Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Tales of Omar Suleiman

by Steven A. Cook
July 19, 2012

Former spy chief and presidential candidate Omar Suleiman talks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Cairo (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).


This article was originally published here on on Thursday, July 19. 

“I am responsible for the stability of Egypt,” Lt. Gen. Omar Suleiman said, his voice rising as his large fist slammed on the table to accentuate the point. That was my first experience with Suleiman, then President Hosni Mubarak’s spy chief and all-seeing eye of Horus. It was the spring of 2005, and I was seated around a conference table in downtown Washington with a group of people far more senior than I. The conversation over stale bagels and bad coffee that morning  dealt mostly with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The fist-on-table incident came at the end of the hour, when someone brought up the possibility of democratic change in Egypt — almost as an afterthought. On July 19, Suleiman died of a heart attack while undergoing medical tests in a Cleveland hospital. He had been suffering from amyloidosis, a chronic disease related to abnormal protein deposits in tissue that affects the heart and liver, and his sudden passing came as a shock to his enemies and admirers alike. Suleiman’s dismissal of reform was just as startling. It wasn’t just the sound of his ample fist hitting the faux oak, but because his rejection of the idea was so straightforward. Even early in the days of President George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda,” Egyptian officials had become adept at bobbing and weaving their way through conversations about political change. It was a game in which they refused to say yes or no. But Suleiman — the man closest to the apex of power in Egypt save members of the Mubarak family itself — was having none of it.

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Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Imran Riffat

    Just as the shah of Iran, Mubarak, too, fooled the Americans into cobbling an ill-informed and naïve foreign policy for the region. Suleiman was one of Mubarak’s key henchmen whose hands dripped with the blood of countless Egyptians. His death on US soil is a poor reflection on the host country that continues to blow the trumpet of human rights as well as freedom. Egypt now faces monumental challenges insofar as its future is concerned. With the departure of a man who fantasized being “responsible for the stability of Egypt” we must learn from the grave errors of judgment in supporting dictators, their henchmen, and rule that supresses the hopes and aspirations of the people.

  • Posted by Raja M. Ali Saleem

    Suleiman was responsible for the death of thousands of Egyptians. He was responsible for the torture and sufferings of many more innocent Egyptians.

    He was barbaric tyrant and, though this article doesn’t say it, it is time for US government to analyze its actions and review how long it will continue supporting torturers and murderers in other countries. You can’t continue doing this and expect flowers in return.

    And happiness on his death is not misplaced as US happiness on the death of Osama was not misplaced.

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