2011-02-09

'Sheik al-Torture'

'Sheik al-Torture' is now a democrat
Pepe Escobar

Washington's "orderly transition" road map - fully supported by Tel Aviv and European capitals - is a facelift. Mubarak stepping down has become an afterthought; the already anointed successor is

Vice President Omar Suleiman, the former head of the Mukhabarat, whom the protesters call "Sheik al-Torture".

Sheik al-Torture already behaves as a president - while the actual president is still inhabiting his palace, but as a ghost. The regime, a brutal military dictatorship, remains an immovable subject - even while being denounced by the protesters as illegitimate from A to Z, from the executive to the legislative.

Still, the regime was never shaken to the core - because the army remains in charge. Graphic example; the state-owned newspaper al-Gomhuria had a monster headline this Monday reading "New Era" above a photo of Suleiman meeting some of the opposition under a picture of Mubarak.

In the 1980s, he got training at the John F Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Foreign Policy magazine ranked him the Middle East's most powerful intelligence chief in 2009, even ahead of Israel's Mossad head at the time, Meir Dagan.

According to a 2006 diplomatic cable on WikiLeaks, the CIA - what else? - also loves him; "Our intelligence collaboration with Oman Soliman [sic] is now probably the most successful element of the relationship" with Egypt.

The street is under no illusions. They know the army - the strongest player in the Egyptian political equation - might even invest in a massive crackdown if it feels threatened. The spark could be anything from an imaginary threat from "foreign powers" to a feeling that they will never be ready to cede power to civilians for the first time since 1956.

Sent ska syndarna vakna, men bättre sent än aldrig kanske Obama och de europeiska ledarna tycker.

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