Egypt: Exchanging a Dictator for a Torturer

As it now stands, the United States appears content to contemplate exchanging Hosni Mubarak for Egypt’s new Vice President, Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian spy master–that is, one dictator for another– to maintain the status quo. Of course, Israel must sign off on this deal, assuring the U.S. that Egypt can remain as its main base in the region, straddling as it does North Africa and the Middle East. Without it, the U.S. would most definitely have to rethink its entire neo-colonial policies  in the region.

As for Suleiman, he looks to be a  nasty piece of work.  Agence France Press has pulled together the basics:

For US intelligence officials, he has been a trusted partner willing to go after Islamist militants without hesitation, targeting homegrown radical groups Gamaa Islamiya and Jihad after they carried out a string of attacks on foreigners.A product of the US-Egyptian relationship, Suleiman underwent training in the 1980s at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina….

After taking over as spy director, Suleiman oversaw an agreement with the United States in 1995 that allowed for suspected militants to be secretly transferred to Egypt for questioning, according to the book “Ghost Plane” by journalist Stephen Grey. ..

In the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the CIA relied on Suleiman to accept the transfer of a detainee known as Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, who US officials hoped could prove a link between Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.The suspect was bound and blindfolded and flown to Cairo, where the CIA believed their longtime ally Suleiman would ensure a successful interrogation, according to “The One Percent Doctrine” by author Ron Suskind.A US Senate report in 2006 describes how the detainee was locked in a cage for hours and beaten, with Egyptian authorities pushing him to confirm alleged connections between Al-Qaeda and Saddam.Libi eventually told his interrogators that the then Iraqi regime was moving to provide Al-Qaeda with biological and chemical weapons.When the then US secretary of state Colin Powell made the case for war before the United Nations, he referred to details of Libi’s confession.The detainee eventually recanted his account.

Thus our loyal ally Egypt provided the fake information used by the United States to go to war in Iraq.

Stephen Soldz of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis and  co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology  provided the following excerpts from authors who discussed Sulieman.

Jane Mayer, in The Dark Side, pointed to Suleiman’s role in the rendition program:

Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials.  [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).

Stephen Grey, in Ghost Plane, his investigative work on the rendition program, also points to Suleiman as central to the program:

To negotiate these assurances [that the Egyptians wouldn’t “torture” the prisoner delivered for torture] the CIA dealt principally in Egypt through Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egyptian general intelligence service (EGIS) since 1993. It was he who arranged the meetings with the Egyptian interior ministry…. Suleiman, who understood English well, was an urbane and sophisticated man. Others told me that for years Suleiman was America’s chief interlocutor with the Egyptian regime — the main channel to President Hosni Mubarak himself, even on matters far removed from intelligence and security.

Suleiman’s role in the rendition program was also highlighted in a Wikileaks cable:

the context of the close and sustained cooperation between the USG and GOE on counterterrorism, Post believes that the written GOE assurances regarding the return of three Egyptians detained at Guantanamo (reftel) represent the firm commitment of the GOE to adhere to the requested principles. These assurances were passed directly from Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS) Chief Soliman through liaison channels — the most effective communication path on this issue. General Soliman’s word is the GOE’s guarantee, and the GOE’s track record of cooperation on CT issues lends further support to this assessment. End summary.

“Shortly after 9/11, Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was captured by Pakistani security forces and, under US pressure, torture by Pakistanis,” writes Soldz. “He was then rendered (with an Australian diplomat watching) by CIA operatives to Egypt, a not uncommon practice. In Egypt, Habib merited Suleiman’s personal attention. As related by Richard Neville, based on Habib’s memoir”:

Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman…. Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before  9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks. That treatment wasn’t enough for Suleiman, so:

To loosen Habib’s tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib – and he did, with a vicious karate kick.

After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where he eventually was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His “confession” was then used as evidence in his Guantanamo trial.

5 responses to “Egypt: Exchanging a Dictator for a Torturer

  1. thanks. i’m egyptian and i wanted more info on soleiman. this is more graphic than anything i read.

  2. Seems to me that this information indicts Bush’s administration more than it does Suleiman. Our government gives Egypt a great deal of money annually and it may have been made obvious to Suleiman that those funds could be withheld if he did not cooperate with our government’s wishes.

    I find all of this appalling. That the nation proclaiming our morality and superiority to “lesser” nations run by dictators would use those countries’ officials to carry out this dirty work is an indicator that our government is corrupt and unfit to govern. I’m referring to the Bush administration and any or all their cronies throughout our government now. Should Obama allow this type of behavior, he, too, should be removed.

    The fact that the tortured person may have had a role in 9/11 or may have had knowledge regarding it does not justify the torture. In fact, this incident only proves what most of us know already: when tortured, the victim will eventually admit to anything, will say anything the torturer wants them to say. Surely the CIA knows this. So why would they participate in such heinous acts? Perhaps Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are too dumb to know this. And, if Colin Powell knew how this “intelligence” was gathered, he was a fool to put any credence in it and to take it to the U.N. as proof. That’s disappointing. I thought Powell at least had some integrity.

  3. We have our own torturers…Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Woo etc. It appears that the world no longer sees torture as wrong and no longer seeks to punish torturers.

  4. Mamdouh Habib never stood trial at Guantanamo. That was David Hicks. Habib was returned to Australia under some sort of deal between Bush and Howard.

  5. I can’t imagine Suleiman as the future leader of Egypt. How can they support him knowing that he had a very close relationship with Mubarak? If he is elected president I think the revolution in Egypt doesn’t make sense at all.

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