Hosni & Gamal & Omar & Us

Our guest columnist this afternoon posted this from the American embassy in Cairo on May 14, 2007.

Presidential succession is the elephant in the room of Egyptian politics. Despite incessant whispered discussions, no one in Egypt has any certainty about who will succeed Mubarak, or how the succession will happen. Mubarak himself seems to be trusting to God and the inertia of the military and civilian security services to ensure an orderly transition. In the current political framework, the most likely contenders are presidential son Gamal Mubarak (whose profile is ever-increasing at the ruling National Democratic Party), [Egyptian General Intelligence Service] chief Omar Suleiman, dark horse Arab League secretary general Amre Moussa, or an as-yet unknown military officer. Whoever ends up as Egypt’s next president likely will be politically weaker than Mubarak. Once Mubarak’s successor has assumed the post, his first priority will be to build popular support. We thus expect that the new president will likely adopt an anti-American tone in his initial public rhetoric, in an effort to prove his nationalist bona fides to the Egyptian street, and may possibly extend an olive branch to the Muslim Brotherhood, as did previous Egyptian presidents at the beginning of their terms…

Cairene conventional wisdom holds that Gamal wants the job, despite his repeated denials to the contrary. The most recent such abjuration was on May 2, during an interview with the Orbit satellite TV channel, when Gamal stated that, “I do not have the intention and ambition to run for president… Whatever the party says does not matter. I am not looking for any executive post.” Such coy demurrals ring hollow in the face of his increasingly robust role within the NDP (far exceeding that of his counterparts in the party hierarchy), his apparently central role in creating new legislation, and his recent tours to various governorates featuring ministerial entourages. It is hard to argue that Gamal is not being groomed for the presidency…

A key stumbling block for a Gamal candidacy could be the military. Each of Egypt’s four presidents since 1952 arose from the officer corps, and the military has historically been the ultimate guarantor of the president’s rule. Gamal did not serve as a military officer, and we believe he did not complete his compulsory service. Many observers opine that timing is the crucial factor for a potential Gamal presidency — his power base is his father, and so while he could conceivably be installed prior to Mubarak’s death, the task would become far more difficult, although not insurmountable, once the pharaoh has departed the scene, and personal loyalties to him are in the past. Although there is widespread popular animus against a Gamal candidacy, with many Egyptians opining proudly that, “We are not Syria or Saudi!”, The NDP machinery could likely stage an electoral victory, based on poor voter turnout, sloppy voter lists, and state control of the election apparatus.

Egyptian intelligence chief and Mubarak consigliere, in past years Suleiman was often cited as likely to be named to the long-vacant vice-presidential post. In the past two years, Suleiman has stepped out of the shadows, and allowed himself to be photographed, and his meetings with foreign leaders reported. Many of our contacts believe that Suleiman, because of his military background, would at the least have to figure in any succession scenario for Gamal, possibly as a transitional figure. Suleiman himself adamantly denies any personal ambitions, but his interest and dedication to national service is obvious. His loyalty to Mubarak seems rock-solid. At age 71, he could be attractive to the ruling apparatus and the public at large as a reliable figure unlikely to harbor ambitions for another multi-decade presidency. A key unanswered question is how he would respond to a Gamal presidency once Mubarak is dead. An alleged personal friend of Suleiman tells us that Suleiman “detests” the idea of Gamal as president, and that he also was “deeply personally hurt” by Mubarak, who promised to name him vice-president several years ago, but then reneged…

Whoever Egypt’s next president is, he will inevitably be politically weaker than Mubarak, and once he has assumed the post, among his first priorities will be to cement his position and build popular support. We can thus anticipate that the new president may sound an initial anti-American tone in his public rhetoric, in an effort to prove his nationalist bona fides to the Egyptian street, and distance himself from Mubarak’s policies. If history is any guide, we can also expect the new president to extend an olive branch to the Muslim Brotherhood, as did Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar el Sadat, and Mubarak early in all of their terms, in an effort to co-opt potential opposition, and boost popularity.

Cable 07CAIRO1417, PRESIDENTIAL SUCCESSION IN EGYPT [WikiLeaks, via Harry Shearer]

What a wet blanket! Stinque has lurkers coming out of the closet (not that there’s anything wrong with that) to nominate their favorite buildings and you jump back into a subject that’s uncomfortable. You’ll never become the rich and famous Mr. Sunday of the internet if you keep trying to bring up actual news.

@Dave H: I think we’re perfectly capable of balancing Serious Discussion of World-Historical Events with Disquisitions on Turgid Architecture. The winner is the first person to discover the underlying connection between the two.

@Dave H: Wait, here it is:

Family Jewels of the Nile.

You’re welcome!

“alleged” cable since, if it really were the contents of a classified missive, it was never unclassified and as such, can’t be confirmed.


People you don’t want to lead your country:

Spies from your country who spy on you
John Yoo
Dick Cheney
Military leaders

Not necessarily in that order…

Same Shit, Different Dictator.

@nojo: So will we also have a feature on architecture that resembles the lady-bits? Or will that be my responsibility as Bureau Chief of the Stinque Department of Lady-Bits?

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: I’m going to forget I clicked that link. I told SFL Thursday afternoon that surely somebody’s already done this, but I’m not gonna go looking for it.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Who? Was he on Carol Burnett or Laugh In?

@JNOV: Carol Burnett. Tim Conway was the only human in existence who could make Korman break character.

@nojo: Yes, I remember now. :-)

The real question is: Is Abe Vigoda still kicking? I’ve been trying to get my Abe Vigoda Status Indicator for FB to work for months. Abe hasn’t sent a tweet in eons (that’s months in Abe years). I’m starting to worry.

When you kids have a moment, I posed a question in the sandbox requiring your technical expertise.

@SanFranLefty: Oooh, I have a candidate for that one too. I’ve heard the Smurfit building in Chicago described as the feminine answer to all the rest of the phallic skyscrapers in the city. And there’s also the stairwell at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. What can I say, my town can bring it.

@flippin eck: Alright, send ’em to me, and I’ll start a file, and when hamster Nojo tells me to shoot, I’ll launch a post on va-jay-jay buildings.

@SanFranLefty: Would its contents qualify the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe?

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Going old school with the McHale’s Navy clips. Not sure if they could play that on TV anymore what with all the anti-Asian racism.

@SanFranLefty: OH, YES! Great idea!

And then we need another one that actually shows the state of the union of the prior posts, such as.

@SanFranLefty: They call it the the London Eye, but I think that’s just an anatomical euphemism.

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