The surprise ouster of long-time Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak today came with an additional shock, that Vice President Omar Suleiman, the unsavory torturemaster of the Mubarak regime who Western officials appeared to have hand-picked as his successor, got brushed aside.
While the details of exactly how it happened are unclear, Mubarak’s ouster led to all power being turned over to the military, making 75 year old Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi the new de facto head of state.
Tantawi, clearly, is less menacing than Suleiman, but with 20 years as the nation’s Defense Minister and a 55 year military career, his long-standing loyalty to Mubarak has led many to wonder if he is a less than ideal replacement as well.
It wasn’t long before the WikiLeaks cables, always a source of great information about such things, were consulted, and the official US data on Tantawi came out. The short of it is that he is mocked throughout the documents for his “incompetence and blind loyalty to Mubarak,” and that he had earned the nickname amongst local analysts as “Mubarak’s poodle,” which probably sounds way more fearsome in Arabic than it does in the US.
Egypt’s military, of course, though not as rife with torture as the police, has a shady reputation itself, and its dominance over the entire nation’s economy hardly makes it an ideal instrument of reform. Still, locals seem quite hopeful at the moment, and so long as he isn’t Mubarak or Suleiman, there seems to be almost universal consensus that he will be an improvement.