Friday, February 4, 2011

Smooth Operator

Operation Ajax Redux (see my last post) has its General Zahedi:

"Omar Suleiman, Hosni Mubarak's intelligence chief and now his vice-president, is the keeper of Egypt's secrets, a smooth behind-the-scenes operator who has been intimately involved in the most sensitive issues of national security and foreign policy for nearly 20 years. Famously loyal to Mr Mubarak, Mr Suleiman looks likely to determine his fate... Despite his military bearing, Mr Suleiman has a penchant for dark suits and striped ties. Acquaintances remark on his exquisite manners - and his taste for good cigars. 'Suleiman is an imposing man', said the former British ambassador David Blatherwick. 'He's pretty wily, very polished and extremely intelligent. People are scared of him, for obvious reasons'... In the mid-1990s he is said to have worked with the CIA on handing over wanted militants, a practice that continued as 'extraordinary rendition' after the terrorist attacks on the US of September 11, 2001. For 30 years before that Mr Suleiman served in the army... rising to be director of military intelligence. He was trained in the Soviet Union - and, later, in the US... The Israelis trust him, not least because of his open line to the President. 'Suleiman doesn't pull the strings in Egypt', a well-placed source told Haaretz. 'He pulls the ropes'. Western governments regard him as a safe pair of hands." ('Consummate insider' a loyalist to the core, Ian Black, Guardian/Sydney Morning Herald, 3/2/11)

"[Chief of Egyptian general intelligence (EGIS)] 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 Mubarak himself, even on matters far removed from intelligence and security. 'He was a very bright guy, very realistic', said [Edward] Walker [Jr, ambassador to Egypt, 1994-1997]. 'And he was often at odds with the way the interior ministry was dealing with things. He understood the consequences of some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way'." (Ghost Plane: The Untold Story of the CIA's Torture Programme, Stephen Grey, 2007, p 142)

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