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WikiLeaks, the Egyptian military and Gamal Mubarak's chances to succeed his father

By Staff writer / January 26, 2011

(Before Backchannels went live earlier this month I wrote a few "test" blogs. This was written on December 14 and seems worth posting now given events in Egypt).

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Some interesting bits out from WikiLeaks today on Egypt, one of my old stomping grounds. There are some scathing evaluations of the state of Egyptian military. For instance this cable from 2008 says:

"Recently, academics and civilian analysts painted a portrait of an Egyptian military in intellectual and social decline, whose officers have largely fallen out of society's elite ranks. They describe a disgruntled mid-level officer corps harshly critical of a defense minister they perceive as incompetent and valuing loyalty above skill in his subordinates. However, analysts perceive the military as retaining strong influence through its role in ensuring regime stability and operating a large network of commercial enterprises."

But most of the interest comes in the realm of everyone in Egypt's favorite parlour game -- speculating on whether Gamal Mubarak, President Hosni Mubarak's son, is the president in waiting. Issandr El Amrani is closely following the release of WikiLeaks cables focused on Egypt and neighboring Arab states, and if you want to keep up with it I suggest you follow his excellent blog and twitter feed. I found the links to these cables thanks to him.

This cable, from then Egypt Ambassador Frank Riccardione in 2006, is in Captain Obvious territory, but still fun since it's a candid look from the inside on efforts to groom Gamal to succeed his father Hosni. For almost a decade now, speculation has been that Mubarak, who will be 83 at the time of the presidential election next fall, wants his son to succeed him.

It quotes Osama el-Ghazaly Harb, who had resigned from the ruling National Democratic Party that year, as saying the Party's reform process "was merely a vehicle for Gamal to promote his political career." Ambassador Riccardione writes: "Despite the sniping of many Egyptian opinion-leaders, and a more general public hostility (echoed by many of our contacts) to Gamal's possible presidential succession, there are few other obvious contenders for the post." The cable says that Suzanne Mubarak, Gamal's mother and Hosni's wife, is his principle champion, and has stood in the way of alternatives.

"Her power and influence, many argue, are keys to Gamal's viability. Sources tell us that she has kept Mubarak pere from naming a Vice President," Riccardione writes. At the time, his assessment was that the politicians and powerful businessmen around Gamal were gambling on economic reforms as a platform to creating popular legitimacy. "The way forward for Gamal currently appears open," he wrote.


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