned about the prospect of an Islamist government forming in a nation of 80 million people at the epicenter of the Arab world. Still, according to Ellen Lust, professor of political science at Yale University, it's vital for the U.S. not to alienate the Muslim Brotherhood during Egypt's transition.

"If we start to push the processes of democratization, push for freedom, be willing to work with the Muslim [Brotherhood] as well as the other forces within Egypt and not try to sort of shut out forces in the hopes of promoting stability," Lust told the International Business Times, "then I actually think our possibility of having a stable, friendly, stable and democratic regime is Egypt is much higher."

The U.S. is obviously monitoring the situation closely. CIA Director Leon Panetta acknowledged the stakes are high - and the future impact on the United States uncertain.

"There is no question that what we are seeing happening in Egypt will have tremendous impact," Panetta said Thursday. "If it's done right, it will help us a great deal in trying to promote stability in that part of the world. If it happens wrong, it could create some serious problems for us and for the rest of the world."

How will Egypt's unrest affect the rest of the Middle East?

Moderate Arab countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia have warned Washington that Mubarak's abrupt departure could strengthen militants and destabilize U.S.-backed regimes in the region.

Concern also is high that rapid change will strengthen Islamist groups. Three decades ago, President Carter urged another pro-American stalwart - the shah of Iran - to reform his autocratic rule, only to see his regime replaced by the Islamic Republic.

After Egypt, How Will the Dominoes Fall?

More recently, U.S.-supported elections have strengthened Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and anti-American radicals in Iraq.

The protests in Egypt started after massive demonstrations in Tunisia led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country, leading to promises of the country's first free elections.

Other Middle Eastern countries also felt the rage that came from Tunisia and Egypt. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh responded to anti-government demonstrations by announcing he won't run for another term in elections scheduled for 2013. In Jordan, King Abdullah II swore in a new 27-member Cabinet on Wednesday following protests by thousands who had demanded jobs, reduced prices of food and fuel and a change to election laws. By contrast, in Syria, a weeklong online campaign failed to galvanize the kinds of mass protests that rocked Tunisia and Egypt.

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