Egypt: Will it be the secret policeman’s fall?

President Hosni Mubarak’s shuffling of the Egyptian cabinet while Cairo burns, has all the appearance of rearranging deckchairs on a doomed Titanic. Yet, despite the protests, he may still survive.

If he were to go, who would replace him? His son, the just as unpopular Gamal?  The Muslim Brotherhood? Mohamed ElBaradei? Or Omar Suleiman, intelligence chief and new vice-President?

Whatever the outcome of this week’s events across Egypt, any administration genuinely wishing to bring the country out of chaos must urgently address the chronic violation of human rights which has plagued the nation under Mubarak.

The jailing of thousands of political prisoners has been hallmark of his regime. Bloggers (like Kareem Amer) have been among those who have found themselves locked up for doing what bloggers do.

The cutting of internet and mobile phone services during the protests is just the latest manifestation of the administration’s clear rejection of the right to freedom of speech.

Torture has been rife in Egypt for decades. So much so, that it was the natural location for “war on terror” prisoners like Milan resident Abu Omar to be “rendered” for “outsourced” abuse.

According to journalist Stephen Grey, it was new vice-President Suleiman who was the Egyptian fixer for the US extraordinary rendition “torture flights”. Indeed Grey’s book, Ghost Plane starts with the US-organised rendition and torture of two Egyptian men, in which the Swedish government was also complicit. Grey writes:

[Egypt’s] record both on human rights and on repressing democracy was lambasted annually by both Congress and the State Department.  But in secret, men like Omar Suleiman … did our work, the sort of work that Western countries have no appetite to do themselves.

Mubarak’s willingness to be an ally of the US has ensured that his regime has been on the receiving end of a billion dollars-plus of annual military assistance from Washington. We’ve seen some of it on the news this week.

The F-16 jets swooping to intimidate over Cairo, the M60 Patton tanks of the Republican Guard rolling across Tahrir Square, the ‘Made in the USA’ tear gas canisters fired at protestors.

So, what next? Will the people triumph over the President? And, if the plug is pulled on Mubarak, will Washington back free and fair elections … Or a someone like secret policeman Suleiman for an “orderly transition” to business as usual?

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  • Dewi

    Muslim Brotherhood bloke on the box calling for free elections…..hmmm

  • These events in Egypt remind me of what was happeing in Iran, when supporters of Ayatolla Khomenei overthrew the ruling Shah.

    The difference with this revolution is that there is no strong leader in opposition. It is correct that Mubarak might survive for a while and I think this is the key reason.

    The US and its western Allies have to be very careful how they play their hand. Like the situation in Iran, the Shah was an ally of the West.

    Let us make no bones about how serious this is. Ever since the peace settlement between Israel and Egypt in 1977, Egypt has been an ally of the West. This has crucially prevented another middle eastern war from flaring up. If a occurs in Egypt, then a new regime could turn out to be anti-West and anti Israel. In the worst case scenario, this could lead to the closure of the suez canal and another middle eastern war involving the deployment of WMDs.

    The most important thing the West has to do is to tell Mubarak that things can never be the same again, that he will be overthrown, eventually, if he does not go peacefully and on his own terms. He must be presurrised to call for elections and then support the eventually elected Government. He should only be able to remain as president without executive power.

  • Greenflag

    The Muslim Brotherhood was ‘banned ‘ from politics as far back as 1928 when Britain ‘ruled ‘ . It remained ‘banned ‘ under Nasser and Sadat and under Mubarak.

    What’s happening in Egypt and indeed all across the Maghreb is that these economies are unable to deliver employment for the huge numbers of young people and thus the obvious frustration ending up on the streets . Tunisia first and if Mubarak goes under – then the ‘elephant in the room’ Saudi Arabia could be under threat -.Saudi Arabia is the only major state in the region that has condemned the Egyptian protestors .

    When there is no official opposition through which the voices of the people can be heard then those voices will be heard on the streets amidst gunfire and worse when the inevitable happens and ‘dictators’ or one party regimes are finally toppled .

    The Egyptian army has made a statement that it will not fire on protestors -so you can take it that the search is on for a plausible successor to Mubarak .

    What has been interesting in both these ‘revolutions’ is the use of cell phones , internet, and even wikileaks .

    Will Washington sit idly by while the Egyptian people vote in a new government that will be much more hostile to Israel ?

    It seems USA foreign policy in the Middle East over the past two decades from the Gulf War 1991 to the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the threats against Iran -has now resulted in the destabilisation of countries across North Africa .

    And now for the big picture 😉

    Confucius say please to remember wise words and prayers of all ancestors .

    Old Irish prayer c 850 AD

    ‘Save us from the storms oh Lord and from the Vikings (later the Normans & English) travelling abroad .

    Not so old English prayer c 1588 AD

    ‘Save us from the storms oh Lord and from the Spanish (later the French and Germans ) travelling abroad .

    Present day Arab , Middle Eastern , North African , Iranian , Chinese , Russian , European and worldwide prayer c 1991-2011

    ‘Save us from the storms oh Lord and from the Americans travelling abroad -not only their armies but their Wall St financial gangsters and their sychophantic quisling supporters in all countries bar none for they bear weapons of mass economic and political destruction as hath saith their all wise high priest of capital WAR REN BUFFET .

  • Greenflag

    @ Seymour ,

    ‘Let us make no bones about how serious this is.’

    That it is – and your comparison with Iran under the Shah is worth making . The fact that there is no ‘official ‘ opposition makes the situation very unpredictable . An Army takeover is possible. USA & British intervention in all of the Middle Eastern countries has always been about oil and ensuring that the supply and delivery of said black gold would not be impeded by any local regimes or governments . Whether these governments proved to be democratically elected or were desert ‘aristocrats’ or military dictators was and probably still is immaterial .
    The ‘rot’ in relationships between the Arab /Middle Eastern worlds BEGAN in the early 1900’s when it became clear that whoever controlled ‘oil ‘ would replace the previous world power ( British Empire )based on coal and iron.

    The western oil companies persuaded the British Government of the time to stymie and overthrow the growth of Iraqi ‘democracy’ in the mid 1950.s in a forerunner of the Iranian Shah installation.

    The continuing unconditional support for the Israeli State since the mid 1950’s has just added more powder to the ever accumulating number of social , economic , political and fanatical islamic powder kegs building in this oil rich region .

    I hear via radio that over 500,000 people are on the march in Cairo and that Mubarak has gone to ground in Sharm el Sheikh.

  • Antoin Mac C.

    Seymour,a cara,what television station are you watching.
    Mubarak is going,whether the yanks want it or not.Its a popular uprising.Its easy to say we should make no bones about this.To little.Too late.The army are with the people.
    As El Genarel says-Mr President,your people are living like dogs…we’re living like animals…The cabinet reshuffle is the exact same thing that the yanks put in place in venezuela,and then they reverted to type by sending in the CIA.If the egyptian army aren’t shooting protesters,who is?and why?

  • joeCanuck

    Just watched a leader of the Muslium Brotherhood on Hard Talk; scary guy.
    Still, they should not be banned. If the Egyptian people want to elect some of them, they should be free to do so.

  • qwerty12345

    Just watched a leader of the Yankee Brotherhood on CNN; scary woman.
    Still, they should not be banned. If the American people want to elect some of them, they should be free to do so.

  • qwerty12345

    Contrast the American reaction to Egypt with American reaction to the toppling of European communist regimes in the 80’s, or recent protests in Iran.

    The Washington line has evolved somewhat in the last days but I dont remember calls for calm and dialogue with regimes in the other cases I cite.

    The cynicism is breathtaking. Just imagine, American politicians gently asking Mubarak to heed his people after 30 years of funding the bastard. What a shower.

    But hey, why care about the rights of 83 million Arabs when there are 7 million of the chosen next door to support.

    As for the scaremongering over the Muslim Brotherhood. Yawn.

  • qwerty12345

    Seymour wrote: Egypt has been an ally of the West. This has crucially prevented another middle eastern war from flaring up.

    Yeah tell that to the Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians.

  • Greenflag

    Not to mention the Iraqis , and the Afghans and perhaps the Iranians soon enough 🙁

    ‘The cynicism is breathtaking. ‘

    I wonder will the USA export ‘democracy ‘to Tunisia and Egypt the same way they exported it to Iraq and Afghanistan ?

    On the other hand maybe President Obama might consider ‘importing ‘ some democracy from Australia or Denmark or Sweden or even Iceland ?

  • RepublicanStones

    It seems some people accept Fox News line on the Muslim Brotherhood.the MB provide healthcare and education for those people Bela Lugosi neglects. The MB have advocated political path, eschewing the methods some still link to them to. To such an extent that they have been condemned by Al Qaeda. The unsavoury elements in the MB’s history (Sayyid Qutb etc) were as much a Frankenstein’s monster of Egyptian rulers own making as simple extremism. For a little perspective

    As an aside, an interesting aspect of the protests which seems to have been missed by the big media. The presence of ‘the ultras’.

  • RepublicanStones
  • pauluk

    Mubarak has no excuse for not allowing reform before now.

    Bush harped at him, and at many others in the Arab World, about making radical changes in their systems of government, and Condi Rice in 2005 made very strong statements in Cairo about freedom and democracy, especially in Arab nations.

    Obama dropped the ball in his Cairo speech several years later by sucking up to repressive regimes and wasting his opportunity criticising his political `enemies` in the US, thereby letting Arab dictators think they were off the hook and Bush`s Freedom Agenda had finally been extinguished.

    The chickens are now coming home to roost, as the man said, and Obama has been left flat-footed, having made freedom and democracy such a low priority – think Iran – in his Administration.

    There`s no telling how the chips will fall in the Middle East, but the `Freedom Agenda` is definitely back on the table, with a vengeance!

  • qwerty12345 at 6.49

    Point taken. What I really meant to refer to was a larger scale war between Israel and established Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

    There is perhaps one irony worth nothing here. If, as seems likely, Mubarak is finished and further, if , the successor Government is hostile to the West, the latter may now see the overthrow of Sadam as worthwhile, after all.

  • slappymcgroundout

    If one doesn’t have any other access:

    Just play the live stream.

  • pippakin

    What’s happening in Egypt is disgraceful. People have been killed. Mubarek is finished, his hired thugs need to be told by the UN and western governments that there is no international support for them or their leader.

  • slappymcgroundout

    An update piece from my man in Tahrir:

    You can follow my man the Sandmonkey on Twitter here:

  • slappymcgroundout

    For more, if the vid stays the same, here’s an 80 year old revolutionary [scroll down a bit, under a third of the way down the page]: