Close U.S. ally and new Egyptian VP Soliman ‘keeps the domestic beasts at bay’

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed Omar Soliman, the country’s head of intelligence, as vice president in Mubarak’s first big move following continuous days of protest that are threatening to end his regime.  But Soliman’s appointment will not placate the Egyptian demonstrators–Democracy Now! producer Sharif Abdel Kouddos, who is on the ground in Egypt, reports that Egyptians have begun “chanting against Omar Suleiman.”

Cables written by U.S. diplomats released by WikiLeaks over the past two months point to why Soliman’s appointment is looked at with disdain by Egyptians: he is extremely close to President Mubarak and the United States.  Furthermore, Soliman is closely linked with the U.S. “extraordinary rendition” program, in which the CIA abducted suspected terror suspects and sent them to U.S. allies to be tortured, as well as a key player in Egyptian policy towards the Palestinians, according to various WikiLeaks cables.

A dispatch written in 2006 from the U.S. embassy in Cairo reports that Soliman “wields enormous influence over national security policy and is known to have the full confidence of Mubarak.”  A 2007 cable titled “Presidential Succession in Egypt” similarly notes that Soliman’s “loyalty to Mubarak seems rock solid,” and raises Soliman as a potential successor to Mubarak. 

U.S. officials see Soliman as an indispensable ally in the region, and hold meetings with him regularly.  Cables released by WikiLeaks show that Soliman met with Admiral Michael Mullen in April 2009; Congressional delegations in January 2008 and May 2008; and with General David Petraeus in July 2009.

Tellingly, a May 2009 cable classified by the U.S. ambassador to Egypt says that “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.”  These tactics, as outlined in various reports written by human rights organizations, include arbitrary detention, torture a clampdown on political dissidence. 

Jane Mayer’s award-winning book The Dark Side details Egypt and Soliman’s cooperation with the U.S. “rendition” and torture program, which began in 1995:

The United States offered its rich resources to track, capture and transport terrorist suspects globally–including access to a small fleet of aircraft.  Egypt embraced the idea immediately.  “What was clever was that some of the senior people in Al Qaeda were Egyptian,” [Michael Scheur, former head of the CIA's "Bin Laden Unit"] said.  “It served American purposes to get these people arrested, and Egyptian purposes to get these people back, where they could be interrogated.”  Technically, U.S. law required the CIA to seek “assurances” from Egypt that rendered suspects wouldn’t be tortured.  But even during the Clinton Administration, this obligation appears to have been little more than a sham…

Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way.”

Alex Kane blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia at alexbkane.wordpress.com.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Posted in Egypt, Gaza, Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East | Tagged , ,

{ 11 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Les says:

    How long will it take for Americans to notice our kleptocracy?

  2. Potsherd2 says:

    While Obama mouths platitudes, behind the scenes the daggers are being sharpened. Israel is starting to panic, which means heavy pressure to keep the regime in place. Suleiman is well-suited to be the new Israeli proxy.

  3. Les says:

    3:25 From @WLLegal on Egyptian strong man: “Omar Suleiman’s role in the CIA’s rendition/torture program from Stephen Grey’s book Ghost Plan link to bit.ly .” And: “In The Dark Side, Jane Mayer wrote that Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s new VP, coordinated the CIA rendition/torture program. link to bit.ly

    link to thenation.com

  4. Shingo says:

    More displays of tone deafness from Mubarak.

    Mubarak must surely know what any appointment or endorsement from him woudl be a kiss of death. Then again, being the tyrant that he is, this may indeed be his intention. While he has been grooming his son to succeed him, Suleiman has undoubtedly been breathign down his neck.

  5. annie says:

    alex, this is an excellent report and resource. thanks

  6. The phrase, “But he was not squeamish, by the way” was to me the single most disturbing aspect of this report. This site has commendably highlighted this before.

    Sooner or later, if we tolerate torture by our clients, then it will come home to bite.

    Sorry, of course, I forgot it already has. We actively torture, and our agents have impunity. Even the suggestion that murder during interrogation should be investigated has been received with outrage. ‘Understandably’ since everybody in the last administration should be prosecuted. The appalling treatment of Mr Manning is pure home grown torture by sleep deprivation and extreme isolation.

  7. Avi says:

    Speaking of beasts, the Egyptian minister if information — no relation to Orwell, Mark Regev or ‘Baghdad Bob’ — has just issued a statement revoking Al-Jazeera’s license to broadcast from Egypt. All Al-Jazeera’s press passes and cards have been voided.

    Nonetheless, Al-Jazeera has stated that it will continue to broadcast from the country.

    In addition, western governments, namely Germany, France, Italy and Britain have called on Mubarak to hold a free and fair elections, apparently fearing the Muslim Brotherhood would take over amid the chaos.

    It’s amazing how the so-called West continues to show its Islamophobic colors. Surely, if the people of Egypt are revolting against the tyrant Mubarak, they will not allow any theocratic radical Muslims to take over the country. But, in today’s world of Zionist War on Islam (or is it the Global War on Terror?), it’s no wonder everyone and their uncle is exploiting Islamophobia for his or her own objectives, just ask the folks building a community center in lower Manhattan.

  8. lobewyper says:

    So, in an effort to save his regime, Mubarak appoints Suleiman–a known enemy of human rights and close collaborator with the US’s “rendition” program and denial of Palestinian rights–to the vice presidency? Mubarak has completely lost his political judgment and is thinking only of his own physical survival at this point.

  9. Larry says:

    New Vice President of what exactly?
    It is like being appointed vice president of the Titanic…
    Let this corrupt ship of thieves sink ASAP – and take Chris Matthews and all the American journalistic Mubaraks with him.

  10. Larry says:

    Just read some of the comments on Phillip Weiss’s piece ‘Why is America so afraid?’ on Salon. Boy, oh boy the right-wingers are mad at ole Phil.
    The funniest is the complaint in regard to Egypt: “What has any of this got to do with the Jews”
    And others to the effect: “that’s right – blame the Jews!”
    Rummy’s “Democracy is messy” should be changed to “Democracy is very scary…