"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Monday, January 31, 2011

Suleiman The Something

I just got off the phone with my friend in Cairo, who says that things on the streets are still very rough, and that his neighborhood watch group has formed a checkpoint to inspect the trunks of cars going through.   This is a scene that is not unique to his area, either, as citizens are filling the vacuum of the police (who might be better in their absence than presence).  

His sense- and this is someone I trust implicitly as an analyst and a friend- is that if Mubarak goes away and turns things over to the new Veep Omar Suleiman, with Constitutionally-mandated promises to have elections in 60 days, the protestors will be appeased (assuming he keeps his promise).  My sense was that Suleiman is too tied to to present to even be a transition to the future, but I am coming around.  This isn't all about Mubarak, but he is the main symbol.

I think in some ways this would be the best option, and is probably the one that the administration is pushing (and my friend says they better be pushing something, soon, without Mubarak, as opinion is turning against America).   Suleiman is old and might not want to win an election, and probably couldn't, either, without the game being rigged.  And a rigged game would start this all up again.   I think it might be troubling for Mohamed elBaradei to take over as transitional president and have to run an election campaign.  I think he is personally honest, but those dual roles in a time of crisis management might be too much to handle.  If he is just a transition figure, that hurts future politics, and if he is running for office, it hurts the present.

So overall, at least abstractly, Suleiman might be the best option.  But things aren't abstract, and I don't want to speculate too much on Egypt.  Third World Goes Forth has a post on Suleiman today, where he is called "...Hosni Mubarak’s right hand man: head of intelligence service, runner of secret prisons, compiler of blacklists, torturer-in-chief (although I’m not sure he ever got his own hands dirty; the first rule of succesful tyranny, at all levels, is that the really bad shit must always be delegated)."

So I turn the questions over thataway- 1) Would Suleiman be a decent transition figure that could at least calm the protestors, or are they so jazzed up at the power of freedom that they want to wipe away the old guard entirely, and 2) Would Suleiman be willing to be that intermediary?   I honestly don't know, and would love to hear the analysis of others. 


  1. 1. I would say that something more serious than the power of freedom is about to come at play, if we are to believe this short CNN report.
    Lack of food has usually moved revolutions along rather well.
    The protestors do not hate the military, it is the most respected institution, and I think that as an institution it knows that. What would calm the protestors more than anything is the immediate resignation of Mubarak, which I think the military can produce. After that, Sulieman, if he understands his position, would be almost forced into acting as the intermediary, or he will find himself swept away.

    2. If the protestors stay in the streets he will find himself willing to be that intermediary. The people of Egypt need to show that they are willing to do what it takes. I doubt that the army would obey orders to fire at their own people, and if they did they would all be swept away, and would loose any kind of American backing possible.

    Which brings me to my next point, how are we going to fight our own tanks?

    Konstantin Kaminskiy

  2. Konstantin- excellent points. Mubarak is the symbol of everything going wrong (though clearly not for everyone, but for many). If he steps down I think people will except Suleiman in the short-term, if for nothing else to be able to go back to life and to get food moving again.

    As for fighting our own tanks- man, that is a rough position. I think that is why from what I've read we are talking directly to the military. If it is our tanks and guns used against the people, we will lose Egypt for a generation, regardless of any words or actions. Terrifying scenario.