Scenesetter: the US State department introduces us to Omar Suleiman

by zunguzungu

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear today that Omar Suleiman is our man in Cairo:

“There are forces at work in any society, particularly one that is facing these kind of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own agenda, which is why I think it’s important to follow the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by vice-president Omar Suleiman.”

Ah yes! “Forces at work”! Could she mean the Muslim Brotherhood? Or the protesters? The people of Egypt? Or is she plagiarizing from Mubarak’s speech the other day? Note the similarity between what Clinton said and Mubarak’s words:

“Those protests were transformed from a noble and civilised phenomenon of practising freedom of expression to unfortunate clashes, mobilised and controlled by political forces that wanted to escalate and worsen the situation…there are are some political forces who have refused this call to dialogue, sticking to their particular agendas without concern for the current delicate circumstances of Egypt and its people.”

Family friends! Anyway, some old cables from the department of state to give us a sense of who this lovely fellow is.

On Suleiman as the US government’s point-man when it comes to Egyptian Guantanemo Bay detainees, State department cable 05CAiro5924, from 2005:

…the most effective conduit for addressing this issue is through Cairo Station – EGIS Liaison. The written assurances (reftel) were passed directly from EGIS Chief General SOLIMAN through this channel. General SOLIMAN’s stature and power in the Egyptian establishment, and his history of close cooperation with the USG on counterterrorism, corroborate the Egyptian intent take responsibility for the detainees in such a way that protects both U.S. and Egyptian security interests. In addition to the written assurances regarding the detainees treatment, EGIS has conveyed orally to Cairo station that all three will be taken into custody upon arrival in Egypt and will be investigated and prosecuted in accordance with Egyptian law.

State department cable 06CAIRO2933, “Scenesetter for Deputy Secretary Zoellick’s Visit to Egypt,” from 2006:

This spring has seen ample evidence that the regime’s domestic house is not in order. Whatever this says about backsliding or latent repression, the real story here is a vacuum of leadership on domestic policy. The aging Mubarak simply does not have a domestic counterpart to the formidable Omar Soliman, his consigliere on foreign policy matters. In earlier days, Mubarak would have bargained his way out of these messes. But PM Nazif lacks the common touch and Gamal Mubarak has not stepped up to the role. This leaves the field open to the heavy handed tactics of the old guard. The litany of mis-steps follows:
— Judicial disciplinary action against two senior judges who
charged fraud in the parliamentary polls;
— Suppression of activists and demonstrators supporting the
judges, particularly on, but not limited to, May 11;
— State-influenced media attacks on reform advocates;
— Extension of the Emergency Law for two more years;
— Postponement by two years of local council elections;
— Continuing arrests and harassment of opposition activists;
— The conviction of opposition leader Ayman Nour.

State Department cable 07CAIRO1417, “Presidential Succession in Egypt,” from 2007:

Presidential succession is the elephant in the room of Egyptian politics. Despite incessant whispered discussions, no one in Egypt has any certainty about who will succeed mubarak, or how the succession will happen. Mubarak himself seems to be trusting to god and the inertia of the military and civilian security services to ensure an orderly transition. In the current political framework, the most likely contenders are presidential son gamal mubarak (whose profile is ever-increasing at the ruling national democratic party), egis chief omar soliman, dark horse arab league secretary general amre moussa, or an as-yet unknown military officer…

Egyptian intelligence chief and Mubarak consigliere, in past years Soliman was often cited as likely to be named to the long-vacant vice-presidential post. In the past two years, Soliman has stepped out of the shadows, and allowed himself to be photographed, and his meetings with foreign leaders reported. Many of our contacts believe that Soliman, because of his military background, would at the least have to figure in any succession scenario for Gamal, possibly as a transitional figure. Soliman himself adamantly denies any personal ambitions, but his interest and dedication to national service is obvious. His loyalty to Mubarak seems rock-solid. At age 71, he could be attractive to the ruling apparatus and the public at large as a reliable figure unlikely to harbor ambitions for another multi-decade presidency. A key unanswered question is how he would respond to a gamal presidency once Mubarak is dead. An alleged personal friend of Soliman tells us that Soliman “detests” the idea of Gamal as president, and that he also was “deeply personally hurt” by Mubarak, who promised to name him vice-president several years ago, but then reneged.

State Department cable 09CAIRO746, “Admiral Mullen’s Meeting with EGIS Chief Soliman,” from 2009:

During an April 21 meeting with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Egyptian General Intelligence Service Chief Omar Soliman explained that his overarching regional goal was combating radicalism, especially in Gaza, Iran, and Sudan…On Gaza, Soliman said Egypt must “confront” Iranian attempts to smuggle arms to Gaza and “stop” arms smuggling through Egyptian territory… Soliman shared his vision on Palestinian reconciliation and bringing the Palestinian Authority back to Gaza, saying “a Gaza in the hands of radicals will never be calm.”… On Iran, Soliman said Egypt was “succeeding” in preventing Iran from funneling financial support to Hamas through Egypt. Soliman hoped that the U.S. could encourage Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and stop interfering in regional affairs, but cautioned that Iran “must pay a price” for its actions… Egypt is “very concerned” with stability in Sudan, Soliman said, and was focusing efforts on convincing the Chadean and Sudanese presidents to stop supporting each others’ insurgencies, supporting negotiations between factions in Darfur, and implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). “Egypt does not want a divided Sudan,” Soliman stressed.

From 09CAIRO874, “Scenesetter: President Mubarak’s Visit,” from 2009:

EGIS Chief Omar Soliman and Interior Minister al-Adly keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics.