2 February 2011

Egypt: NDP Insider - Military Will Ensure Transfer of Power


The full text of a cable, dated July 30, 2009, and released by WikiLeaks:

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001468



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2029

REF: 08 CAIRO 2091

Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor Donald A. Blome
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


-- (S) NDP insider and former minister Dr. Ali El Deen Hilal Dessouki dismissed public and media speculation about succession.  He said Egyptian military and security services would ensure a smooth transfer of power, even to a civilian.

-- (S) Dessouki called opposition parties weak and democracy a "long term goal."  He said that the MB had no legitimate political role, adding that mixing religion and politics in Egypt was not wise and would not be permitted.

¶2. (S) Comment:  Dessouki is an NDP insider who has held a number of key positions.  His assurances that the Egyptian military and security services would ensure a smooth succession to a civilian (by implication Gamal Mubarak) were unusually straightforward and blunt.  The idea that the military remains a key political and economic force is conventional wisdom here.  However, other observers tell us that the military has grown less influential, more fractured and its leadership weaker in recent years (reftel).  They suggest that in a succession scenario in which President Mubarak is no longer present, outcomes are less predictable. End comment.

¶3. (S) On July 22, PolOff met with National Democratic Party (NDP) Media Secretary, and member of the influential NDP Policies Committee Dr. Ali El Deen Hilal Dessouki.  Without prompting, he offered newly-arrived PolOff advice on how to approach political issues in Egypt.  He counseled PolOff not to "run around" town asking questions about Egypt's next leader, suggesting that most offered only opinions not facts.  He said that this kind of wide-ranging engagement "by our friends" demonstrated a certain "naivete."  Dessouki suggested that PolOff also steer clear of the many uncorroborated reports and misguided analysis in the local media.  He also underscored a common NDP refrain that Egypt's opposition political parties were weak and self-serving.

¶4. (S) Dr. Dessouki's most important message, he said was to always keep in mind that "the real center of power in Egypt is the military," a reference he said included all security forces.  Dessouki noted that while the military did not intervene directly in matters of day to day governance, it leaders were determined to maintain order and that the importance of a "legal transition" should not be underestimated.  Dessouki did acknowledge that the military
is concerned about maintaining its "corporate interests," but was emphatic in his declaration of their commitment to a "constitutional" transition of power.  Dessouki went on to say that the military has "no objection to a civilian" as the next president (a remark that can be interpreted as a pointed
reference to Gamal Mubarak).  Dessouki then reiterated that the NDP has not yet selected its candidate for the 2011 presidential elections (a point Gamal Mubarak himself has made to us).

¶5. (S) Dessouki acknowledged there would be some violence around the upcoming 2010 parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections, but suggested security forces would be able to keep it under control.  Widespread politically-motivated unrest, he said, was not likely because it was not part of the "Egyptian mentality."  Threats to daily survival, not politics, were the only thing to bring Egyptians to the streets en masse.  Dessouki said the NDP focus on economic reform would continue up to the elections and after any transition of power.  He added that Egypt was moving towards democracy, but that a transition from a "pharoanic" political system would take a long time.

¶6. (S) Disdainful of its political import, Dessouki said the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was not a credible political organization.  As evidence of their pure self-interest, he cited the MB's refusal to "integrate" and become a part of the mainstream political process despite invitations from the last three Egyptian presidents.  Dessouki referred to recent arrests of MB members (septel) as evidence they operated extra-legally. (Note:  Separately, on July 26 Dessouki publically denied press reports that the NDP is pursuing a deal with the MB that would promise an end to the arrests in exchange for a stop to MB "internal and external" activities.  End note.)  Dessouki warned that because Egyptians are very religious people, politics and religion is a volatile mix. In a more strident tone, Dessouki went on to say that he, and President Mubarak, "would not tolerate" the existence of
CAIRO 00001468  002 OF 002

political parties with a religious agenda whether Muslim or Christian and suggested that there was no such thing as a "moderate Islamist."

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