New WikiLeaks cable reveals uncertainty over presidential succession

“No one in Egypt has any certainty about who will succeed Mubarak,” reads one May 2007 diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Cairo. “Whoever ends up as Egypt’s next president likely will be politically weaker than Mubarak.”

The document, released Monday by online whistleblower WikiLeaks, provides profiles of a number of potential successors to Mubarak.

At the top of the list is Gamal Mubarak, son of President Hosni Mubarak.

“Cairene conventional wisdom holds that Gamal wants the job, despite his repeated denials to the contrary,” reads the leaked document.

The cable goes on to note that the younger Mubarak was being groomed for the top post, as was illustrated by his rising position within the ruling National Democratic Party, his influential role in lawmaking and his presence in senior political delegations.

The cable suggests that his succession to the presidency will not be opposed by Egypt's elite, members of which would see his assumption of the presidency as both financially and politically useful to them.

Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman comes next on the list of would-be successors, and is described by US diplomats as “a possible transitional figure.”

“Suleiman himself adamantly denies any personal ambitions, but his interest and dedication to national service is obvious,” reads the cable, adding that the 74-year-old spy chief’s loyalty to Mubarak "seems rock solid.”  

Suleiman’s attractiveness, according to the cable, rests in the fact that his relatively old age would make him a “reliable figure unlikely to harbor ambitions for another multi-decade presidency.”

One paragraph of the cable was also dedicated to Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who is seen as a major player in Egypt’s “impressive economic growth in the past three years.”

“We cannot discount the possibility that he will play a role in a caretaker government and may eventually emerge as a leader,” reads the cable.

The cable also notes Rachid's desperate need for progress in forging a Free Trade Agreement  with the US in order to provide him with political cover following the signing of a Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) deal. That deal conditions Egyptian goods' access to American markets on those goods having a certain percentage of Israeli input.

The cable downplays the possibility of any opposition figure winning over large swathes of the public, given the lack of national appeal and organizational capacity on the part of most opposition personalities.

The cable also out rules the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement capturing the presidential post–at least in the short term.

The cable concludes by asserting that whoever takes over after Mubarak will initially have to adopt an anti-American tone in order to appeal to the public.  

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