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29 January 2011

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Lysander

The move is being mocked by most Egyptians. I'm sure Suleiman is a great guy personally. But he is way too close to the Israelis and most Egyptians know it.

Being from combat arms is fine. But so was Mubarak. Supposedly he was a good air force commander in '73. It isn't helping him now.

Charles I

Thanks for the news. An interim figure to be sure, but surely even now a figurehead. for Who?

Canuck

The military http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/01/will-egypts-military-officers-free-the-revolution/70465 whom the population respects, does create the possibility of quelling Egyptian, protester's violence.

An older article from Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/israel-pinning-hopes-for-hamas-deal-in-gaza-on-egypt-intel-chief-1.268496 implies that Omar Suleiman would lean more toward being a secular rather than a religious leader. He does at least despise the MB. Mubarak passed over naming anyone as a Vice President during his 30-years. Agree that the only reason he would do so is because of his impending departure. Egyptians will not accept Mubarak staying as the President. Suleiman’s age makes him an interim leader. Pat do you see an Egyptian military person on staff that would take Suleiman’s place?


Patrick Lang

canuck

I don't, not immediately. pl

RRL

Will Souleiman really be seen as legitimate by the Egyptian people?

It seems like when the protesters are demanding governmental openness and transparency, appointing a mu5abarat figure responsible for the arrest/torture of who knows how many thousands of Egyptian dissidents may not be the best choice to settle chaos on the streets of Cairo.

Granted, Egypt is an ally, but is it the wisest course of action, or even conscionable, to continue supporting another figure whose policies will most probably run contrary to everything value and reform we have encouraged in the region in the last decade?

RRL

Is Souleiman really the best choice to succeed Mubarak?

When the people are calling for governmental openness and transparency, does it really make sense to appoint a mu5abarat figure responsible for arresting thousands of Egyptian dissidents? Will this really quell the streets of Cairo?

And would it be wise for us to support such a transition when it flies in the face of every reform we've encouraged and espoused in the region in the last decade? Doesn't seem to me like it would be conscionable, much less buy us capital on the Arab street (important, because the Arab street seems to be speaking louder than ever before).

Chazz

In case u r interested, a live feed of the protests with commentary: http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

Clifford Kiracofe

Agree.
Suleiman would be the best transitional figure given the volatility of the situation and the need for an experienced hand. While there are age and health issues, nonetheless he has the essential gravitas and international respect.

I would think various elites in Egypt could pull together behind him as the best choice for a transitional leader.

There are the civilian figures like al Baradei, Amr Musa etal. who might like to be president some day. But, IMO the present issue is the transitional phase as in Tunisia.

So far, the army has been restrained and has held public respect.

The masses in the streets from the videos seem to be in the middle class range of varying ages with western style clothing not galabias. MB (of various ages) have been reported somewhat present on the street but are exercising restraint and discipline. The mass protest seems to me driven by the middle class and its understandable frustration and not by the MB.

It is hard to tell, but several tens of thousands in the street have been reported. But this is not a half million or million in the streets. Enough to send a message, clearly, but not enough to overthrow the present order behind which stands the army.

Egyptians will no doubt reflect on their identity --Egyptian, "Arab", "Islamic." Videos show secular Egyptian flags on the street, not green banners with Islamist propaganda...

Canuck

Pat,

Partially agree. Putting a Genie back in the bottle is an extremely, difficult feat. However, every little bit helps including Mubarak leaving with a transition to a different government headed by a military leader as is Egypt's tradition. Or perhaps the crowd will demand a complete break and choose a more democratic way of their leaders coming into office. Tunisia's way of selecting will lead the way--they also have an interim leader whose fate isn't known as yet. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110115/wl_nm/us_tunisia_protests_62

b

Suleiman looks like the U.S./Israeli prime selection as new dictator until something better can be arranged - or not.

The second choice then would be the air force general that just has been made prime minister.

I would really be surprised if "the street" would accept such an imposed continuation of the dictatorship.

Baradei thinks it is not enough - calls for more change.

William R. Cumming

Did the big guy believe it was necessary to consult anyone in the selection? Is this the Egyptian military's candidate for succession to the big guy? Is this the guy that facilitated US renditions to Egypt? What does he know about international affairs and economics? Are appointements and increases in rank in Egypt based largely on merit or loyalty?

Canuck
eakens

The Israelis must be beside themselves right now for giving up the Sinai. If peace with the Palestinians was considered possible before, after Egypt it will be impossible.

WILL

The Egyptian VP position is interesting. It is said that Abdul-Nasser picked one whom he thought was the dumbest to be his VP, to lessen the threat of succession, and used to refer to Sadat as "the donkey." Likewise, Sadat is said to have continued the tradition.

But, MuBarak refused to continue the tradition- fearing even a donkey as a threat to his rule.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,915856-3,00.html

Jake

The Tom Garrett interview...

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/UnrestinE

If this guy thinks that Mubarak is out of touch. Garrett is off the planet.

zanzibar

It seems that it is only a matter of when that Mubarak leaves. Reports that his son and his family had bailed to London a couple days ago now would seem to be correct. Maybe it was decided to get out early and then try to see if Mubarak could contain the situation. But it looks like the masses are determined and the military will not crush the demonstrations.

Would like to hear others opinions - what are the implications of regime change through popular revolt in Tunisia and now Egypt for others in the region particularly the Saudi's? Will Egypt continue to enforce the Gaza blockade?

Patrick Lang

Canuck et al

Unless I am mistaken the VP would succeed, not the PM. Suleiman is the perfect transitional president, transitional to elections in which he will not run. The military can stand in the background represented by the CoS and the PM and watch and gauge the situation. WRC asked if OS has economic,political and strategic gravitas. Clifford can explain it to you but OS is the most respected Egyptian alive except by deranged leftists like b. Sweet Jesus, read the material.pl

harper

Col, Thank you for the assessment of Gen. Suleiman. It paints an important picture vis. where Egypt is headed. It would seem that, between Obama's public dissing of Mubarak, and the situation on the ground, that the Army is going to step in as the instrument of stability in the short term, and that Suleiman is the man of the hour. You made a very important point that reminds me of the significant role that the U.S. military played, dating back to the 1870s and 80s, in creating the modern Egyptian Army, with a very strong meritocracy, centered on military training schools set up by an American delegation, led by Gen. Stone, that spent a decade in Egypt, at the invitation of the Kedive, and created a modern army. This is very much a root of Egyptian nationalism. The military is actually an instrument of the republic, such as it is. I watched the late night footage on Al Jazeera last night, and I was stuck by the fact that the demonstrators, who were battling the security police all day on the streets of Cairo, cheered when the Army tanks rolled into town. The military is a national institution that is actually trusted by the population to a large extent. If Suleiman plays the statesman's role, replacing Mubarak, and announcing he will oversee open elections, and then step down in a transition to civilian rule, he can be a real hero of this crisis. But the deeper issue is the American factor. I urge anyone who wants to pursue this story further to read The Blue and the Gray on the Nile, a wonderful account of this mission of U.S. Civil War veterans--both Union and Confederate--who were invited to Egypt to create a modern, American modeled military. They succeeded in that effort, creating not only a training school for young officers, drawn from the ranks of the general population. They also set up schools for the children of all of the officers, creating a perpetual strata of well-educated young Egyptians, with a strong sense of allegiance to the Army as a nation-building institution. Not surprising that the British and French colonial powers used their control over the Egyptian debt, to force the Americans to be expelled. But in that crucial decade, up through around 1884, the die was cast, and an American impulse was introduced into the Egyptian military, that could very well be a decisive factor as this latest upsurge plays out.

BTW, I am sending you a check for $25, as both a voluntary "subscription" for the blog, and as an encouragement that you keep this site up and running for a long time. I know of many active duty and retired military and intelligence professionals who frequent the blog, whether they comment or not. It has become an important voice within the national security discourse, at a time when experience and sober judgment are invaluable.

I hope Suleiman and the AF general who is the new PM, do their job, overseeing a transition to a stable election and civilian transition. Egypt is a good place and an important nation, which has been sidelined for the past several years, by this building crisis. It was never just the Mubarak succession. It was the succession issue arising during a time of global economic dislocation and instability that hits places like Egypt and Tunisia and Jordan and Algeria particularly hard. Having a stale regime at such a moment is a recipe for just the instability that we have seen over the past week.

Patrick Lang

Harper

Thanks. OS is 74. I
just looked it up.

i think the minimum elements of a restoration of order in Egypt are:

1- Husni Mubarak
departure after resignation.

2- Transition president announces date for election in which he will not run.

3- No ban on parties in the election.

IMO this election would produce a mixed government that would repudiate the Israel Treaty. The "secular" educated class would then discover after several years that their economic situation would not be improved by this new regime. Egypt's basic economic problem is that the Nile Valley is a small place and efforts to improve productivity all the way back to the time of the Khedives have never been able to outpace Egyptian peasant fecundity. The resulting massive population increases are exported from the villages to the ever growing Cairo slums. this has been an never ending process fueled by Egyptian desire for lots of children. what Egypt needs is Chinese style birth control.

Oh, yes, if the Islamists in the officer corps have not triumphed by the time that economic stasis is noted, then a nationalist military coup would be likely. pl

Castellio

If Suleiman announces the end of the emergency laws, or sets a date for their end, and sets a date for true free elections, and does not run for president... then perhaps he can manage the transition. Perhaps.

If not, all we have seen is the fact that Gamal is out, and the military is back.

Ironically, Gamal and his business friends were, in Mubarak's mythology, the "modernization" that would "lead to democracy."

Will the army support democracy in Egypt? The question remains. Does the Colonel think so?

WP

" Egypt's basic economic problem is that the Nile Valley is a small place and efforts to improve productivity all the way back to the time of the Khedives have never been able to outpace Egyptian peasant fecundity. The resulting massive population increases are exported from the villages to the ever growing Cairo slums. this has been an never ending process fueled by Egyptian desire for lots of children. what Egypt needs is Chinese style birth control."

Undoubtably, the best, fastest, and most dependable form of birth control is to educate the girls. This is less coercive than the Chinese model and much easier to implement. If one were to plan a single social policy that would benefit stability of Egypt, it seems to me that a massive girl education project would cement the loyalty of the women and reduce the population growth.

Ken Hoop

I as a Buchananite non-interventionist,believe "b" should restrain from labelling Mr. Lang a soft imperialist and Mr. Lang should refrain from labelling "b" "deranged."

William R. Cumming

The Egyptian demographics are not just tinder but explosive in nature. Egypt is the real nation-state of that arena other than Turkey and Iran. What was the saying-The rest are tribes following flags?

Clifford Kiracofe

Harper, All

1. General Ralegh Colston's papers are in the VMI archive. A Confederate General, he was with Gen. Stone in Egypt working for the Khedive. Colston led recon missions up the Nile and into the Sudan to about where Darfur is, as I recall from his papers.

With regard to British Imperial strategy of that day, one has to take into account their activity in Kenya, Uganda and all that. This was linked to dominating the Nile River Basin, the Sudan. The French, for their part, were moving eastward and we can recall Fashoda.

2. Over the past 50 years, the Israeli's seem to have taken an interest in the Nile River Basin also: Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan...

3. Didn't the MB cut its deal with the Wahhabi complex back in the 1930s when Rida made nice to the House of Saud?

MB intellectuals naturally fled to Saudi in the 1960s from Egypt. But then in the 1960s, some Western Cold Warriors had the bright idea that the MB would be useful against the "pagan" Commies as would be the Wahhabi complex.

In the late 1970s, this idea seemed to have inspired the support of the Jihadi "International Red Brigades" in Afghanistan (I know "Green" but I am referring to Spain). And our boy Usama, after all, studied under MB professors in Saudi.

4. Perhaps we need a rethink of our overall Middle East policy. Since 1967, we have had a "strategic alliance" with Israel. Maybe this is a bit out of date now if it ever was in date. The new regional situation might spark some realistic thinking.

We have: the Arab states, Israel, Turkey, and Iran out that way. Yet, since 1967 all we have really done is obsess about Israel and see the region through Israeli eyes...not American eyes.

We still see the region through Israeli eyes. Our foreign policy elite seems to believe that Israel is our marcher state there.

Seems to me we have to rethink and develop a different approach rather than the present "mutual suicide pact" (Habakkuk's apt phrase) we have with Israel.

VietnamVet

Colonel,

Your insight is real red meat compared to the pabulum we get from American media including NewsHour.

Any society where leadership is held by force will have conflicts when the old man is 80 years old. It will be amazing if the Egyptian military can handle the transition smoothly.

If the Israeli Peace Treaty is revoked by the new Egyptian government, we will be subjected to the Rants about “Who lost Egypt”; especially, from those who lean forward and led the American charge into the Middle East.

This is a continuation of the great tradition portrayed “The Great Gatsby” and “The Quiet American” of Americans totally unaware of the havoc that they left behind in their path through life.

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