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Same Dictator, Different Day: Mubarak's Replacement Is Terrible, Too Why Omar Suleiman Will Probably Be As Bad for Egypt As Hosni Mubarak

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has relinquished his power to Vice President Omar Suleiman. That is not good at all.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in his speech today that, though he plans to remain in power until the nation’s elections in September, he’s relinquishing some of his powers to the recently installed Vice President Omar Suleiman, who’s currently the frontrunner for the top position. That is terrible news. Here’s why.

1. Suleiman is “Mubarak II”

Suleiman has long been a part of the Egyptian military establishment, becoming deputy head of military intelligence under Mubarak in 1986, and the head of the agency seven years later. In the time since, Suleiman, whose views on a wide range of foreign policy issues closely resemble Mubarak’s, has been implicated as a torturer of prisoners and a clandestine puppet for the C.I.A.

Nowadays, Egyptians consider Suleiman to be nothing but a “Mubarak II”:

Egyptians, particularly those of us calling for an end to Mubarak's three-decade rule, see Suleiman as Mubarak II, especially after the lengthy interview he gave to state television Feb. 3 in which he accused the demonstrators in Tahrir Square of implementing foreign agendas. He did not even bother to veil his threats of retaliation against protesters.


2. Suleiman could be worse than Mubarak, because he has more control over the military

While Mubarak was once the commander of the Air Force, Suleiman is a former general in the nation’s army, a U.S.-backed, eminently powerful, multibillion-dollar operation. He has the trust of the army, especially after being head of Egyptian Intelligence for decades.

Of Suleiman’s promotion to vice president on January 29, Ragui Assaad, a professor of Egyptian economics said, “I think basically this is a way of paving the way for a military-led regime in a so-called constitutional context. It is clearly the result of negotiations with the army.”

Suleiman’s ascension is also scary for the Muslim Brotherhood. One reason America has worked so closely with Suleiman is because he despises Islamic extremists, and it’s likely he wouldn’t shy away from crushing an Islamist uprising with extreme force.

3. The protesters say they will accept nothing less than a regime change

Student groups have flat-out rejected enticements to start a dialogue with Suleiman, as they say they won’t accept anything less than a democratic regime change from the ground up:

“We want the whole regime to change, starting from Hosni Mubarak,” Ramzi Mohamed Helwan, a 19-year-old student said during ... protests in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. “We don’t accept Omar Suleiman or anyone else.”


It should be noted that, despite all this, the United States basically adores Suleiman, according to leaked WikiLeaks cables. As Robert Scheer notes in the Huffington Post:

[The Obama] administration has fallen back on the sordid option of backing a new and improved dictatorship. Predictably, it is one guided by a local strongman long entrusted by the CIA, Vice President Omar Suleiman, described by U.S. officials in the WikiLeaks cables as a ‘Mubarak consigliere.’ The script is out of an all-too-familiar playbook: Pick this longtime chief of Egyptian intelligence who has consistently done our bidding in matters of torture and retrofit him as a modern democratic leader.


photo via Wikimedia Commons

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