WikiLeaks: Egypt’s new man at the top 'was against reform'

The military leader charged with transforming Egypt opposed political reform because he believed that it “eroded central government power”, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

By Christopher Hope, and Steven Swinford
11:31PM GMT 15 Feb 2011 The Daily Telegraph


Field Marshal Mohamad Tantawi, the head of the Higher Military Council that took control of Egypt last week, was also against economic reforms because they create “social instability”.

The briefings, in cables handed to the WikiLeaks website, raise questions about the field marshal’s suitability for overseeing transition to a democratically elected government.

Today The Daily Telegraph publishes on its website hundreds of leaked cables written by US diplomats in the American embassy in Cairo and sent to Washington. One, sent from Cairo to Washington in March 2008 ahead of an official visit, reports how the 76-year-old field marshal was against change.

The cable states: “Tantawi has opposed both economic and political reforms that he perceives as eroding central government power. He is supremely concerned with national unity, and has opposed policy initiatives he views as encouraging political or religious cleavages within Egyptian society.”

Field Marshal Tantawi’s role as effective interim head of state was confirmed at the weekend after President Hosni Mubarak fled from Cairo to the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The communiqué also told of his opposition to economic reforms which had been pushed by President Mubarak.

The cable said: “Tantawi believes that Egypt’s economic reform plan fosters social instability by lessening GOE [government of Egypt] controls over prices and production.” He also rejected any deals regarding military equipment in return for concessions on human rights policy, the communiqué said.

Officials suggested that his age made him more conservative-minded, describing him as “aged and change-resistant”. The cable continued: “He and Mubarak are focused on regime stability and maintaining the status quo through the end of their time. They simply do not have the energy, inclination or world view to do anything differently.” Other cables show the extent to which the Egyptian armed forces have spread their influence through the country.

They claimed this power was exercised through the use of vetoes on commercial contracts due to “security concerns”.
One communiqué, sent in September 2008, said: “Contacts told us that military-owned companies, often run by retired generals, are particularly active in the water, olive oil, cement, construction, hotel and gasoline industries.” It was also suggested that “large amounts of land in the Nile Delta and on the Red Sea coast” were owned by the armed forces and seen as a “fringe benefit” in exchange for ensuring stability and security.

The cables

Ref ID: 08CAIRO524
Date: 3/16/2008 16:43
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Classification: SECRET

Ref ID: 08CAIRO2091
Date: 9/23/2008 15:17
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Classification: SECRET

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WikiLeaks: Israel's secret hotline to the man tipped to replace Mubarak

The new vice-president of Egypt, Omar Suleiman, is a long-standing favourite of Israel's who spoke daily to the Tel Aviv government via a secret "hotline" to Cairo, leaked documents disclose.

By Tim Ross, Christopher Hope, Steven Swinford and Adrian Blomfield

9:25PM GMT 07 Feb 2011 Telegraph


Mr Suleiman, who is widely tipped to take over from Hosni Mubarak as president, was named as Israel's preferred candidate for the job after discussions with American officials in 2008.

As a key figure working for Middle East peace, he once suggested that Israeli troops would be "welcome" to invade Egypt to stop weapons being smuggled to Hamas terrorists in neighbouring Gaza.

The details, which emerged in secret files obtained by WikiLeaks and passed to The Daily Telegraph, come after Mr Suleiman began talks with opposition groups on the future for Egypt's government.

On Saturday, Mr Suleiman won the backing of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to lead the "transition" to democracy after two weeks of demonstrations calling for President Mubarak to resign.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, spoke to Mr Suleiman yesterday and urged him to take "bold and credible steps" to show the world that Egypt is embarking on an "irreversible, urgent and real" transition.

Leaked cables from American embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv disclose the close co-operation between Mr Suleiman and the US and Israeli governments as well as diplomats' intense interest in likely successors to the ageing President Mubarak, 83.

The documents highlight the delicate position which the Egyptian government seeks to maintain in Middle East politics, as a leading Arab nation with a strong relationship with the US and Israel. By 2008, Mr Suleiman, who was head of the foreign intelligence service, had become Israel's main point of contact in the Egyptian government.

David Hacham, a senior adviser from the Israeli Ministry of Defence, told the American embassy in Tel Aviv that a delegation led by Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak had been impressed by Mr Suleiman, whose name is spelled "Soliman" in some cables.

But Mr Hacham was "shocked" by President Mubarak's "aged appearance and slurred speech".

The cable, from August 2008, said: "Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however, and noted that a 'hot line' set up between the MOD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use.

"Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim President if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated." The Tel Aviv diplomats added: "We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Soliman."

Elsewhere the documents disclose that Mr Suleiman was stung by Israeli criticism of Egypt's inability to stop arms smugglers transporting weapons to Palestinian militants in Gaza. At one point he suggested that Israel send troops into the Egyptian border region of Philadelphi to "stop the smuggling".

"In their moments of greatest frustration, [Egyptian Defence Minister] Tantawi and Soliman each have claimed that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] would be 'welcome' to re-invade Philadelphi, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling," the cable said.

The files suggest that Mr Suleiman wanted Hamas "isolated", and thought Gaza should "go hungry but not starve".

"We have a short time to reach peace," he told US diplomats. "We need to wake up in the morning with no news of terrorism, no explosions, and no news of more deaths."

Yesterday, Hosni Mubarak's control of Egypt's state media, a vital lynchpin of his 30-year presidency, started to slip as the country's largest-circulation newspaper declared its support for the uprising.

Hoping to sap the momentum from street protests demanding his overthrow, the president has instructed his deputy to launch potentially protracted negotiations with secular and Islamist opposition parties. The talks continued for a second day yesterday without yielding a significant breakthrough.

But Mr Mubarak was dealt a significant setback as the state-controlled Al-Ahram, Egypt's second oldest newspaper and one of the most famous publications in the Middle East, abandoned its long-standing slavish support for the regime.

In a front-page leading article, the newspaper hailed the "nobility" of the "revolution" and demanded the government embark on irreversible constitutional and legislative changes.

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Leaked cables reveal anger at regime may make Libya the next Arab domino to fall

サンデイタイムス The Sunday Times 2011年2月6日号海外面P28
[サンデイタイムスでの見出しは Lybya froths at plinsering by junior Gadaffis]

(タイムスのウェブサイトは有料のため、以下記事は' The Australian'からコピー&ペースト)

THE violence and corruption of members of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's family have made Libya a gangster state with a worse record of governance than Egypt or Tunisia, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

The documents reveal previously undisclosed details of how family greed, rivalry and extremism have complicated British and US efforts to normalise relations with Libya since it decided to abandon nuclear weapons and renounce terrorism. Gaddafi's children plunder the country's oil revenues, run a kleptocracy and operate a reign of terror that has created simmering hatred and resentment among the people, according to the cables released by WikiLeaks.

In the light of the upheavals in the Arab world, the diplomatic traffic also shows that far from being stable, Libya could be another corrupt authoritarian domino poised to fall.

One intriguing sequence of cables tells how Switzerland faced down threats after Swiss police arrested Hannibal Gaddafi, a younger son, and his wife for allegedly abusing two of their domestic staff.

Swiss police officers drew their guns and fought to disarm two of Hannibal's bodyguards, who were illegally carrying pistols and attacked them when they entered his suite at the five-star President Wilson hotel in Geneva. The police found Hannibal hiding in a bedroom with six bodyguards.

He was taken away in an armoured Mercedes.

Aisha, Gaddafi's fiery daughter, then flew into Geneva to raise the stakes. The Libyans threatened to withdraw billions of dollars from Swiss banks and cut off oil supplies - threats that were never carried out in full.

After petty reprisals against Swiss companies and citizens, the affair died down. Hannibal paid compensation to the employees - a Moroccan and a Tunisian - to settle the case and flew back to Libya with Aisha in a private jet.

The lesson of the 2008 case, for the Americans, was that there is a gap between average Libyans and "a hidebound regime that sees the state as an extension of the Gaddafi family empire".

Hannibal wields vast financial power in Libya, thanks to his influence over two dominant oil drilling and shipping firms. A cable calls this "another example of the kleptocratic nature of Colonel Gaddafi's regime".

Since seizing power in a 1969 coup, Gaddafi has claimed to run an egalitarian "state of the masses", using the oil and gas revenues that account for 95 per cent of Libya's economy. "The reality is that the Gaddafi family and its political loyalists own outright or have a considerable stake in most things worth owning, buying or selling in Libya," the US embassy told Washington.

Hannibal is a minor player compared with the two Gaddafi sons most often identified as potential successors.

Gaddafi, now aged 68, may have had a series of small strokes in 2007 that left him unable to turn his head and may have made his erratic behaviour even more capricious, the cables report.

The Libyan strongman refuses to fly more than eight hours at a time, is too scared to ride in a lift and will not stay above the first floor of a hotel with a maximum of 35 steps, evidently for health reasons. So the rivalry between his sons, Mutassim and Saif al-Islam, preoccupies foreign governments. Mutassim, the third son of Gaddafi's second wife, is the Libyan national security adviser and is identified with the "hard power" faction in the regime.

He is said to have demanded $US1.2 billion in cash or oil shipments for his personal use from the head of Libya's National Oil Corporation, a trusted regime figure named Shukri Ghanem.

The cable quotes friends of Ghanem saying Gaddafi's sons were "undisciplined thugs" whom "no one could cross".

"Gaddafi is focused on the appearance of reform," a cable said, but Ghanem believed there would be "no meaningful reform possible" in the leader's lifetime.

The cables describe how even the family's supposed reformer, Saif, the eldest son of the second wife, depends on some of the regime's most tainted figures. Saif won attention by making a suave debut on the Western social scene and running a broadcasting network that was slightly more liberal than the totalitarian norm until hardliners shut it down.

His adviser, Abdullah Senussi, however, is known to the US embassy as a former head of military intelligence who personally took a "very tough" line against releasing dissidents or improving human rights.

Saif has also played to the hardliners by delivering a speech in which he said: "We will not tolerate a foreign company to make a profit at the expense of a Libyan citizen."

In reality, the Gaddafi regime appears divided between compromisers and extremists united only in their enjoyment of power and money and their connections to Gaddafi's tribal clan from the city of Sirte.

Libya has been keen to co-operate with the West against the radical Islamists who threaten its regime.

It is also slowly fulfilling its pledge to dismantle all its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons facilities, although the cables chronicle endless obstructions and delays.

The cables portray the country as wholly corrupt, inefficient and so poor at governing that, despite billions in oil money, the city of Tripoli dumps more than 200,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean every day.

Resentment is also said to be festering there.

The West may be thinking again about placing its bets on the stability of the Gaddafi regime.

[The Sunday Times]

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