We are told of a division in Egyptian society between the very young and the very old. The median age in Egypt is about 22 years old. But also in government and positions of influence are the “ancients” such as Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman, born July 2, 1936.
At the beginning of the current revolution by the students and young people of Egypt, whose demands for freedom have taken them to the street, where they now fight for their lives, after periods of prayer, Egyptian President Mubarak sought to soothe the beginning protests by placing figures in office who would be expected to work for the causes of freedom and democracy. In the final days of January, Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman to the office of Vice-President.
One of the first steps taken by Suleiman since that appointment was to convey that, in addition to President Mubarak vowing to step aside as leader of Egypt, Mubarak’s son Gamal would not be appointed to the Presidency. Prior to the revolution, now reaching what may be a bloody peak, that was seen as a likely occurrence. Gamal, 46, was being groomed for the appointment, despite public opposition.
Suleiman has a colorful background. The British Daily Telegraph and other publications have called him “one of the world’s most powerful spy chiefs.” Foreign Policy Magazine called him the “most powerful” chief of Intelligence. On February 3, 2011, Suleiman said that the Egyptian government needs time to build its police force, and to enact changes to the nation’s constitution. He said the protest movement is destroying the country, and that it was carrying out the agendas of foreign countries, the Muslim Brotherhood, and “some parties.” He suggested that the young rebels were being used and manipulated by these groups. At that time, Suleiman announced that he would seek meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been characterized in a number of ways. It purports to be Islamic, but comprehensive; it teaches Islam, but supplements that teaching with jihadia training. In the late 1940s, the Brotherhood blamed the Egyptian government for being passive against Zionists, and supported Palestine in the war against Israel. At that time the Muslim Brotherhood began preforming terrorist acts against Egypt, culminating in the murders of Egyptian officials. Their cry: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Vice-President Suleiman would bring that radical group to discussion; he says they are “hesitant.”
Suleiman knows the young people are demanding the disbanding of the senate and the parliament, and are seeking constitutional change. But he says that these things must be done according to mandates and in an orderly fashion. He proposes open national talks with all political forces, while the parliament and senate can carry out reforms of the articles of the constitution, and preparation for a Presidential election by August. He says that two years will be needed to fully review the constitution.
Suleiman has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Political Science from universities including Cairo University. Following his studies, he worked for military intelligence. He began early in his career to work towards a relationship between Egypt and the United States. By 1995 he was head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service; he worked directly with President Mubarak. He was seen by many as the most influential official in trying to broker a deal between Palestinian groups and Israel.
Omar Suleiman has been vilified and demonized for his involvement with the CIA rendition program. In that program, it is said that some individuals, suspected of terrorism, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and also relative to other matters, were transported to remote areas and remote countries where they could be tortured in an attempt to gather information on past and ongoing terrorist plans. It is said that some of this torture was carried out under Suleiman in Egypt, consistent with an agreement with the U.S. that dated back to 1995.
Suleiman’s Egyptian Intelligence was to provide assurances that those being interrogated would not be tortured. At least one CIA officer testified that those assurances were untrue and absurd. Suleiman has been accused of complicity in torture, including the torture of Ibn al-Libi who was handed after capture to Suleiman and under torture gave information that the U.S. cited as evidence in support of the invasion of Iraq. The information linked Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda. Al-Libi later recanted.
In today’s news, Friday, February 04, Vice President Omar Suleiman told ABC News that the Egyptian military will not use force to quell the tens of thousands of demonstrators in Cairo’s streets. He said, “We will ask them to go home. And we’ll ask their parents to ask them to go home. We will not use violence against them, the process needs time.”