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Friday, February 11, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Western intel: Post-Mubarak Egypt is ripe
for Islamic takeover

CAIRO — With the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, the military is mulling the prospect of a partnership with the Islamic opposition.


Western intelligence sources said the military as well as the security forces could no longer be counted upon to block an Islamic takeover in Egypt.

"The upper crust of the military and security forces remain loyal, but those in the field are not willing to fight and die for Mubarak or [Vice President Omar] Suleiman," an intelligence source said.

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On Feb. 10, Mubarak insisted that he would not resign until his term ended in September, but would transfer authority to Suleiman. Hours later, he stepped aside. Hours earlier, the Supreme Armed Forces Council, in its first meeting since 1973, convened to discuss the security situation and pledged to protect people and property, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It [council] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people," the council, headed by Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, said.

Neither Mubarak or Suleiman attended the meeting of the Supreme Armed Forces Council. The council, shown on Egyptian television, showed about 25 senior commanders, some of whom were believed to have participated in a dialogue with the opposition.

"There has been a fallout between Tantawi and Suleiman," the source said. "Tantawi has support for his position from the United States and is in contact with the Muslim Brotherhood."

In late January 2010, Tantawi held secret talks in Washington regarding the prospect of a post-Mubarak Egypt. The sources said Tantawi left Washington in the mistaken belief that the administration of President Barack Obama supported a military coup in Cairo.

The sources said Mubarak had turned into a virtual figurehead and no longer played a significant role in Egypt. They said Suleiman has sought to recruit the military to ensure control over Egypt amid the threat of an Islamic takeover.

"There must be an end to this crisis as soon as possible," Suleiman said. "We don't want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools."

The greatest threat to the Mubarak regime was said to have been the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ruled out cooperation with Suleiman, Egypt's former longtime intelligence chief. The sources said the Brotherhood has penetrated virtually every sector of Egyptian society, including the military, security forces, media, clergy and unions.

"Officially, Suleiman is now the boss, but Tantawi controls the military, the only force left that could protect the regime," the intelligence source said. "Tantawi and the top military commanders are talking to the Brotherhood in what could eventually result in a power-sharing arrangement."

At the same time, the Brotherhood was organizing thousands of mosques to send volunteers and supplies to expand anti-regime protests. The Islamic opposition has also staged labor strikes, including those by bus drivers and municipal workers.

On Feb. 4, the Brotherhood issued a leaflet that called on Mubarak to leave office. The leaflet, which adopted language similar to Al Qaida, also demanded an Islamic revival in what was termed historical Egypt, which includes Sudan and parts of Israel.

"The Brotherhood has changed and draws its language and ideas from Bin Laden," another intelligence source said. "Right now, it is waiting for the right moment to act."

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