Jerusalem – The Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Egypt’s intelligence chief is considered in line to become the country’s next president.
Gen. Omar Suleiman, director of Egypt’s foreign intelligence service, has been described as a leading candidate to succeed President Hosni Mubarak.
Egyptian sources said the 73-year-old Gen. Suleiman was supported by Egypt’s powerful military, expected to play a major role approving any successor to the 80-year-old Mr. Mubarak.
“Suleiman is not Mubarak’s candidate, but he is certainly the military’s man and that means a lot,” an Egyptian source said. “Remember, this is Egypt not Syria, where one family controls everything.”
Some Egyptian sources and analysts raise the prospect that Mr. Suleiman would either become president or vice president in a post-Mubarak Egypt.
For his part, Mr. Mubarak, in power since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, had been regarded as promoting his 44-year-old son, Gamal, as president.
However, the Mubarak regime has also raised Gen. Suleiman’s stature.
The general conducts much of Egypt’s foreign policy, particularly with the Hamas regime in the neighboring Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority and Sudan.
Gen. Suleiman also serves as a Mubarak envoy to the United States.
Mr. Dia’a Rashwan, a political analyst with state-owned Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, has asserted that the military has already selected Gen. Suleiman to succeed Mr. Mubarak.
Mr. Mubarak has increasingly appreciated the advice of Gen. Suleiman, a former infantry officer. They said Gen. Suleiman saved Mr. Mubarak’s life in 1995 when he persuaded the president to ride in an armored limousine during a visit to Ethiopia. Mr. Mubarak’s motorcade was attacked but the president was not injured.
“Suleiman has the image of a respected law-and-order guy,” said Amr Hamzawy, an Egyptian political scientist and analyst for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Los Angeles Times. “He represents stability in a time of rising social tension.”
Mr. Suleiman has also been a quiet but instrumental force in monitoring
Islamic opposition. Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested and imprisoned in 2008, the latest on July 21 when 39 members were detained in the Nile Delta.
Reliable sources in Egypt’s ruling elite said the younger Mubarak, secretary-general of the ruling National Democratic Party, has encountered suspicion by both young Egyptians as well as the Old Guard in the government. They said Gamal’s career has been characterized by an absence of a military or foreign policy record.
Yet there is another intrigue that hovers over Gamal Mubarak. As The Bulletin reported in July 2006, the younger Mubarak visited Beirut and gave full support to the massive Hezbollah missile attacks on Israel, which rattled Egyptian-Israeli relation.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008