Egyptian protesters not seen accepting Suleiman as new leader

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Gen. Omar Suleiman, who spent much of his career in the shadow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, emerged in recent weeks as the man most likely to oversee a transition toward political reform in Egypt.

However, he is an unpalatable choice for the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who have gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square since Jan. 25 and demanded the ouster of the Mubarak regime.

Tom Malinowksi, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, said the anti-government protesters see Gen. Suleiman as “a creature of Mubarak.”

“For the process to be credible, it has to be much more inclusive, and decisions need to be made through negotiation rather than dictated by Suleiman,” he added.

Mr. Mubarak appointed Gen. Suleiman vice president on Jan. 29, after the anti-government protests erupted. The post had been vacant for almost 30 years.

In 1993, Gen. Suleiman, 74, was appointed head of the Mukhabarat, or General Intelligence Directorate, which human rights groups say is responsible for widespread abuse and torture.

Gen. Suleiman has been responsible for dealing with foreign intelligence services, including the CIA and Israel’s Mossad.

He played a central role in the CIA’s rendition program for terrorist suspects.

Gen. Suleiman has been the “liaison for rendering people illegally and unlawfully in Egyptian prisons, where we have every reason to think they have been badly tortured,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, in a phone interview from Cairo.

“We are talking about a guy, Omar Suleiman, who has been complicit up to his eyeballs in this stuff,” said Mr. Stork.

In an incident that underlined Gen. Suleiman’s brutal streak, he once offered to chop off a prisoner’s arm and send it to the U.S. so that a DNA match could be made, according to author Ron Suskind, who wrote extensively about Gen. Suleiman in his book, “The One Percent Doctrine.”

Gen. Suleiman’s thinly veiled abhorrence for Egypt’s Islamist opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, is likely to influence his decisions as head of any transition process.

Some analysts say it is very unlikely that Gen. Suleiman will remain on the political stage in Egypt beyond the elections scheduled for September.

Suleiman is too old and too closely associated with Mubarak and the intelligence establishment,” said Thomas W. Lippman, an adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Gen. Suleiman’s close relationship with the CIA was revealed in U.S. Embassy cables released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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