In Egypt, as Habib recounts in his memoir, My Story: The Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn’t, he was repeatedly subjected to electric shocks, immersed in water up to his nostrils and beaten. His fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks. At one point, his interrogator slapped him so hard that his blindfold was dislodged, revealing the identity of his tormentor: Suleiman.
That's from a column by Lisa Hajjar at AlJazeera English, in which she examines the man presiding over the transition in Egypt. As director of Egyptian Intelligence, Omar Sulieman oversaw the business end of the U.S. extraordinary program. In this capacity, he used torture to force a false confession that helped Bush's push for war with Iraq. (This is a case different from the one cited above.)
Under torture there, al-Libi "confessed" knowledge about an al-Qaeda–Saddam connection, claiming that two al-Qaeda operatives had received training in Iraq for use in chemical and biological weapons. In early 2003, this was exactly the kind of information that the Bush administration was seeking to justify attacking Iraq and to persuade reluctant allies to go along. Indeed, al-Libi’s "confession" was one the central pieces of "evidence" presented at the United Nations by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to make the case for war.
As it turns out, that confession was a lie tortured out of him by Egyptians.
So to review: the man heading the transition in Egypt helped Bush lie the U.S into a war that has killed tens of thousands of people, warped the lives of countless others. But it's precisely this kind connection that adds to his appeal in the eyes of the United States and Israel. It was a savvy appointment by Mubarak.
Suleiman has long been favoured by the US government for his ardent anti-Islamism, his willingness to talk and act tough on Iran - and he has long been the CIA’s main man in Cairo.
Mubarak knew that Suleiman would command an instant lobby of supporters at Langley and among 'Iran nexters' in Washington - not to mention among other authoritarian mukhabarat-dependent regimes in the region. Suleiman is a favourite of Israel too; he held the Israel dossier and directed Egypt’s efforts to crush Hamas by demolishing the tunnels that have functioned as a smuggling conduit for both weapons and foodstuffs into Gaza.
Suleiman has indeed received a friendly reception in Washington. The Obama administration has endorsed a euphemistically named "go-it-slow" approach by which Mubarak will remain in power as he edges toward a soft landing and Suleiman negotiates with the protestors. Suleiman is promising reform, but by all accounts, whatever he proposes won't come close to meeting the demands (and needs) of the protestors.
Vice President Omar Suleiman of Egypt says he does not think it is time to lift the 30-year-old emergency law that has been used to suppress and imprison opposition leaders. He does not think President Hosni Mubarak needs to resign before his term ends in September. And he does not think his country is yet ready for democracy.
Immediate departure of Mubarak is a central demand of the protestors, as is the lifting of the emergency law, and democracy is their central medium-term goal, so it's no surprise that they're rejecting the "go-it-slow" approach and blasting the United States for backing it. The New York Times puts it delicately.
The result has been to feed a perception, on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere, that the United States, for now at least, is putting stability ahead of democratic ideals, and leaving hopes of nurturing peaceful, gradual change in large part in the hands of Egyptian officials — starting with Mr. Suleiman — who have every reason to slow the process.
When U.S. pols prattle about wanting to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, don't believe them.
Pro-democracy defenders (as opposed to the dictatorship-accepting defenders) of the "go-it-slow" approach argue that it's the least bad option, that the elections in the fall still offer the chance of real reform. But as D-Day says, If you believe those elections will be free and fair, you’re quite the optimist.
By far the mostly likely scenario is that Sulieman offers marginal reforms aimed at diffusing the protests, and that the presidential election is as rigged as usual. Suleiman will be the new president of Egypt, and as Mubarak sips wine at his seaside home, a dictatorship will carry on largely as before.
There no reason to believe that the U.S. will be discouraged by that outcome. A longtime American ally and associate -- the person who did nothing less than torture for the U.S. -- will be head of Egypt, ensuring "stability." In fact, thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that from at least 2007 there's been discussion among U.S officials about the prospect of Suleiman picking up where Mubarak left off.
"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 least have to figure in any succession scenario."
But remember: this is the course designed by leaders behind closed doors. The people may still have their say. All bets are off if the protest movement continues to gain strength.