A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"No Gamal and No Brotherhood: We Want Omar Suleiman!"

Thanks once again to The Arabist for catching this one: a new blog advocating ‘Umar (Omar) Suleiman for President. I've noted before the power of the Egyptian intelligence chief and Mubarak right-hand man, who I guess I'd better keep spelling as Omar as that's how I started out. As The Arabist notes, this site was the main headline bannered atop the front page in the opposition paper Al-Dostour today, which leads with "Internet Youth Enter the Mubarak Succession Battle." The blog's own banner (above) reads: "No Gamal and No Brotherhood: We Want ‘Omar Suleiman." ("We want" is ‘ayzin, an Egyptian colloquial usage. As a result it scans and rhymes like a campaign slogan or chant: La Gamal wa la Ikhwan, ‘ayzin ‘Umar Suleiman!)

There's also a Facebook group on the same theme. It has 68 members at the moment. Some of the messages posted so far have either pictures of Suleiman or, in one case, Ataturk. (What's that about? Secularist military savior?) Location of the group is given as "all the streets of Egypt."

Now, The Arabist notes that one of the major questions is who's behind this? Is it a real trial balloon for Suleiman as an alternative to Gamal Mubarak? Is it a trial balloon to test the waters, or perhaps a false flag operation of some sort?

Interesting too that they headline an article that appeared in the website Global Post: apparently this article about Gamal Mubarak that includes, on its second page, the following quote:

Hosni Mubarak may be his son's best chance of assuming the presidency because, analysts suggest, the military is suspicious of any new president not chosen from their ranks.

“I think Gamal Mubarak will not be elected because the army will not pick any person outside their institution,” said Amr Hashem, also of the Ahram Center.

The fact that the quote took some reaching to find suggests it's a message they wanted to emphasize. Is that because the blog represents a military point of view, or because someone wants us to think so? None of the pictures of Facebook members are in uniform. The site also has a lot of Arab and Western commentary on Suleiman's influence and power.

At this point I don't know the answer, but it's an interesting development, even if it's some kind of disinformation ploy. More likely it's probably what it looks like: a bunch of Egyptian secularists who want neither a republican monarchical succession or an Islamist alternative. But a lifelong intelligence man is hardly a liberal democratic choice.

It will be interesting what Suleiman's reaction may be. His is not the kind of job that traditionally welcomes publicity. But it is the kind of job that knows how to make you stop talking about him.

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