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Suleiman’s reputation holds dread for some: Power shift to Egypt’s No. 2, one ‘who cracks heads,’ is keenly watched

From USA Today: He’s as unacceptable to the protesters as Mubarak. He has fully sided with Mubarak and has used threats to dissuade protesters,” says Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“The long-quiescent population has had far more than enough of quasi-dictatorial rule,” says Edward Peck, a former diplomat who served in Egypt and Iraq and as U.S. ambassador to Mauritania. “To offer as his replacement, however temporarily, one of his most reprehensible subordinates is certainly not going to satisfy the demonstrators.”

Until he was appointed vice president last month, Suleiman was not well known outside of political and international circles. “The longer the limelight is on him, the less people like him. Part of the story is understanding his personal role in suppressing opposition and engaging in torture,” says Lisa Hajjar, an editor for the online Arab journal Jadaliyya. She recently wrote an article titled “Omar Suleiman, the CIA’s Man in Cairo and Egypt’s Torturer-in-Chief.”

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern notes Suleiman’s reputation dates back to 1993, when he first became head of Egypt’s intelligence agency and began assisting the CIA in interrogating terrorism suspects during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

One person detained under the CIA’s “rendition” program — Egyptian-born U.S. citizen Mamdouh Habib — claimed he was tortured by Suleiman himself. In October 2001, Habib was turned over to the CIA by Pakistani security forces, then shipped to Egypt. In his memoirs, My Story: The Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn’t, Habib says he was systematically tortured. At one point, his blindfold fell off and he saw Suleiman, the book says. Habib was never charged and ultimately released in 2005.

“Suleiman’s a thug wearing a silk tie; a really nasty, mean guy,” McGovern says. “He makes Mubarak look like a fuzzy puppy. A guy like that who gets into power is unlikely to let it go.” See full piece by Garry Strauss.