It is Egypt's oligarchs who will most likely decide the fate of President Hosni Mubarak.
They are the generals, businessmen, and political fixers who run the country, have prospered for decades at the expense of others, and have the most to lose from revolution.
These are the kind who told President Ben Ali of Tunisia that it was time to go (because their interests were threatened), and who to a considerable extent still wield power there, and suppress the demonstrations in Tunis that are now largely ignored by the foreign media.
By appearing with his security chiefs on TV on Sunday, Mr Mubarak sought to convince everybody that he retains the confidence of Egypt's oligarchy.
Their continued support has come at a price, including the appointment of Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief, as vice-president.
Gen Suleiman personifies Egypt's "permanent government".
As a former boss of the Mukhabarat intelligence service, he knows better than anyone what makes Egypt tick.
He played an important role in negotiating the ceasefire than ended Israel's Gaza War in 2009, and has extensive contacts with foreign diplomats, spymasters, and business leaders.
At the moment - and clearly events have been moving with great speed in the region, so this may change - Mr Mubarak is just hanging on, and the oligarchs have lined up a possible replacement in Gen Suleiman.
The army has secured key installations in Egypt's cities, and whatever support its members may feel for the country's unemployed or down trodden masses, the military has held together, without units going over en masse to the opposition.
The Egyptian army prefers to remain in this reactive role - its statement that it will not fire on the people makes plain it will not clear the streets.
If it was ordered, that task would most likely have to fall to the interior ministry's 400,000 strong paramilitary forces, who have re-emerged after spending the weekend in barracks.
So long as these forces - totalling nearly one million armed men - remain solid, the country's permanent government will not have to cede power.
They may choose a different front man; they may concede some tangible influence to a newly elected parliament; but they will prevent radical transformation of the country.
They will protect their economic privileges, and block any wholesale power grab by Islamic extremists.
If though the army, interior forces and Mukhabarat fracture, then a truly revolutionary situation may arise.
Mr Mubarak or his new vice-president might retain the support of the generals, but if the forces are placed in an untenable position - for example by having to mount a large scale violent crackdown - a revolt among middle ranking officer (such as colonels and majors) could ensue.
This was the type of change that brought radical transformation to Egypt and the wider Arab world in the 50s and 60s when "colonels' coups" spread from Cairo to Baghdad, Damascus and Tripoli, sweeping away an old elite.
Back in the 50 revolution brought a pan-Arab ideology to power: Baathism.
Today the vibrant currents of thought are Islamic, and democratic.
We can only guess whether the current events will produce a "1989 moment" in which democratic values spread out from Egypt, as they did from Berlin at the end of the Cold War, or a "1979 moment" involving an initially broad-based democratic revolution being hijacked by Islamists as it was in Iran.
But the people who would lose most from either course - the Cairo elite - will not give up easily.