Posts Tagged ‘Omar Suleiman’

Cook: Tales of Omar Suleiman

July 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Tales of Omar Suleiman – By Steven A. Cook | Foreign Policy:

The last time I saw Omar Pasha was on Jan. 24, 2011 — on the eve of the Egyptian revolution. I was with a group of foreign-policy experts, business leaders, and philanthropists and we met in an auditorium at the GIS headquarters. It was hard not to notice the freaky, yoga studio-like music that was playing over the sound system. When Suleiman arrived, he sat alone on a dais and spoke into a microphone, even though the delegation numbered only about 25 people seated in the second row of the auditorium, behind a gaggle of GIS courtiers. During the meeting, we learned that the United States had supplied Egypt with the technology to turn off the Internet — something the Egyptians would employ in earnest, though not terribly effectively, less than 24 hours later.

By Jan. 24, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had already fallen and a wave of self-immolations in Egypt had led to widespread speculation about whether the revolution was headed east. Naturally, therefore, someone in our delegation asked Suleiman whether the Tunisian revolt could happen in his country. But even at this late hour, he was as contemptuous of change as he had been six years ago, when he slammed his first down on the Washington conference table. “No,” he responded. “The police have a strategy and the president is strong.” Even at the time, the hubris was astonishing.

One of my big regrets, never meeting Omar Pasha. I do have some insight accrued over years of keeping notes on him and talking to people who dealt with him — mostly foreigner diplomats and spies and some Egyptian ones too. The takeaway is that he was actually fairly mediocre behind all the bluster and powersuits and Cuban cigars, and there is no better illustration of this than his handling of the Hamas issue in Gaza. Suleiman’s declared policy of ultimately crushing Hamas failed all the way, to the extent that people who dealt with him on this issue would joke about the “three-point plan” (engage, contain, crush) he would systematically trot out. Suleiman (unlike some of his predecessors when Egypt was at war with Israel) was ultimately the product of a system that only sought to maintain itself, showed little initiative or daring in foreign policy, and — being so concerned with status-quo and so-called “stability” — appeared to mostly keep busy by keeping everyone going around in circles (exhibit A: Egypt’s handling of Palestinian reconciliation talks).

I find it pretty outrageous he was given a state funeral and am surprised people did not try to disrupt it. One day, US archives of Suleiman’s handywork, especially on the rendition program, might be open and we’ll find out the full extent of complicity in his shenanigans. 

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Muslim Brotherhood denounced at Omar Suleiman’s funeral

July 22nd, 2012 Comments off

“… That president, former Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi, did not attend the rites for Suleiman, whose agents once arrested Morsi for his work on behalf of the Brotherhood.But Morsi’s office was represented by its top administrative official, the grand chamberlain, and several senior military figures attended, including Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and Lt. Gen. Sami Anan, the chief of staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces…”

Read more here:…”

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Egypt’s ex-spy chief honored in military funeral

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

A horse drawn caisson carries the remains of Egypt's former spy chief Omar Suleiman during his funeral in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, July 21, 2012. The 76-year-old Suleiman died Thursday in a U.S. hospital. The shadowy statesman was considered Mubarak's most trusted man, handing the regime's most sensitive issues like relations with the U.S. and Israel and the fierce battle against Islamists. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)Egypt's top generals and hundreds of mourners have attended a funeral honoring former spy chief Omar Suleiman, who died this week in a U.S. hospital.

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Egypt’s ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman dies

July 19th, 2012 Comments off

FILE - In this Saturday, April 7, 2012 file photo, former Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman is escorted by police after he submitted his candidacy papers at the Higher Presidential Elections Commission, in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt’s state news agency says former spy chief and vice president Omar Suleiman died in US. Egypt’s Middle East News Agency said on Thursday, July 19, 2012 in a brief statement that Suleiman died in a US hospital early this morning. It didn’t give further details. (AP Photo, File)Egypt's former spy chief Omar Suleiman, deposed president Hosni Mubarak's top lieutenant and keeper of secrets, died Thursday, the country's official news agency reported. He was 76.

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‘Omar Suleiman, 1936-2012: A Spymaster Departs

July 19th, 2012 Comments off
At the End, He Made the Announcement

Everyone had their obituaries for Husni Mubarak written a month ago when he was reported to be clinically dead. He recovered, but the man who served him in so many ways and in the end became his Vice President and then, in a final service, announced Mubarak was stepping down, has died in a US hospital.

Just this spring, he had sought to run for President, but was disqualified for insufficient petition signatures.  If had run and won, Egypt would have a different sort of constitutional crisis.

More recently, after Muhammad Morsi won the Presidency, he left the country. There were Egyptian reports that he had asked for asylum in the UAE; he denied these. We now learn he was in the US, apparently at the Cleveland Clinic, for medical tests, and died unexpectedly.

The obits will no doubt tell all the usual stories,  how Mubarak credited him with saving his life in Addis Ababa during an assassination attempt and trusted him thereafter as he trusted no one else; how he gradually emerged from the shadows (for years, his photo never appeared, and his name rarely, in the newspapers) to become Egypt’s first Vice President in 30 years, and in that iconic scene shown above, announced — seemingly unwillingly and with “the man behind ‘Omar Suleiman” looking sternly from over his shoulder, that Mubarak had “decided” to step down.

They will mention that he was Egypt’s liaison with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and they will mention the allegations of his role in renditions. But they will not tell all the stories, because none of us know all the stories. Whatever else ‘Omar Suleiman was, he was a professional intelligence man, and like any such, many of his successes were never announced. Because he moved in that shadowy realm where Western intelligence agencies, Arab intelligence agencies, the Palestinian security services and Mossad all collaborate and deny they are doing so, we will probably never know the best stories.

I met him once, at a background briefing in DC. He said what you would expect him to say. He gave nothing away. I got little sense of the man himself. You weren’t supposed to.

Though he held the rank of Major General and had served as head of Egypt’s Military Intelligence before heading its General Intelligence Service (one of only a few men to head both the military and civilian intelligence bodies), he dressed in civilian clothes as head of General Intelligence.

His role as Vice President and the man who announced Mubarak’s departure was his most visible role, but compared to running Egyptian intelligence for a decade and a half, that was a fleeting fame. His career was not aimed at fame, but was lived in the shadows. Perhaps both the best and worst assessments can give are the same: he was first and last a man of the mukhabarat, and he appears to have been good at it.

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Former Egyptian spy chief dies

July 19th, 2012 Comments off

Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s former intelligence chief and a close ally to ousted President Hosni Mubarak, dies in hospital in the United States.
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Okasha, Other Shafiq Supporters Turn on SCAF

June 28th, 2012 Comments off

We’ve occasionally mentioned Egyptian television host and “personality” Tawfiq Okasha here; a highly opinionated figure with his own television network, many (like this Arab News article) have dubbed him “Egypt’s Answer to Glenn Beck.” Okasha is equally opposed to Islamists of all colorations and to the Egyptian revolution; he was a strong supporter of SCAF and of Ahmad Shafiq. More distinctively, he is known for his vigilance against the ongoing plots of the Freemasons against Egypt; he uncovers Masonic plots everywhere.

Until Sunday, he was one of SCAF’s staunchest supporters. Then they “let” the Muslim Brotherhood win the election, so now SCAF is the enemy. He is leading a demonstration tomorrow to protest SCAF’s betrayal of Egypt (and of Tawfiq Okasha). In fact, this may be the first demonstration in recent memory to be called to begin at the tomb of Anwar Sadat. He has called on “honorable Egyptians” to protest what he sees as dishonorable behavior by SCAF.

Okasha may be a clown, but he has his listeners and can cause trouble; he seems to have been responsible for the violence at the US Embassy in March. Nor is he alone in his disillusionment with SCAF, though he may be the only one to perceive the role of the Freemasons in the plot. Many of Shafiq’s supporters were absolutely convinced they were going to win, and there seems to be an implication they expected SCAF to help facilitate that. Just a week ago (back when Husni Mubarak was dead, if you recall), a lot of us thought that was the way the wind was blowing. The election results proved us wrong, and stunned the Shafiq supporters, many of whom are likely to join Okasha’s demonstration. Also, backers of former intelligence chief ‘Omar Suleiman are joining in, also disappointed that SCAF didn’t prevent Morsi’s win.

SCAF, of course, denies it had any role in influencing the electoral results.

Besides the followers of Okasha, Shafiq, and Suleiman, blogger Zeinobia notes that the Twitter account called @Military_Secret, who has been posting pro-military and pro-SCAF tweets for months, has also turned on SCAF; his tweets are in Arabic but her post translates a number of them. He seems to be more or less openly calling for a coup by junior officers against the generals in SCAF; some of Okasha’s over-the-top rhetoric has seemed to trend that way as well.

It would seem that many SCAF admirers who thought SCAF was Egypt’s only salvation are now shocked that the generals saved it for the wrong candidate.

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Did the Egyptian Generals make their Coup because of a Conspiracy Theory?

June 17th, 2012 Comments off

The initial reaction of the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party to the high court decision dissolving parliament had been acquiescence. On Sunday, they got a bit more active, arguing that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) did not have the right to dissolve parliament despite the court ruling (i.e. that it wasn’t the body with legal standing to do so). They also argued that the dissolution must be put to a popular referendum, since it voided the vote of millions of Egyptians.

All of this raises the question of why the Mubarak-appointed judiciary backed by SCAF moved against the parliament, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. I don’t believe that the SCAF coup was based on a rational calculation. Rather, I think the generals see the world as a conspiracy against them, and that the basis for their action was likely irrational.

Gen. Omar Suleiman addressed a letter to the Egyptian people Saturday, urging them to vote in the elections but implicitly criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood as arrogant and overbearing, and suggesting that you might hear them now talking about cooperating with everyone, but alleging that such talk is merely manipulative. Suleiman is a former head of military intelligence and was vice president in the last Mubarak government. He had wanted to run for president but was disqualified by the courts on the grounds that he hadn’t gathered enough petition signatures.

When I was in Cairo in May, a reporter told me that Suleiman gave a talk at the al-Ahram Center in which he alleged that the Muslim Brotherhood was preparing to develop a violent paramilitary capability. Generals such as he view the Brotherhood as not very different from al-Qaeda and as potentially violent, even though the organization gave up violence in the 1970s and has been disciplined about only using civil means to gain power ever since.

It also seems clear that the generals have a conspiracy theory that the United States is somehow behind the Jan. 25, 2011 revolt against Hosni Mubarak, and that Washington is secretly funding the leftist youth groups that spearheaded the big demonstrations then and since. That is why they keep harassing foreigners and journalists who seem too interested in Egyptian politics, and why they aired commercials recently discouraging Egyptians from speaking to foreigners.

Only a conspiracy theorist could simultaneously hold that the Muslim Brotherhood is a theocratic cabal with paramilitary aspirations and that the US is supporting it and other revolutionary forces.

Another alleged foreign player in Egypt is Qatar, which Egyptians see as a supporter and funder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Mufti or chief Muslim legal adviser of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, on Sunday riposted to an attack on him by the Muslim televangelist at al-Jazeerah Arabic, Yousuf al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi had blasted Gomaa for saying he was neutral in the presidential contest. Qaradawi insisted that all clerics had to come out for Muhammad Mursi, the Brotherhood candidate. (Actually using the pulpit to promote a partisan candidate is illegal in Egypt). Gomaa implied that Qaradawi is after personal glory and thinks he is a real Muslim while others are ersatz.

The subtext here is that many Egyptians see Qaradawi as a Muslim Brotherhood icon supported by the Qatari government. One Egyptian told me that when Qaradawi showed up in Tahrir Square in Feb. 2011 during the attempt overthrow Hosni Mubarak, it reminded him of Vladimir Lenin showing up in Russia after the initial revolution. Of course, Lenin later overthrew the parliamentary regime that briefly emerged, making Russia a communist dictatorship in the October Revolution of 1917. My friend was wondering if Qaradawi hoped to play Lenin in subverting a democratic revolution and putting in power an ideological one-party state.

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Reading the Egyptian Elections

May 29th, 2012 Comments off

“…The Egyptian people are still in shock ever since the announcement of the results of the presidential elections late last week. They refuse to accept an outcome that sees Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, the last Prime Minister of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, having received more than 5.5 million votes, or about 24 percent of the votes cast, less than one percent behind the frontrunner and Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi.
After the dust has settled, some remarkable facts have been revealed that point towards an extremely sophisticated operation, which ensured that Shafiq would receive enough votes to go to the second round runoff (that could only have been pulled off by the Egyptian security apparatus with the support of the military and the remnants of Mubarak’s banned National Democratic Party)….
Moreover, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has never intended to hand over real power to an elected civilian president. According to one European ambassador in Cairo, when he recently asked a member of SCAF how the military would react upon the election of an “Islamist” or a “civilian” belonging to the revolutionary forces the answer was an emphatic “this is not going to happen.” President Jimmy Carter was given the same answer early this year when he met with the leaders of SCAF. He mistakenly interpreted that answer as SCAF not handing over power or even holding elections rather than fielding its own candidate and then ruling from behind. In a recent interview, former intelligence chief and Mubarak’s vice president Omar Suleiman told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper that he had no doubts if an Islamist is elected president a military coup d’état would be inevitable….”

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Random thoughts on early Egypt voting results

May 25th, 2012 Comments off

A few scattershot observations on Egypt’s election results:

First — voting behavior in transitional countries, when people’s sense of political identity is still inchoate, is totally all over the place. What happened in “Islamist stronghold” Alexandria? Who are the Salafis For Sabahi?

Sabahi’s surge notwithstanding, the run-off as of mid-afternoon still looks like it will be between the Brothers’ Mohammed Mursi and ex-Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. If Hamdeen repeats his Alex performance in Cairo this may change.

However, regardless of who pulls ahead, the margins for second place look like they’re going to be around one or two percentage points — meaning that the top two names indicate more about the randomness injected into the race by the pre-vote disqualifications than they really say about voter preferences. If Omar Suleiman were still in the race, for example, Shafiq and he might be relegated to vote-splitting also-rans. If Abu Ismail were still around, maybe Mursi would be a distant third — or, alternately, maybe Abul Futuh or even Sabahi would have slipped down a few notches.

Pre-vote polls had suggested that the Brothers had lost considerable support since their parliamentary triumph last year. For the past several weeks I’ve talked to a lot of ex-FJP supporters, who voted for Brothers for parliament because they thought the group really cared about the masses or “feared God” and would not be corrupt. But they have decided since then that the Brothers are politicians like everyone else. I had thought that the leitmotif of this election might be Brotherhood voters going for Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh (as a guy who speaks his mind) or for Amr Moussa (as a man with experience).

Actually, it looks like the leitmotif might be voters who went FJP for parliament but then didn’t turn out at all on Wednesday and Thursday. People lost confidence in the Brothers. But the Brothers’ excellent organization means that they still managed to produce enough pluralities where it counts.

Some quick number crunching from’s parliamentary summary and Moftasa’s excellent spreadsheet. Math and errors are my own.

 Alexandria :

  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP: 754,000.
  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP plus Nour: 1,430,000
  • Presidential ballots for Morsi: 269,000
  • Parliamentary turnout:: 2.16 mn
  • Presidential turnout: 1.76 mn


  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP: 628,000.
  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP plus Nour: 1,181,000
  • Presidential ballots for Morsi: 245,000
  • Parliamentary turnout:: 1.88 mn
  • Presidential turnout: 1.32 mn


  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP: 606k
  • Parliamentary ballots for FJP plus Nur: 971k
  • Presidential ballots for Morsi: 407k
  • Parliamentary turnout: 1.463 million
  • Presidential turnout: 944k

The upshot is that this result — the two most polarizing candidates winning — does not reflect any particular polarization in Egypt over religion. There is a huge middle ground who are neither particularly attracted to nor put off by Islamists. They are willing to consider a vote for an Islamist if otherwise enthused by them, or for another candidate (or not vote at all) if they don’t find an Islamist they like.

But, if the vote does come down to Shafiq vs Morsi, what happens next in Egyptian politics probably will be polarizing.

A couple of other random questions — does Shafiq’s apparently strong showing in Sharqiya and other rural provinces mean a revival of the old NDP patronage net? It did actually mobilize reasonable numbers of voters in Mubarak-era parliamentary elections, but seems to have been a bit shell-shocked from the 2011 uprising. Has it got back on its feet to support Shafiq?

Also, will anyone debate again? Viewers may have thought that the free-flowing trading of accusations between Moussa and Abul Futuh was “unpresidential,” preferring someone lofty. Or, as both candidates were pitching to the center, maybe they got cornered into taking one stance too many.

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