2011-01-16 Protests in Egypt

 

Al Jazeera reports from Cairo, Egypt, where some are hoping to follow Tunisia’s example and have an uprising of their own. “Down with corruption, Down with autocracy, Down with dictators!” they chant.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit downplayed any risk of a Tunisian style uprising in Egypt.

“The talk about the spread of what happened in Tunisia to other countries is nonsense. Each society has its own circumstances,” Abul Gheit told reporters in Sharm el-Sheikh.

 

Egypt is not Tunisia, But … is the headline of an article from uruknet which debates the differences and the likelihood of sudden regime change in Egypt. Many agree that revolt is less likely in Eqypt. But,

They are alike in that nobody wants them and nobody likes them,” says Ibrahim Issa, editor of the online daily Al-Dostor and one of the main critics of the regime in Egypt.

 

2011-08-13 Protests around the world

Syria:

  • The Local Co-ordination Committees say 7-8 people have been killed across Syria so far today: 4 in Homs, 1 in Hama, 1 in Daraya and 1 or 2 in Latakia. Shooting continues.
  • This video reportedly shows Bashar al Assad’s picture taken down and destroyed at Syrian Airlines international sites.
  • Friday’s death toll is being reported as 23.
  • This video shows a funeral in Douma, where five people, including a young woman, were reported killed by government forces on Friday. The crowd is being estimated at “tens of thousands” by Al Jazeera.
  • Thousands are still being arrested.
  • Tanks entered Lataika and heavy artillery was being reported there.
  • Turkey isn’t ruling out international intervention in Syria if the Bashar al-Assad regime doesn’t stop using violence against its own people, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News on Friday.

 

Israel: 25,000 assemble in Haifa, 20,000 people fill Rager Boulevard in Be’er Sheva, in Afula, some 15,000 people gather, more than 1,500 people march down the city’s main street in Eilat. Haaretz reports. It was the first time in nearly a month that Tel Aviv did not hold a march. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in other cities throughout Israel, with 8,000 demonstrating in Modi’in, 7,000 in Netanya, 5,000 in Petah Tikva, 3,500 in Hod Hasharon, 2,500 in Ramat Hasharon, 2,000 in Rosh Pina, 1,500 in Rishon Letzion, 1,500 in Eilat, 1,500 in Dimona and 1,500 in Nahariya.

Yemen: Hundreds of thousands protested in Sana, and at least 17 other cities and towns,the largest turnout since President Ali Abdullah Saleh left a hospital in Saudi Arabia, where he was recovering from wounds suffered in a June attack on his palace compound, and signaled he intends to return home soon.

South Korea: Continuing the labour protests related to the mass layoffs at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, the 4th Hope Riders, a festival in which people around the country ride down to the Youngdo shipyard to show solidarity and support to the crane protester Kim Jinsuk, launches in Seoul on the 27th August. The protest of Kim Jinsukenters its 219th day.

United States: Anonymous has a message for the people of San Francisco. “The Bay Area Rapid Transit has made the conscious decision of ordering various cell phone companies to terminate services for the downtown area inhibiting those in the area from using cell phones – even in the case of an emergency.” They are organizing a peaceful protest at Civic Center station on Monday, August 15th at 5pm. They are calling for non-violence and requesting that people bring and use cameras. They are requesting that people outside of San Francisco, show solidarity by using black fax, email bombs, and phone calls to the BART Board of Directors. Tomorrow, Sunday – August 14, 2011 at High Noon Pacific Time we, Anonymous – will remove from the internet the web site of BART located at www.bart.gov for exactly six hours. That’s twice as long as they shut off the cell phones for. BART decided to cut off your communications and now we will flood theirs. Follow #OpBart on Twitter.

US Day of Rage is posting video guidelines for non-violent civil disobedience in the leadup to their September 17 protests.

Chile: In response to the ongoing student led protests for free and equal education in Chile, Government spokesman Andres Chadwick says Chile “is not going to be governed from the street.” Students have been marching for over two months and are asking for a referendum.

China: Thousands of people in Qianxi County, Guizhou province smashed ten vehicles and torched another five, said Xinhua, China’s state news agency. According to Reuters, “China saw almost 90,000 such “mass incidents” of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts of unrest in 2009, according to a 2011 study by two scholars from Nankai University in north China. Some estimates go even higher.” “In fact, China has riots more serious than England’s every week,” said one Weibo comment.

Egypt: Brief clashes between protesters and security broke out in an otherwise peaceful demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where a few hundred people gathered on Friday to protest the continuing military rule.

2011-04-12 Hosni Mubarak and Sons Detained for fifteen days #Egypt

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Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will bedetained for 15 days, according to the facebook page of Egypt’s prosecutor general, on accusations of corruption and abuse of authority. The facebook statement says the investigation will cover the orders to open fire on demonstrators (covered here on WL Central) as well as any abuse of the president’s authority for personal gain.

Earlier today Mubarak was reported by state TV to be taken into intensive care after suffering heart problems following questioning over the killing of protesters and embezzling of public funds. Mubarak’s sons sons Alaa and Gamal have also been detained for investigation regarding corruption and violence.

The announcement is a victory for protesters who early on Saturday filled Tahrir Squarewith hundreds of thousands for one of the biggest protests since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Protesters demanded a more thorough removal of the corrupt old regime and a transfer of power from the military council to civilian rule. Thirteen people are reported wounded and two dead from an attempt by the army to clear the protesters. “All of us, the people, the army and the government, feel regret for the events of last Saturday,” the Egyptian prime minister, Essam Sharaf said on state TV on Monday.

MENA, the state news media, also reported that Safwat Sherif, former head of the upper house of parliament, was to be detained in Torah Prison for 15 days as part of a probe into accusations of graft, and Fathi Sorour, former speaker of the lower house of parliament, was detained for questioning on Wednesday over accusations he had amassed large amounts of money illegally. The panel, chaired by senior justice ministry official Essam el-Gawahri, has been investigating businessmen and former officials suspected of corruption.

 

2011-02-08 Cable: Israel pressures Suleiman to close Gaza’s ‘feeding tube’ tunnels

Today, Wikileaks released two more cables detailing Israeli pressure on the residents of Gaza Strip. As reported by WL Central here, the closure of tunnels bringing basic supplies into the Gaza Strip from Egypt have caused an urgent humanitarian crises for the people of Gaza. But US state cables show Israel pressuring the US to link aid to Egypt with the complete closure of those tunnels and the prevention of any supplies reaching Gaza through Egypt. Egypt’s new vice president’s involvement is also discussed.

In November of 2007, Israel Security Agency (ISA) Director Yuval Diskin met with US officials to discuss the ‘problem’ of supplies moving from Egypt to the Gaza Strip. In 07TELAVIV3258Diskin outlines “a growing crisis in Israeli-Egyptian relations over smuggling across the Gaza border”. Diskin told the US representatives that the ISA had, on several occasions, provided Omar Suleiman, Chief of Egyptian Intelligence Services, with detailed intelligence on the names of smugglers. In 2005, Diskin said he met personally with Suleiman in Egypt, at which time Suleiman promised personally to take responsibility for “cleansing the Sinai.” Despite these promises, and Israeli offers to initiate joint operations, Diskin said Egypt has not acted to eliminate the smuggling networks. In Diskin’s view, there is a core policy problem, in that the Egyptians view themselves as the primary mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians, and are careful not to alienate either side. “This is not possible with Hamas in Gaza,” insisted Diskin.

Diskin noted that the Egyptians do act promptly when they receive tangible information on imminent terrorist attacks and seek out tunnel openings in the Philedelphi corridor. In Diskin’s view, however, the tunnels are only a symptom of the more systemic smuggling problem. Goods are also transferred by sea and above ground by bribing Egyptian soldiers and officers, said Diskin. The tunnels themselves are designed with multiple openings, he continued, and remain operational even after the Egyptians seal up one or another.

Diskin shared that sources among the smugglers have told the ISA that Egypt permits their activities as long as they do not result in terror attacks within Egyptian territory. This shows that they can crack down on the smugglers if they have the will, said Diskin.

Suleiman recently sent a delegation to Israel to ask the ISA for help in blocking Congressional efforts to link aid to Egypt with security measures on the Gaza border. … The ISA believes that cooperation would be greatly improved by direct links to Egypt’s “Administration for National Security Investigations,” the domestic security agency operated within the Ministry of Interior. According to Diskin, Suleiman is blocking such discussions out of a desire to remain the sole point of contact for foreign intelligence. Such a relationship could be established if Mubarak were to support it directly, said Diskin, who suggested that USG assistance in facilitating contact between the agencies might be helpful.

2011-02-08 Suleiman is Israel’s preferred successor in Egypt

Cable 08TELAVIV1984, released by Wikileaks today, is headlined at Uruknet “New Wikileaks cable shows 2008 war on Gaza was unprovoked: Israel knew Hamas was enforcing ceasefire” referring to the 2008 massacre that resulted in approximately 1,400 Palestinians killed in 22 days, an operation in which Israeli soldiers had orders to “cleanse” entire neighbourhoods, orders which they carried out. That is evident in the first part of the cable, where MOD Arab Affairs Adviser David Hacham, says Suleiman was keeping the pressure on Hamas, but the Israelis were frustrated at Hamas’ ‘stalling tactics’ – Hamas was demanding Egyptian guarantees that Israel would not attack Gaza once Shalit was released. Regarding the Tahdiya, Hacham said Barak stressed that while it was not permanent, for the time being it was holding. There have been a number of violations of the ceasefire on the Gaza side, but Palestinian factions other than Hamas were responsible. Hacham said the Israelis assess that Hamas is making a serious effort to convince the other factions not to launch rockets or mortars.

The cable also returns to Egypt’s anti-smuggling efforts, enforced by Israel and the US, and this time Israel has “decided to praise Egypt’s performance publicly both in genuine acknowledgement of some improvements in destroying tunnels and in order to show the Egyptians that Israel was capable of praising as well as criticizing them. In private, however, Barak also pushed the Egyptians to do more, particularly in terms of stopping the smuggling well before the arms reach the Gaza border.”

“Hacham also said the Israeli delegation was “shocked” by Mubarak’s aged appearance and slurred speech. Hacham was full of praise for Suleiman, however, and noted that a “hot line” set up between the MOD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use. Hacham said he sometimes speaks to Soliman’s deputy Mohammed Ibrahim several times a day. Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim President if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated. (Note: 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 Suleiman.)”

2011-02-07 Protests and humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip and West Bank

Hundreds of Hamas supporters in Gaza City protested in the streets on February 3 in support of the Eyptian revolutions and against Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak with the apparent tolerance or encouragement of the Hamas government. But later this week, a group of journalists and bloggers who organized their own protest had their protest broken up. Six women and eight men were arrested, and two of the women were beaten.

In Ramallah rallies were also broken up before they started. The Palestinian Authority police beat protesters with clubs and arrested two at a rally for Egypt in front of the Egyptian embassy on Sunday. “Our rally was simply in support of Egypt,” one protester told Ma’an by phone, “we said nothing against the PA, we were not even out in the street.” Earlier the same day, the Palestinian Authority had organized a rally in support of Mubarak which accused Egyptian opposition leader Mohammed El Baradei of being a CIA agent. The pro-Mubarak rally attracted a few dozen, the rally for the Egyptian people hundreds.

The rallies now appear to have changed from simply supporting Egypt to including calls for reform in Gaza. A Facebook page appeared on January 28 calling for a revolution in Gaza and naming February 11 a day of protest against the Hamas government. Four days later, another page was set up on Facebook, calling for a revolution in Ramallah and the ouster of President Mahmoud Abbas.

As shown in the US state cables, Egypt has been accused by both the Emir of Qatar and the president of Syria of having no desire for the ‘peace process’ between Palestine and Israel to come to a conclusion, as that would also conclude his important role as a mediator. “The Egyptians’ goal is to stay in the game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which is built around brokering Middle East peace, for as long as possible.” Between January 23 and 26th Al Jazeera released 1,684 files of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These documents also inflamed Palestinian opinions against the Palestinian Authority who were shown as acquiescing to almost all Israeli demands. “Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials said after a meeting of several groups that all were agreed that deals made with Israel by president Mahmud Abbas’s western-backed Palestinian Authority and his Fatah movement were invalid.”

The current situation in Egypt is having a potentially disastrous impact on residents of the Gaza Strip. The border between Gaza and Egypt is sealed shut, fuel imports have been cut off, and hundreds of people cannot reach medical care or separated family members. Egyptian workers who normally smuggle in fuel have fled to their homes or to fight Egyptian forces. According toMahmoud al-Shawa, president of the board of directors of the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority in the Strip, “Gaza needs 800,000 litres of diesel (200,000 for the main power station) and 300,000 litres of petrol daily. Only half of that requirement was available even before the Egyptian uprising. Most of Gaza’s supply must be smuggled through the tunnels from Egypt, since fuel from Israel is not only limited in quantity but too expensive for most residents.”

The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza closed on January 30, leaving stranded many people who needed to cross for medical treatment, school, supplies or to be with family and causing the prices of many consumer goods to skyrocket. Although there have been recent reports of the Gaza underground tunnels, or ‘feeding tubes’, which were used to bring basic goods from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, now working in the opposite direction, the most recent reports say the tunnels are now closed.

Around 60 Palestinians, attempting to return home via Cairo when Gaza’s southern border closed, are still being held at Cairo airport. Among them are six children and several critically ill patients who are running out of medication. “The children don’t know what’s happening. Sometimes they’re crying. It’s very, very cold here; it’s crowded and there is nowhere for us to wash,” said one of the being detainees.

The biggest hospital, Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, has less than a week’s fuel supply in reserve. Around 500 Gazan patients were referred to Egypt every month before the Rafah crossing closed. The UN is now looking into the possibility of transferring medical cases from Gaza through Israel, although the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs predicts at least 20 percent of patients will be refused on security grounds.

2011-02-02 A Revolution Calendar

 

 

 

 

Map via @Houeida Anouar

 

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WL Central Coverage

 

Tunisia December 15:

 

2011-02-01 Tunisian Islamic Leader Returns as EU Freezes Ousted President’s Assets
2011-01-27 Tunisia protests continue as a warrant is issued for Ben Ali
2011-01-24 Tunisia today: “It’s not a unity government, it’s a fake unity government”
2011-01-21 Ben Ali has used Europe’s prejudices
2011-01-19 Unrest in Arab States [Update 1]
2011-01-18 Reaction to Tunisia’s new government
2011-01-18 Ahmed Hashem El-Sayed dies in Alexandria hospital from self-immolation wounds
2011-01-17: Comments on the new national government formed in Tunisia
2011-01-17 Tunisia’s new government
2011-01-17 Slim Amamou named Tunisia’s Secretary of Youth and Sports
2011-01-15 What the US state cables on Tunisia said
2011-01-14 Tunisia: Ben Ali Out, Mohamed Ghannouchi Out
2011-01-04: Nonoperational Site Update: Wrath of Anon in Tunisia

 

Egypt January 25:

 

2011-02-03 Marietje Schaake on the situation in Tunisia and Egypt
2011-02-03 Act Now to Stop Mubarak’s Thugs From Killing More!
2011-02-02 Pro-Mubarak Forces and Police Thugs Attack Journalists 
2011-02-02 Food Crisis in Egypt
2011-02-01 WikiLeaks Cables Show Mubarak Not Very Open to Reforms or Freedoms for Egyptians [UPDATE: 4]
2011-02-01 Army Vows Not to Shoot as Protesters make Million Man Marches in Cairo, Alexandria Today [UPDATE: 2]
2011-01-31 Egypt’s Military jockeys to maintain Longstanding Grip on Power
2011-01-31 Cable: Egyptian April 6 activist’s democracy goals “highly unrealistic”
2011-01-30 Million Egyptian Protest Planned as Resistance Continues
2011-01-30 Egyptian government orders Al Jazeera shutdown
2011-01-30 Al Jazeera no longer welcome in Egypt
2011-01-30 Arab Totalitarians want Tech for National Security Emergencies
2011-01-29 Who is Egypt’s new Vice President?
2011-01-29 Mubarak swears in new PM and VP as unrest persists
2011-01-29 No Internet? No Problem! Anonymous Faxes Egypt
2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt displeased with number and tone of U.S. human rights recommendations
2011-01-28 Cable: The Amir of Qatar discusses Syria, Egypt, and Iran
2011-01-28 Cable: Political arrests of Muslim Brotherhood
2011-01-28 Cable: Egypt’s Emergency Law
2011-01-28 Mubarak refuses to step down
2011-01-28 Cable: Police torture in Egypt
2011-01-28 Cable: Police brutality and poor prison conditions in Egypt
2011-01-28 Cable: Assessing support for Mohammed El Baradei
2011-01-28 Cable: Mubarak discusses Iran and a “split” within Arab ranks
2011-02-28 Cable: Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread
2011-01-28 Cable: President Mubarak in Washington
2011-01-28 Egypt is on fire
2011-01-28 Cable: Qatar on the Israeli-Palestine talks, Egypt and Iran
2011-01-28 Egypt Cables – New Releases [UPDATE 12]
2011-01-27 Mubarak blinks as Egyptian protests continue for third day
2011-01-26 Week of “rage” in Egypt sees casualties, global support [UPDATE 1]
2011-01-25 Revolution Day in Egypt
2011-01-19 Unrest in Arab States [Update 1]
2011-01-18 Ahmed Hashem El-Sayed dies in Alexandria hospital from self-immolation wounds
2011-01-17 Egyptian man sets himself on fire [UPDATE: 1]
2011-01-16 Protests in Egypt

 

Sudan January 30:

 

2011-02-01 Sudan Struggles to Protest
2011-01-31 Protests in Sudan
2011-01-31 Student in Sudan protests killed by police

 

Yemen February 3:

 

2011-02-01 Yemen’s Day of Rage and Abdul Ilah Shayi
2011-01-29 Yemen: Day of Rage on February 3
2011-01-27 Tens of thousands rally in Yemen, demand change
2011-01-23 Middle East protest round-up: Yemen, Jordan, Algeria
2011-01-19 Self-immolation protest spreads to Yemen

 

Syria February 5:

 

2011-01-31 US state cables on Syria
2011-01-31 Syria: Day of Rage on February 5
2011-01-28 Cable: The Amir of Qatar discusses Syria, Egypt, and Iran
2011-01-28 Cable: Mubarak discusses Iran and a “split” within Arab ranks
2011-01-28 Cable: Qatar on the Israeli-Palestine talks, Egypt and Iran
2011-01-24 Self-immolation “infection” spreads to Syria 
2011-01-16 Syria, Jordan and Algeria Respond to Protest Threat

 

Algeria February 12:

 

2011-01-27 Algerians plan big protest rally for February 9
2011-01-23 Middle East protest round-up: Yemen, Jordan, Algeria
2011-01-19 Unrest in Arab States [Update 1]
2011-01-16 Syria, Jordan and Algeria Respond to Protest Threat
2011-01-16 Protests in Algeria

 

Bahrain February 14:

 

Libya February 17:

 

2011-01-31 Cables: Libya threatened to seize assets of Petro-Canada
2011-01-27 Libya is in revolt as Gaddafi worries 
2011-01-19 Unrest in Arab States [Update 1]
2011-01-16 Early reports of unrest in Libya [UPDATE 1]

 

Jordan
2011-02-01 Jordan’s King Sacks Government as Protests Grow
2011-01-28 In Jordan Thousands Demand New Government
2011-01-23 Middle East protest round-up: Yemen, Jordan, Algeria
2011-01-16 Syria, Jordan and Algeria Respond to Protest Threat
2011-01-01 Wikileaks in the Jordan Media – Arabic Cable Translations

 

Saudi Arabia
2011-02-02 Will Saudi Arabia protest?
2011-01-28 Cable: Mubarak discusses Iran and a “split” within Arab ranks
2011-01-19 Unrest in Arab States [Update 1]
2011-01-02 Saudi Arabia Regulates internet publishing

 

 

2011-01-31 Cable: Egyptian April 6 activist’s democracy goals “highly unrealistic”

US state cable 08CAIRO2572 from December, 2008 details the experiences of an April 6 activist who attended the December 3-5 “Alliance of Youth Movements Summit, and met with US government officials, on Capitol Hill, and with think tanks. “He alleged that several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011; we are doubtful of this claim. … April 6’s stated goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections is highly unrealistic, and is not supported by the mainstream opposition.”

XXXXXXXXXXXX expressed satisfaction with the December 3-5 “Alliance of Youth Movements Summit” in New York, noting that he was able to meet activists from other countries and outline his movement’s goals for democratic change in Egypt. He told us that the other activists at the summit were very supportive, and that some even offered to hold public demonstrations in support of Egyptian democracy in their countries, with XXXXXXXXXXXX as an invited guest. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he discussed with the other activists how April 6 members could more effectively evade harassment and surveillance from SSIS with technical upgrades, such as consistently alternating computer “simcards.” However, XXXXXXXXXXXX lamented to us that because most April 6 members do not own computers, this tactic would be impossible to implement. XXXXXXXXXXXX was appreciative of the successful efforts by the Department and the summit organizers to protect his identity at the summit, and told us that his name was never mentioned publicly.

vXXXXXXXXXXXX told us that SSIS detained and searched him at the Cairo Airport on December 18 upon his return from the U.S. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, SSIS found and confiscated two documents in his luggage: notes for his presentation at the summit that described April 6’s demands for democratic transition in Egypt, and a schedule of his Capitol Hill meetings. XXXXXXXXXXXX described how the SSIS officer told him that State Security is compiling a file on him, and that the officer’s superiors instructed him to file a report on XXXXXXXXXXXX’s most recent activities.

XXXXXXXXXXXX described his Washington appointments as positive, saying that on the Hill he met with Rep. Edward Royce, a variety of House staff members, including from the offices of Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Wolf (R-VA), and with two Senate staffers. XXXXXXXXXXXX also noted that he met with several think tank members. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that Rep. Wolf’s office invited him to speak at a late January Congressional hearing on House Resolution 1303 regarding religious and political freedom in Egypt. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us he is interested in attending, but conceded he is unsure whether he will have the funds to make the trip. He indicated to us that he has not been focusing on his work as a “fixer” for journalists, due to his preoccupation with his U.S. trip.

XXXXXXXXXXXX described how he tried to convince his Washington interlocutors that the USG should pressure the GOE to implement significant reforms by threatening to reveal information about GOE officials’ alleged “illegal” off-shore bank accounts. He hoped that the U.S. and the international community would freeze these bank accounts, like the accounts of Zimbabwean President Mugabe’s confidantes. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he wants to convince the USG that Mubarak is worse than Mugabe and that the GOE will never accept democratic reform. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that Mubarak derives his legitimacy from U.S. support, and therefore charged the U.S. with “being responsible” for Mubarak’s “crimes.” He accused NGOs working on political and economic reform of living in a “fantasy world,” and not recognizing that Mubarak — “the head of the snake” — must step aside to enable democracy to take root.

XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed that several opposition forces — including the Wafd, Nasserite, Karama and Tagammu parties, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Kifaya, and Revolutionary Socialist movements — have agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections (ref C). According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, the opposition is interested in receiving support from the army and the police for a transitional government prior to the 2011 elections. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that this plan is so sensitive it cannot be written down. (Comment: We have no information to corroborate that these parties and movements have agreed to the unrealistic plan XXXXXXXXXXXX has outlined. Per ref C, XXXXXXXXXXXX previously told us that this plan was publicly available on the internet. End comment.)

XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the GOE has recently been cracking down on the April 6 movement by arresting its members. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that although SSIS had released XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX “in the past few days,” it had arrested three other members. (Note: On December 14, we pressed the MFA for the release of XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX, and on December 28 we asked the MFA for the GOE to release the additional three activists. End note.) XXXXXXXXXXXX conceded that April 6 has no feasible plans for future activities. The group would like to call for another strike on April 6, 2009, but realizes this would be “impossible” due to SSIS interference, XXXXXXXXXXXX said. He lamented that the GOE has driven the group’s leadership underground, and that one of its leaders, Ahmed Maher, has been in hiding for the past week.

Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX offered no roadmap of concrete steps toward April 6’s highly unrealistic goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections. Most opposition parties and independent NGOs work toward achieving tangible, incremental reform within the current political context, even if they may be pessimistic about their chances of success. XXXXXXXXXXXX’s wholesale rejection of such an approach places him outside this mainstream of opposition politicians and activists.

2011-01-29 Who is Egypt’s new Vice President?

 

 

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced on Egyptian state television today that he has sworn in a new vice president, former Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. US state cable07CAIRO1417 states that according to Article 82 of Egypt’s constitution, the vice president should assume presidential powers “if on account of any temporary obstacle the president is unable to carry out his duties.”

So who is the new vice president who, in the seemingly imminent departure of President Mubarak may begin ruling Egypt? Jane Mayer asks the question in her article today in the New Yorker, and answers it with information from her book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals“Since 1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the C.I.A.’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.”

She also references Stephen Grey’s book Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program “beginning in the nineteen-nineties, Suleiman negotiated directly with top Agency officials. Every rendition was greenlighted at the highest levels of both the U.S. and Egyptian intelligence agencies. Edward S. Walker, Jr., a former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, described Suleiman as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way.”

According to Mayer Technically, U.S. law required the C.I.A. to seek “assurances” from Egypt that rendered suspects wouldn’t face torture. But under Suleiman’s reign at the intelligence service, such assurances were considered close to worthless. As Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. officer who helped set up the practice of rendition, later testified before Congress, even if such “assurances” were written in indelible ink, “they weren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”

“Suave, sophisticated, and fluent in English, he has served for years as the main conduit between the United States and Mubarak.” says Mayer. US state cable 09CAIRO746 describes Admiral Mullen’s April 21, 2009 meeting with Suleiman and cable 09CAIRO1349 describes a June 29, 2009 meeting between Suleiman and General Petraeus. From cable 05CAIRO5924 

In the context of the close and sustained cooperation between the USG and GOE on counterterrorism, Post believes that the written GOE assurances regarding the return of three Egyptians detained at Guantanamo (reftel) represent the firm commitment of the GOE to adhere to the requested principles. These assurances were passed directly from Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS) Chief Soliman through liaison channels — the most effective communication path on this issue. General Soliman’s word is the GOE’s guarantee, and the GOE’s track record of cooperation on CT issues lends further support to this assessment.

Post has received written assurances from the Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS) regarding the acceptance and humane treatment of three Egyptians currently detained in Guantanamo:

  • Abdul Rahman Mohammed AL-MARZOUQ, ISN US9EG-00369DP;
  • Allah Muhammad SALEEM, ISN US9EG-00071DP;
  • Sami Abdul Aziz Salim ALLAITHY, ISN US9EG-000287DP.

Post believes that these assurances represent a firm commitment by the GOE to handle the matter in accordance with our stated principles. We recommend that the interagency consider approving transfer now on the basis of these assurances. 

Post has established that the most effective conduit for addressing this issue is through Cairo Station – EGIS Liaison. The written assurances (reftel) were passed directly from EGIS Chief General Soliman through this channel. General Soliman’s stature and power in the Egyptian establishment, and his history of close cooperation with the USG on counterterrorism, corroborate the Egyptian intent take responsibility for the detainees in such a way that protects both U.S. and Egyptian security interests. In addition to the written assurances regarding the detainees treatment, EGIS has conveyed orally to Cairo station that all three will be taken into custody upon arrival in Egypt and will be investigated and prosecuted in accordance with Egyptian law.

We understand the need for specific language on this matter. However, the danger of seeking specificity beyond what we have already received in EGIS’ written assurances is that EGIS may decide to turn the case over to the MFA. MFA involvement will complicate the process and delay disposal of the cases. 

 

The Washington Post, in predicting Suleiman’s appointment yesterday, pointed out

In 2009, Foreign Policy magazine ranked Suleiman as the Middle East’s most powerful intelligence chief, ahead of Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

In an observation that may turn out to be ironic, the magazine wrote, “More than from any other single factor, Suleiman’s influence stems from his unswerving loyalty to Mubarak.”

 

Stephen Soldz has an article in OpEdNews

Stephen Grey, in Ghost Plane, his investigative work on the rendition program also points to Suleiman as central in the rendition program:

“To negotiate these assurances [that the Egyptians wouldn’t “torture” the prisoner delivered for torture] the CIA dealt principally in Egypt through Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egyptian general intelligence service (EGIS) since 1993. It was he who arranged the meetings with the Egyptian interior ministry…. Suleiman, who understood English well, was an urbane and sophisticated man. Others told me that for years Suleiman was America’s chief interlocutor with the Egyptian regime — the main channel to President Hosni Mubarak himself, even on matters far removed from intelligence and security.”

Shortly after 9/11, Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was captured by Pakistani security forces and, under US pressure, torture by Pakistanis. He was then rendered (with an Australian diplomats watching) by CIA operatives to Egypt, a not uncommon practice. In Egypt, Habib merited Suleiman’s personal attention. As related by Richard Neville, based on Habib’s memoir:

Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman…. Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.

That treatment wasn’t enough for Suleiman, so:

To loosen Habib’s tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib -” and he did, with a vicious karate kick.

After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where he eventually was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His “confession” was then used as evidence in his Guantanamo trial.

 

From US state cable 07CAIRO1417

Omar Soliman

EGYPTIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF AND MUBARAK CONSIGLIERE, IN PAST YEARS SOLIMAN WAS OFTEN CITED AS LIKELY TO BE NAMED TO THE LONG-VACANT VICE-PRESIDENTIAL POST. IN THE PAST TWO YEARS, SOLIMAN 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 SOLIMAN, BECAUSE OF HIS MILITARY BACKGROUND, WOULD AT THE LEAST HAVE TO FIGURE IN ANY SUCCESSION SCENARIO FOR GAMAL, POSSIBLY AS A TRANSITIONAL FIGURE. SOLIMAN 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 SOLIMAN TELLS US THAT SOLIMAN “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.

 

2011-01-28 Cable: Qatar on the Israeli-Palestine talks, Egypt and Iran

US state cable 2010-02-24: 10DOHA71 outlines Senator Kerry’s meeting with Qatar’s Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani (HBJ) on February 13, 2010. In the meeting, HBJ stresses that it is a mistake to exclude Hamas from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, equates Egypt to a physician with one patient, and accuses Egypt of having a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. He also warned against a US military action against Iran.

HBJ told Senator John Kerry February 13 that “everyone in the region” seems to have a separate plan for moving ahead on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute when only one plan was needed; a plan that both the Israelis and Palestinians would accept and finalize. HBJ underscored that it is a mistake to ignore Hamas in seeking a lasting agreement. Saying this does not mean that Qatar expresses a preference for Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot sign off on an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians where open divisions exist.

Senator Kerry responded that we “are where we are.” He assessed that the Goldstone Report and dissatisfaction in Fatah’s ranks in the West Bank made it difficult for Abu Mazen to “give something to Israel” that would allow direct negotiations to begin between the parties. Add in Abu Mazen’s previous statements on the need for a full settlement freeze, and the ingredients for the Palestinian people to accept direct talks simply are not there.

Abu Mazen is out on a limb, responded HBJ. “He climbed a tree (drawing a line in the sand on settlements) and can’t get down.” HBJ noted that in conversations Qatar has held with Hamas’ leadership, it is clear that Hamas is ready to accept Israel’s right to exist. But the acceptance must come about gradually, not in one day. Senator Kerry said he had heard this elsewhere, but in his own conversations, he did not get the sense that Hamas was ready to accept Israel’s existence.

Qatar’s PM observed that the biggest obstacle on the Palestinian side to an eventual agreement with Israel is the reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah. HBJ maintained that it would have happened during the previous U.S. administration, but President Bush told Abu Mazen not to sign off on it. Reconciliation can happen, HBJ asserted, but only “if bigger countries in the region allow it.” The leaderships in Syria and Gaza consult each other, and no one leader in Hamas can take a decision alone, reported HBJ.

Chairman Kerry asked HBJ if Hamas is feeling political pressure from Gazans over their current living conditions. HBJ responded that anytime people do not have housing, schools or public utilities, their political leaders feel pressure.

According to HBJ, Egypt — the broker — has a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. Egypt “has no end game; serving as broker of the talks is Egypt’s only business interest with the U.S.” HBJ likened the situation to a physician who has only one patient to treat in the hospital. If that is your only business, “the physician is going to keep the patient alive but in the hospital for as long as possible.” HBJ emphasized that Qatar, on the other hand, is interested only in bringing about peace in the region — and as quickly as possible.

HBJ noted that since its inception the Quartet has been anti-Hamas and aligned with the interests of Abu Mazen, Egypt and Jordan. These partners of the Quartet, observed HBJ, are the very partners who have not delivered a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.

Returning to his theme that “peace brokers” act in their own self-interest, HBJ observed that President Mubarak of Egypt is thinking about how his son can take his place and how to stave off the growing strength of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government, said HBJ, has jailed 10,000 Muslim Brotherhood members without bringing court cases against them. The Egyptian “people blame America” now for their plight. The shift in mood on the ground is “mostly because of Mubarak and his close ties” to the United States. His only utility to the U.S. is brokering peace between Palestinians and Israelis, so he has no interest in taking himself out of the one game he has, underscored HBJ. “Tell your friends (in Egypt) they must help themselves.”

As for Qatar, “We want to help Abu Mazen and the Palestinians,” declared HBJ. The short-term needs of Palestinians in Gaza are acute, said HBJ. We need to broker a quick reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and move forward quickly on rebuilding Gaza. Senator Kerry asserted that HBJ was preaching to the converted and told the PM he was “shocked by what I saw in Gaza.”

Continuing to illustrate how Egypt had not delivered for the U.S. on Palestinian issues, HBJ said Qatar was told in late 2008 that Israel and the U.S. needed the Egyptians to deal with the crisis in Gaza. Yet former Israeli PM Olmert later complained to Qatar that Egypt is a big country and not nimble; it could not move fast enough. Senator Kerry pointed out he was in Cairo at the time Qatar was calling for an Arab League Summit in December 2008/January 2009 and asked HBJ for his perspective on the rift between Qatar and Egypt at that time.

HBJ told Senator Kerry that Mubarak refused to come to Doha for a meeting of Arab leaders, preferring that the meeting take place in Riyadh. The request to move the meeting was relayed to Qatar by the Saudis, not the Egyptians. Saudi Arabia, as a big country like Egypt, has a vested interest in keeping Egypt afloat, said HBJ. The Saudis agreed to host the meeting in Riyadh not because they objected to traveling to Doha, but because the Egyptians did. “So we argued over the meeting location” while the Palestinians suffered, and we in Qatar “called a meeting and said whoever comes, comes.”

Qatar is worried, said HBJ, about Egypt and its people, who are increasingly impatient. Mubarak, continued HBJ, says Al Jazeera is the source of Egypt’s problems. This is an excuse. HBJ had told Mubarak “we would stop Al Jazeera for a year” if he agreed in that span of time to deliver a lasting settlement for the Palestinians. Mubarak said nothing in response, according to HBJ.

Asked his advice on bringing about an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, HBJ said President Clinton recognized before leaving office that Egypt was a problem. When President Clinton sought help at the end of his term in reaching a final deal, the Saudis and Egyptians did not encourage him, said HBJ. “They told him to do what he thinks right.” Culturally, said HBJ, that is the way Arabs say “you are on your own.” And President Clinton was, said HBJ.

Now we are at a stage, said HBJ, where Egypt does not want Arab League involvement in brokering a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinians unless the talks bog down. HBJ said he had told Abbas that climbing down from his tree on no settlement activity so that talks can go forward will require Arab support. But the Egyptians won’t allow it.

Senator Kerry noted that Special Envoy Mitchell had made a lot of requests of Arabs but with little success. Leaving Qatar aside, the Chairman asked HBJ for proposed next steps. HBJ said he trusts the Saudis, but because they talk openly to Egypt and do not want to create more problems for Egypt than the Egyptian government already has, it is essential to bring in the small countries and start there.

HBJ suggested one or two GCC members, Morocco (although the King there is hesitant) and Syria as the core membership of an Arab League committee to address Palestinian-Israeli concerns. HBJ told Senator Kerry the inclusion of Syria might surprise him, but having Syria play a role would create jealousy among the Arabs. Some jealously and rivalry is just what the U.S. needs, opined HBJ, to get the process moving.

Iran, Lebanon and Iraq

HBJ said Iran’s president views the U.S. as a country that is overstretched and in difficulty as a result of too many commitments. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. economy are the three main problems President Ahmadinejad sees. HBJ observed that a Western attack against Iran for Ahmadinejad would be good politics, because it would allow him to take out his opposition using the war as a pretext. Senator Kerry asked clarification of whether Ahmadinejad had said these things, or if HBJ inferred them from conversation.

Qatar’s PM said Ahmadinejad had told him, “We beat the Americans in Iraq; the final battle will be in Iran.”

HBJ said putting economic pressure on Iran is the best way to get the leadership to rethink its quest for nuclear weapons. To be successful, he told Senator Kerry, Russia would definitely have to be on board, as would the Central Asian countries bordering Iran that provide food and supplies.

Asked his perception of the state of play with the opposition, HBJ said the U.S. had done a good job of standing back and not becoming the symbol of the opposition. Cracks in the regime are appearing. It is highly significant that many demonstrators ignored Khamenei when he called on them to stop their protests. The four key pillars of Iranian power — the court, oil sector, imams, and Revolutionary Guards — all must stick with him, stressed HBJ. There are cracks in the system, but the downfall of the regime may not be in the cards.

Asked what the sanctions should target, HBJ said the money that Iran derives from oil. Depriving Tehran of this revenue would force the regime to negotiate.

Senator Kerry observed that Ahmadinejad was making it easier by his actions. There is wide consensus in the Executive and Legislative branches of Washington to press ahead. Senator Kerry warned that Ahmadinejad “should not equate Afghanistan and Iraq with what he faces.”

HBJ encouraged Chairman Kerry to bear in mind that Iran is clever and makes its opponents dizzy in the quest for deals. They will keep you working on a deal and then start from scratch with a new interlocutor. HBJ stressed that Iran will make no deal. Iran wants nuclear weapons, and HBJ said he would not be surprised to see Iran test one to demonstrate to the world its achievement.

On Lebanon, Senator Kerry asked if Iran and Hizballah are ratcheting up their weapons stockpiles as part of Iran’s war against Israel. HBJ affirmed that is the case.

On Iraq, HBJ told Senator Kerry that Prime Minister Al-Maliki wants a Shia state, even though the Sunnis (when you count Kurds and non-Kurds) have the majority.