When it rains,
it pours. One day after a Damascus bombing killed
at least three top Syrian security officials, Egypt's former intelligence chief
and vice president, Omar Suleiman, has passed away in a U.S. hospital. "He was fine," said
his aide. "It came suddenly while he was having medical tests in Cleveland."
assassinated Syrian officials, Suleiman was largely a spent force -- an
insider's insider under President Hosni Mubarak whose political star fell with
last year's revolution. His influence had been further degraded by his
disqualification from the recent presidential election, and the eventual
victory of a candidate from the movement that he had spent a lifetime
repressing -- the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi.
Up until the
last moment, Suleiman did not see Egypt's revolution coming. At a group dinner
on Jan. 24, 2011 -- the day before massive protests would first rock the Mubarak
regime -- he dismissed the possibility that the Tunisian revolt could repeat
itself in Cairo. "Tunisia cannot happen here," he said, according to FP
contributor Steven A. Cook's The
Struggle for Egypt. "The president is strong and the police have
have had a blind spot when it came to the Egyptian revolution, but for decades
prior he was renowned as the all-seeing eye of the Mubarak regime - the man who
kept his boot on the neck of the regime's opponents, and who was one of the
president's most likely heirs. Here is a selection of Foreign Policy's coverage
of the former spymaster.
Egypt's Next Strongman: In August 2009, when Issandr Amrani wrote
article, the struggle to succeed the octogenarian Mubarak appeared to be a
game played out exclusively among regime insiders. Here, Amrani
profiles the two likeliest contenders: Mubarak's son Gamal and Omar Suleiman.
At the time,
constitutional obstacles seemed to prevent Suleiman from winning the presidency -- but Amrani suggested that many Egyptians may actually welcome his rise to
prevent a hereditary succession. "[M]ost
Suleiman supporters recognize that to gain the presidency he would most likely
have to carry out a coup -- perhaps a soft, constitutional one, but a coup
nonetheless," he wrote. "Strange though it sounds, many Egyptians would find
such a coup acceptable.
After the Party: On Feb. 11, 2011, a somber-looking
Suleiman delivered a brief televised statement announcing that Hosni Mubarak
had resigned the presidency, and passed power to a council of top military
leaders. That same day, Ashraf Khalil penned this
article for FP exploring what would come next for Egypt following the
Suleiman, at the
time, was still a major part of that equation. Khalil characterized his initial
entry into the political arena as "a
complete PR disaster," as he alienated protesters by "coming off as
condescending, dismissive of the [protest] movement, and reliant on antiquated
regime rhetoric." His interview
with ABC News's Christian Amanpour -- where he repeatedly attacked the "Brother
Muslimhood" -- didn't help matters either.
Mubarak's Enforcer: This FP
list, written after Suleiman announced that he would "bow to popular will"
and enter the presidential race, catalogued the former spy chief's career as
Mubarak's most trusted enforcer.
of responsibilities under Mubarak was long: He was the CIA's point man for
renditions, overseeing the transfer of suspects from the U.S. intelligence
agency to Egyptian prisons, where they were often subject to torture. He was
the Israelis' most trusted contact within the Egyptian government, enjoying
strong working relations with an array of top officials in Jerusalem. And he
was charged with keeping the Muslim Brotherhood down in Egypt, and Hamas down
in Cairo. In carrying out these tasks, according to U.S. Ambassador to Egypt
Edward Walker, "he was not squeamish."
MAHMUD KHALED/AFP/Getty Images