"The news is more evidence of the close ties between Israel, the United States and Mr Suleiman, who is tipped to replace Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s president", writes Christopher Hope in a February 09 article in the UK Telegraph, who explains his sourcing as "The close relationship has emerged from American diplomatic cables leaked to the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph."
Mr Suleiman is Israel’s preferred candidate to replace 82-year-old Mr Mubarak. A secret hotline between Mr Suleiman and the Israelis was said to be “in daily use”, according to US diplomatic cables.
Mr Suleiman worked hard to position himself as the main Egyptian link with Israel. According to the cable, he was blocking attempts by the Israelis to form links with other members of the Cairo government.
This was, according to Mr Diskin, because of Mr Suleiman’s “desire to remain the sole point of contact for foreign intelligence”.
The efforts paid off. In 2008, Mr Suleiman was named as Israel’s preferred successor to Mr Mubarak and the new secret direct hotline was in daily use. By early 2009, Dan Harel, deputy chief of staff at the Israel Defence Staff, was reporting that “on the intelligence side under Suleiman co-operation is good”.
Mr Suleiman has already won the backing of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to lead the “transition” to democracy after nearly three weeks of demonstrations calling for Mr Mubarak to resign.
As far as I know now, even after the military takover of Egypt this morning by Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the High Military Council that took control of Egypt on Friday, Omar Suleiman remains Egypt's Vice President, presumably having taken over the duties and the powers of the President after Hosni Mubarak resigned Friday. This is an assumption I'm making here - if anyone has differing information about Suleiman's role now, please let me know.
Professor Gilbert Achcar of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, grew up in Lebanon, and is currently Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London. His books include The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder, published in 13 languages, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy, co-authored with Noam Chomsky, and most recently the critically acclaimed The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.
In this interview from Feb. 08, 2011 Achcar talks with The Real News Network's Paul Jay about the Egyptian protest movement, about the Egyptian Army, and about the illusions that many harbored and still harbor about the role and intentions of the Egyptian military in the sweeping revolutionary movement that developed over so many years of oppression of ordinary Egyptians and flowered into the mass movement we've all been watching the past couple of weeks:
JAY: This is a military dictatorship at the core of this government. It's essentially a client military, a client state of the United States. It's certainly, at the senior levels of the army, a part of Egyptian crony capitalism, where the top leadership of the army are enriching themselves alongside allies, I guess, Egyptian millionaires and billionaires. Yet when you ask kids in the square what they think of the military, nobody wants to say a critical word. It's they're on our side, they're neutral, they're independent, they want to--they're going to protect us. But we know Mubarak is still the commander-in-chief, so one would think if the military is taking that position, it's because Mubarak has decided it's is in his interest for them to do.
ACHCAR: ...if we are speaking of the soldiers, of the rank-and-file of the Egyptian army, I mean, of course they are part of the toiling masses of the country [inaudible] of the poor people. One very likely reason why the army has not been used by the regime to quell the uprising, at least until now, was--is the fear that the soldiers might be very reluctant to carry out such orders and even this might have led to some forms of mutiny. So the regime was cautious not to use the troops in a direct confrontation with the people.
So in that sense, speaking of the army, addressing the troops makes sense. But where it gets into something rather dangerous politically is when it turns into sowing illusions about the military as an institution, about the army as an institution.
The army as an institution is definitely not on the side of the people and definitely not neutral. It is completely on the side of Mubarak. And Mubarak actually, and the army general staff, were keen on emphasizing this by showing, you know, on the television, on Egyptian television, Mubarak meeting with the general staff and all that.
So the army's behind him. The key people that he put, you know, in at the head of the government that he formed after he dismissed the previous one, or the man he named his vice president, are all people from the army. So it's more than ever, if you want, a military--I mean, a rule by the army of the army men, of the military.
Real News Network - February 8, 2011
Illusions About Egyptian Military Can Damage Movement
Gilbert Achcar: Ordinary soldiers may be with the democratic movement,
but high command is at the core of the regime
...full transcript here...
It would appear, in light of all of the preceding, that the Egyptian High Military Council and the Egyptian Army had no choice if they wished to not become as much targets for public anger as Mubarak had become and wished to retain the power and control of Egypt they have held for more than half a century, that they would have to tread very lightly in dealing with the burgeoning protests in Tahrir Square over the past couple of weeks or risk alienating the entire country.
What has the Egyptian "revolution" accomplished? I'm very sure that most of the protesters cheering today in Tahrir Sqaure are ecstatic today that Mubarak is gone, and I'm very happy for them for that. They had dreams and they did everything they could do non-violently to turn those dreams into reality.
And the result has been a military takeover of their country, or as STRATFOR described it this morning, a military coup:
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman delivered the following statement Feb. 11: “In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody.”
Suleiman’s statement is the clearest indication thus far that the military has carried out a coup led by Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. It is not clear whether Suleiman will remain as the civilian head of the army-led government. Egypt is returning to the 1952 model of ruling the state via a council of army officers. The question now is to what extent the military elite will share power with its civilian counterparts.
Reuters describes Tantawi this way:
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Higher Military Council that took control of Egypt on Friday after President Hosni Mubarak was swept from power, has spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates by phone five times since the crisis began, including as late as on Thursday evening.
The ties are long-standing and important to Washington, which provides about $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year.
Pentagon officials have been tight-lipped about the talks between Tantawi and Gates but the U.S. defense chief has publicly praised Egypt's military for being a stabilizing force during the unrest. On Tuesday, Gates said Egypt's military had "made a contribution to the evolution of democracy."
Robert Gates, originally appointed as US Defense Secretary by former President George W. Bush and retained in that postion by Barack Obama, has been the point man in charge of delivering "freedom and democracy" to the world on behalf of US corporations for years.
Have the Egyptian people been outflanked, and had the clock turned back half a century on them to the very system that produced a Mubarak in the first place?
Will this be, for Egyptians, as much a "Change you can believe in" as Obama has turned out to be for Americans? Or better?
As far as I can see from all of this, the Egyptian Army's so-called "restraint" the past couple of weeks was self serving purposeful manipulation of the protesters.
They had many, but far from all, of the protesters in Tahrir Square believing the Army were the good guys on their side because it wasn't attacking them. If they hadn't the din of protest would have been unbearable this morning when the Army took over the country.
Whatever happened to "we want the whole regime gone"? Eh?
The "regime" - the military dictatorship - that has run Egypt for the past 60 years has just ridded itself of a 83 year old has been hated by the Egyptian public, framed itself as "the good guys", co-opted the revolution, and now has a firm lock on power in Egypt, and a hotline to its friend Robert Gates in the Pentagon and the White House, and I'm sure there are people in Tel Aviv dancing with joy tonight.
I can only conclude that the Egyptian protesters who put their hearts and souls into freeing themselves were coldly manipulated in a power play stretching from Washington to Tel Aviv to Cairo that now leaves them at the mercy of the same "regime" they wanted gone and has them - for the moment - cheering for it.
Perhaps ElBaradei was prescient when he said Thursday that "Egypt Will Explode". As the realization sinks into the Egyptian public of just what has taken place over the past day, Egypt may very well do just that...
Roving journalist Pepe Escobar has also done a fantastic job of keeping up with events in Egypt the past few days:
- Why The US Fears Arab Democracy
- Egypt: Counter-Revolution Brought To You By...
- 'Sheik al-Torture' is now a democrat
- Don't Cry For Me, Suleiman
- Egypt: Bread, Dignity and Lies
- Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
Anybody believing that Washington's "orderly transition" led by Vice President Omar Suleiman (aka Sheikh al-Torture, according to protesters and human-rights activists) could satisfy Egyptian popular will believes Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin could have gotten away with a facelift.
"Orderly transition" may also be regarded as a ghastly euphemism for sitting on the fence - way distinct from an explicit call for democracy. The White House has morphed into a succession of white pretzels trying to salvage the concept. But the fact is that as much as Pharaoh Mubarak is a slave to US foreign policy, US President Barack Obama is boxed in by geopolitical imperatives and enormous corporate interests he cannot even dream of upsetting.
A crash course on 'stability'
To cut to the chase; it's all about oil and Israel. That's the essence of Washington's foreign policy for the past six decades as far as the Middle East, Arabs and the Muslim world at large are concerned.
So as one of the pillars of the "cold peace" with Israel, Egypt is a paradigm. It's a bipartisan phenomenon, in US terms; Republicans and Democrats see it the same way. There's the Suez Canal, through which flows 1.8 million barrels of crude a day. But "partner with Israel" in the 1979 Camp David accords is what explains all the billions of dollars showered on the Egyptian military and the three decades of unconditional support to the corrupt Mubarak military dictatorship (and make no mistake, the US implication in that vast shop of horrors is all documented in the vaults of the regime). On a parallel track, "stability" also translates as a lousy quality of life for virtually the totality of Egyptians; democratic rights of local populations are always secondary to geostrategic considerations.
The dominant geostrategic status quo in the Middle East, that is that is the Washington/Tel Aviv axis, has hypnotized Western public opinion to accept the myth that Arab democracy = Islamic fundamentalism, disregarding how all attempts of popular rebellion in the Arab world over the past decades have been squashed. The Israeli government goes beyond this equation; for Tel Aviv it's Islamic fundamentalism = terrorism, ergo, Arab democracy = terrorism. Under this framework, Mubarakism is an essential ally more than ever.