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Viewing cable 06CAIRO2010, EGYPT: ACTIONS LOUDER THAN WORDS - GAMAL MUBARAK

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06CAIRO2010 2006-04-03 10:10 2010-12-13 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #2010/01 0931059
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 031059Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7102
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 002010 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

NSC STAFF FOR SINGH 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/30/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT: ACTIONS LOUDER THAN WORDS - GAMAL MUBARAK 
AND THE PRESIDENCY 

Classified by DCM Stuart Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

------- 
Summary 
------- 

1. (C) The public profile of Gamal Mubarak, presidential son 
and rising star in the ruling party, has increased in recent 
months. His appearance in late March on an evening talk show 
and a highly publicized visit to a Cairo slum have fueled 
speculation that an effort to succeed his father is moving 
full speed ahead. The possibility that Gamal might succeed 
his father remains deeply unpopular on the street - a 
sentiment often echoed by commentators in the independent and 
opposition press. Gamal has denied that he harbors 
presidential ambitions, but many believe his actions speak 
louder than his words. The intra-family politics of a Gamal 
succession bid are unclear. Conventional wisdom holds that 
Suzanne Mubarak is her younger son's most ardent booster. 
Gamal's chances are improved by the fact that there are no 
other obvious contenders for the presidency waiting in the 
wings. End summary. 

------------- 
Burning Issue 
------------- 

2. (C) The issue of presidential succession is the hottest 
single issue on Egypt's domestic political scene. Unlike his 
predecessors, President Mubarak has never named a Vice 
President. Mubarak, who began his fifth six year term in 
September 2005, will turn 78 in May. Though he is vigorous 
and healthy, there is general recognition that the actuarial 
tables will catch up with Mubarak sooner or later. 
Speculation that Mubarak was grooming his son Gamal to 
succeed him increased markedly in 2002, when the younger 
Mubarak assumed a prominent leadership post in the ruling 
National Democratic Party (NDP), just two years after Bashar 
al-Asad succeeded his father in Syria. 

------------- 
Stage Setting 
------------- 

3. (C) Both Gamal and his father have repeatedly denied that 
there is any plan for a "succession scenario." More 
important than such words, many Egyptians tell us, are the 
actions of Gamal, his father, and others, which appear to be 
setting the stage for the young Mubarak's rise to power. In 
the summer of 2004 and again at the end of 2005, the 
President shuffled his cabinet, replacing "old guard" figures 
with younger, ambitious technocrats, most with direct or 
indirect links to Gamal. In early 2006, a shake-up in the 
ruling NDP promoted Gamal to the post of Assistant 
Secretary-General (co-equal with Zakaria Azmy, the 

SIPDIS 
President's de-facto Chief of Staff, and old-guard cabinet 
veteran Mufeed Shehab). The party shuffle also brought a 
number of other Gamal allies into key party leadership 
positions, replacing a number of old-guard rival kingmakers, 
including the notorious machine politician Kamal al-Shazly. 


------------- 
Settling Down 
------------- 

4. (C) Gamal's February engagement to the 24 year old 
socialite Khadiga el-Gammal is widely viewed as another step 
on the path to the presidency. In a society where men 
typically marry before their 30th birthday, Gamal's 
bachelorhood has extended into his 40's. Thus Gamal's 
engagement, cynics tell us, was engineered to broaden his 
appeal. 

--------------------------- 
"Not for Any Other Purpose" 
--------------------------- 

5. (C) On March 28, Gamal paid a visit, camera crews in tow, 
to the slums of Agouza al-Qadima in Giza, just west of 
Central Cairo. Gamal was there, with Housing Minister (and 
ally) Ahmed al-Maghraby, to cut the ribbon on new low income 
housing units prepared by his Future Generation Foundation, a 
development group he founded in 1999, aimed at addressing the 
needs of poor youth. Most political observers regard the 
foundation as a vehicle primarly intended for Gamal's public 
entree onto the political stage. "We came to help and serve 
only - not for any other purpose," Gamal told accompanying 
journalists in Agouza. 

6. (C) Later that evening, Gamal made a rare appearance on a 
talk show on State Channel 1, promoted all day in advance of 
the broadcast and re-aired on March 29. Gamal focused his 
remarks on his work to rejuvenate the NDP and promote reform 
and "new thinking." He denied that he was out of touch with 
the public, asserting that "one enjoys...going down into the 
street and listening to the people." He also asserted that 
he regularly visits the provinces, but usually keeps a low 
profile lest people ascribe ulterior motives. We have 
noticed an uptick of recent Gamal forays outside of Cairo. 
He stood in for his father, grounded in Cairo by a dust 
storm, at the ribbon cutting for an international air show in 
Sharm el Sheikh. Given all the attention, he could have 
easily been mistaken as the head of state himself. 

-------------- 
Stone Throwers 
-------------- 

7. (C) On his alleged presidential ambitions, Gamal told 
Egyptian talk show viewers on March 28 that he had "made 
clear as daylight" that he did not intend to seek the 
presidency and was instead focused on his current efforts to 
promote reform and serve society. These denials have been 
generally disregarded. "He is repackaging himself - if he is 
not interested, why is he going to all this trouble?" 
prominent liberal dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim recently mused 
to a western journalist. Former Nasser advisor and 
influential writer Mohamed Hassanein Heikal has made 
opposition to Gamal's succession a staple of his regular 
newspaper columns in the independent press. The notion that 
Gamal might succeed his father, Heikal has written, is an 
affront to Egypt's republican principles. 

8. (C) Abdel Halim Qandil, editor of the Nasserist weekly 
Al-Araby (and a co-founder of the Kifaya protest movement), 
was a pioneer of the anti-Gamal movement, authoring in 2003 a 
series of scathing editorials against the alleged plot to 
install Gamal and underlining the public's "universal 
rejection" of the notion. These editorials, many believe, 
were linked to Qandil's brief 2004 abduction and beating by 
still unidentified thugs, who left him bruised and naked on 
the Suez desert highway. 

9. (C) Very publicly resigning from the NDP in early March, 
leading liberal thinker Osama el-Ghazaly Harb told us of his 
disillusionment with the party's reform process, which he 
came to believe was merely a vehicle for Gamal to promote his 
political career. Imprisoned opposition politician Ayman 
Nour and his supporters have repeatedly insisted to us that 
it was his threat to Gamal that led to his political 
destruction. Like Gamal, Nour is 42 years old. 

10. (C) An article that appeared March 23 in the maverick 
independent paper Al-Dustour attacked Gamal from a new angle. 
With dubious sourcing, the paper alleged that the Egyptian 
brokerage and financial analysis firm EFG-Hermes had 
manipulated the early March drop of the Cairo-Alexandria 
Stock Exchange to the advantage of its partners and clients 
and at the expense of small investors, adding that Gamal 
Mubarak is on the firm's board. The article clearly got 
Gamal's attention: He acknowledged in his talk show 
appearance that he sat on EFG's board, but insisted that his 
work focused on subsidiary companies not traded on the stock 
market. 

------------- 
An Open Field 
------------- 

11. (C) Despite the sniping of many Egyptian opinion-leaders, 
and a more general public hostility (echoed by many of our 
contacts) to Gamal's possible presidential succession, there 
are few other obvious contenders for the post. The post of 
Vice President has remained vacant, despite earlier 
speculation that Mubarak might fill it after the 2005 
elections were behind him. Of the 10 candidates who 
contested Mubarak's presidency last fall, Ayman Nour, who 
placed second, lost his parliamentary seat under very 
controversial circumstances and was subsequently convicted of 
forgery and sentenced to a seven year jail term. The 
third-place finisher, Wafd Party candidate No'man Gomaa, was 
arrested for attempted murder and other charges on April 1 
(septel). The other eight candidates, marginal figures to 
begin with, have faded back into nearly total obscurity. 

12. (C) There are currently almost no other Egyptian 
personalities with the national stature and political capital 
needed to seriously contend for the presidency. One 
exception could be Intelligence Chief Omar Soliman, who 
wields enormous influence over national security policy and 
is known to have the full confidence of Mubarak. Soliman is 
often cited as a potential appointee to the long-vacant Vice 
Presidential post and his profile has grown with his 
well-publicized mediation visits to Israel and the 
Palestinian territories. 

13. (C) Another possible exception could be Arab League 
Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who has a high public profile 

SIPDIS 
and generally receives favorable coverage across the spectrum 
of Egyptian media outlets. Consequently, he enjoys 
considerable street crediblity as a champion of Arab causes. 
However, Moussa has never expressed or even hinted at any 
presidential ambitions and has no Egyptian institutional 
platform from which to spring. Moussa's assumption of 
another five year term as Arab League SYG could be 
alternately interpreted as keeping him "otherwise occupied" 
or "still in the game," with respect to future political 
positions, but he has never offered any hint that he intends 
to wade into Egypt's domestic political scene. 

----------------- 
All in the Family 
----------------- 

14. (C) The intra-family politics of a Gamal succession bid 
are unclear. Elder son Alaa', well-known to have extensive 
business interests (many of which are privately criticized as 
corrupt and exploitative) keeps a low public profile and has 
never shown any inclination to wade into the political arena. 
(A rare sighting of Alaa' on national TV took place during 
the final game of the Africa Cup championship in late 
February, when he was photographed in the stadium's VIP 
section with Gamal, cheering on Egypt to its 2-1 victory over 
Ivory Coast.) 

15. (C) The President has been careful not to indicate any 
overt support for Gamal, is rarely photographed with him, and 
has on several occasions angrily denied to the media that 
there is any plan for his younger son to succeed him. While 
some have speculated that the President is ambivalent about 
Gamal's political future, he has not stood in the way of the 
rise of his son and his allies through the ranks of the 
ruling NDP, or obstructed his increased public profile. 
Moreover, the President has twice in the past two years 
shuffled his cabinet and replaced "old guard" elements with 
younger technocrats linked to Gamal. While there is little 
public evidence, commonly accepted wisdom in Cairo is that 
First Lady Suzanne Mubarak is Gamal's most ardent political 
patron. Unlike the President, the First Lady is often 
photographed at public events with Gamal, frequently in 
connection with social issues. Her power and influence, many 
argue, are keys to Gamal's viability. Sources tell us that 
she has kept Mubarak pere from naming a Vice President. 

--------------------- 
Legal Framework Wired 
--------------------- 

16. (C) The legal/electoral stage, rearranged in 2005 with 
the amendment of Article 76 of the constitution, currently 
guarantees that the ruling NDP, increasingly dominated by 
Gamal and his allies, will retain their lock on the 
presidency. Of all 20 of Egypt's legally recognized parties, 
only the NDP currently meets the conditions as defined in the 
amendment to field a presidential candidate. (The rules set 
forth in the amendment state that only parties holding five 
percent or more of the seats in each of the People's Assembly 
and the Shura Council. The bar is set higher for 
independents, who must obtain endorsements from 65 PA 
members, 25 Shura Council members, and 10 local council 
members from each of at least 14 of the 26 provinces.) While 
voters will have opportunities to change the current makeup 
of the Shura Council in 2007 and 2009, and the People's 
Assembly in 2010, should a presidential transition become 
necessary sooner, there would be no legal or procedural 
hurdles for any NDP candidate to the presidency. 

--------------------------- 
A Military Stumbling Block? 
--------------------------- 

17. (C) A key stumbling block for any effort to bring Gamal 
Mubarak to the presidency could be the military. Each of 
Egypt's three presidents since the republic was established 
in 1952 were drawn from the military's officer corps, and the 
military has historically been the ultimate guarantor of the 
president's rule. Gamal Mubarak did not serve as a military 
officer (and it is not clear whether he ever completed, even 
"on paper," his national military service) and unlike his 
father, can not take the military's support for granted. 
This factor is often cited by our contacts, who believe that 
Soliman, the intelligence chief with a military background, 
would have to figure in any succession scenario for Gamal, if 
only as a transitional figure. Another theory is that some 
other military officer could emerge from obscurity as a 
presidential contender. (Defense Minister Tantawi is 
acknowledged to be frail and without any political ambition.) 


------- 
Comment 
------- 

18. (C) Gamal Mubarak's rise in the ruling NDP, his attempts 
to position himself as a "friend of the people," and as the 
national champion of reform and "new thinking," are all 
compelling evidence that his political ambitions are real - 
denials notwithstanding. Despite palpable public hostility 
to his succession, and potential stumbling blocks, the way 
forward for Gamal currently appears open. Gamal and his 
ambitious allies, such as MP and NDP figure Ahmed Ezz and 
economic reform ministers such as Rachid Rachid and Youssef 
Boutrous Ghali, are apparently banking that structural 
improvements to the economy will deliver tangible benefits to 
the masses, and build a support base that extends beyond 
affluent business circles. 

RICCIARDONE