Egypt’s New Leader: Omar Suleiman?

The Takeaway

This article was originally covered by PRI’s The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.

Rumors are widely circulating that Omar Suleiman will soon become the next leader of Egypt. Though he’s been Vice President of Egypt for only two weeks, Suleiman has been a force within Egyptian politics for a long time. “I always found him to be a considerate person,” Retired Colonel Patrick Langtold PRI’s The Takeaway. Lang, who has known and worked with Suleiman for two decades, said, “I’m not surprised at all that in this situation Mubarak has turned to him, because he was always probably the most capable man in the government that Mubarak ran.”

As the head of Egypt’s military and then civilian intelligence services, Suleiman worked closely with officials in the United States. Lang says, “he is a key ally of the United States National Security apparatus, the Department of Defense, the CIA and everything in between.”

That relationship has been the source of criticism against Suleiman, especially regarding his role in “extraordinary rendition” program by the United States. Egypt assisted the United States in the extrajudicial transfer of prisoners, and Suleiman has been accused of being responsible for torture.

“It was Egypt’s policy to accept prisoners from the United States and to hold them for interrogation,” Lang told PRI’s The World. “I’m sure that a lot of very bad things happen there,” Lang admits, “but bad things happen all over the world in a lot of places. It’s regrettable that they do.”

If Suleiman took part in some of the “very bad things,” Lang says that he should be held to account. But, he says, it’s important to remember: “this was also the policy of our government, it wasn’t just he policy of the Egyptian government.”

There is some fear that Suleiman won’t be a change from the Mubarak regime, but Lang believes those fears are unfounded. “I don’t think you should see him as anything like a permanent leader for Egypt,” Lang told The Takeaway. “He’s 75 years old, he’s had a number of heart attacks, been wounded a couple of times in Egypt.”

In fact, Lang believes that Suleiman is exactly the right person to lead Egypt through this turbulent time. ” I can’t imagine somebody who is more moderate and is more likely to take the country in a good direction than he is,” Lang says. “I think he is by far the best person in order to lead that transition and then depart.”


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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