2011-02-05 WikiLeaks cables on Amr Moussa as possible successor to Mubarak [UPDATE:1]

Amidst reports from newspapers like the Telegraph that secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, might be someone who takes over for President Hosni Mubarak, it seems worthwhile to look at what released WikiLeaks cables reveal about the US perception of Moussa. The US has close ties with Egypt and gives much military aid to Egypt. Although the people in Egypt revolting against Mubarak have the upper hand right now, any leader appointed to lead Egypt would likely have some support from the US.

At least since 2006, the issue of who would succeed Mubarak has been a foremost issue for the US. And, as indicated by 09CAIRO874, the US has noted Moussa could be a possible candidate for taking over the presidency:

The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2011, and if Mubarak is still alive it is likely he will run again, and, inevitably, win. When asked about succession, he states that the process will follow the Egyptian constitution. Despite incessant whispered discussions, no one in Egypt has any certainty about who will eventually succeed Mubarak nor under what circumstances. The most likely contender is presidential son Gamal Mubarak (whose profile is ever-increasing at the ruling party); some suggest that intelligence chief Omar Soliman might seek the office, or dark horse Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa might run. Mubarak's ideal of a strong but fair leader would seem to discount Gamal Mubarak to some degree, given Gamal's lack of military experience, and may explain Mubarak's hands off approach to the succession question. Indeed, he seems to be trusting to God and the ubiquitous military and civilian security services to ensure an orderly transition.

There would be one problem, however, if Moussa took power: Israeli leaders would not be pleased. A cable, 09TELAVIV654 reveals that a political counselor expressed disdain for the idea that Arabs think “progress on the Palestinian track” would make it easier for Egypt to publicly engage Israel. Yacov Hadas, deputy director general for Middle East and the Peace Process, responds, “While peace with the Palestinians is an Israeli interest and important in its own right, it should not be the sum total of Israel's relations with the Arab World.”

The next sentence notes Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa “invented the ‘never-ending hurdle race’ in which Israel could never do enough to deserve a positive response,” and that “the Israeli-Palestinian track should not serve as an excuse for the Gulf to avoid action, whether against Iran or through practical steps to support the Palestinian Authority.”

09CAIRO722 called “Scenesetter for Ambassador Ross’ Visit to Egypt” make clear that Moussa does not believe the threat of Iran to be as significant as the US:

Moussa has publicly and privately minimized Iran's threat, claiming that the Arab world should strengthen its economic and cultural ties with Iran. Moussa believes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses the greatest danger to the region, and has consistently pressed the U.S. to do more to stop Israeli settlement activity and advance the political process between Israelis and Palestinians. The Arab League's views on the importance of advancing a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone are similar to those of the MFA. Moussa also plays an important role in trying to manage intra-Arab squabbles, including Qatar-Syria vs. Egypt-Saudi Arabia. The Egyptians have made it clear that they consider the Qataris "nouveau riche upstarts" who are trying to buy their way to influence via big spending and posing as the "true" champions of the Palestinian cause by allying themselves with Syria and Iran. The Qatari attempt to invite Iran to the Doha Arab League summit incensed the Egyptians, many of whom blamed Moussa for mismanaging the issue.

According to a cable on Mohamed El Baradei, the leader whom media consistently mention as a possible leader of the opposition, Moussa and El Baradei do have ties. It is noted in 10CAIRO237 that Moussa once told El Baradei “all Egyptians” are “’aspiring for change’ calling it their right to do so.”

The political shuffling today, however, has demonstrated those wanting Mubarak to resign will likely not settle for a new president who is a familiar face in Egyptian politics. They want a new regime and that means a fundamental shift in the political class, one that brings social revolution.

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