Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- General Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s Intelligence Chief for nearly two decades, is one of the most powerful intelligence directors in the world, according to Western reports, and has also been described as “the fixer in the shadows” [Daily Telegraph, 2009]. Since 2009, there has been speculation in Western circles that he may succeed Hosni Mubarak as Egyptian President.
Suleiman has a calm nature, and is considered among the most important figures in the Middle East. He is closely involved in the regions most controversial issues, because of his expertise in solving difficult problems, especially the Palestinian situation.
General Suleiman is 73 years old, born in Qena Governorate, Upper Egypt. He joined the army in 1954, and was then sent to obtain a military sciences degree from Moscow’s Frunze Military Academy, located in the former Soviet Union. His friends describe him as modest, quiet, and devout.
General Suleiman has both academic and military qualifications; he holds a Masters degree in military science [from Frunze Academy], and a Masters in political science from the University of Cairo. He has held the position of Head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate from the 1990s onwards, and in the past he has served several other important positions, including head of the General Planning Department, within the framework of armed forces operations, and Director of Military Intelligence.
General Suleiman has a military track record, having participated in the Yemen War, and the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel. General Suleiman’s affiliation with intelligence services began in the mid-1980s, when he was appointed Commander of Military Intelligence, going on to become the Head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate in 1993. Suleiman is believed to have thwarted an assassination attempt on the Egyptian President which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia [in 1995]. Hosni Mubarak survived, thanks to the advice given to him earlier by Suleiman, telling him not to travel in a normal car on the way from Addis Ababa airport, to the location of his meeting.
General Suleiman’s public appearances as Egypt’s Intelligence Chief began in 2000, when he was deployed on a series of foreign tours between Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as the Egyptian mediator for the Palestinian issue. He has also led several other mediation attempts between Hamas and Fatah, and is considered responsible for administering Egypt’s efforts regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
An article published in the British newspaper ‘The Daily Telegraph’, in 2009, describes Suleiman: “The tall, slightly stooping man, who favors navy blue suits and has an iron grey moustache in the style of a 1940s British colonel, is an expert on defeating violent Islamist extremism; he is probably the only serving intelligence chief who can claim to have come close to achieving this in his own country”.