Israel has long seen Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s recently appointed vice president, as the successor to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, US State Department cables released by secrets outlet WikiLeaks show.
One document detailed Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s 2008 meeting with Suleiman, the then-Egyptian spy chief, as recalled by Israel’s Arab Affairs Adviser David Hacham.
“In terms of atmospherics, Hacham said the Israeli delegation was ‘shocked’ by Mubarak’s aged appearance and slurred speech,” the cable noted.
“Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however, and noted that a ‘hot line’ set up between the MOD [Ministry of Defense] 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.”
The cable added: “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 Soliman.”
Another document described how Suleiman expressed his desire for a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine crisis.
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core issue; Soliman contended a peaceful resolution would be a ‘big blow’ to terrorist organizations that use the conflict as a pretext,” US Deputy Chief of Mission Stuart Jones wrote in the cable.
A third cable said that Suleiman believed Iran was a “significant threat” to Egypt.
The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer also noted that Suleiman “was the CIA’s point man in Egypt for rendition.”
As Egypt’s spy chief, Suleiman reportedly embraced the CIA’s controversial “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terror suspects snatched by the Americans were taken to Egypt and other countries without legal proceedings and subjected to interrogations.
US officials told The New York Times a US plan to replace Mubarak with Suleiman was one of several under consideration, and there was no evidence yet that the Egyptian leadership would accept it.
On Sunday, Suleiman made limited concessions during a meeting with government opposition, but he stopped short of agreeing to Mubarak’s immediate exit. The vice president promised to allow freedom of the press, to release detained protesters and eventually lift the country’s emergency laws.