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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Egypt protests: America's secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising

The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning “regime change” for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

By Tim Ross, Matthew Moore and Steven Swinford
9:23PM GMT 28 Jan 2011 The Telegraph

The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.


The disclosures, contained in previously secret US diplomatic dispatches released by the WikiLeaks website, show American officials pressed the Egyptian government to release other dissidents who had been detained by the police.

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Headline : Duke raged at 'idiocy' of fraud inquiry
(continues to p4)

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P21 Comment & Feautures
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Lead : The candid dioplomatic information reverled by Wikileaks is embarassing, but it could also cause real harm, says Malcolm Rifkind

P23 Leading article (not shown)
Headline : Confronting the snake
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