Clearing the Decks for Jimmy
The process of selecting Gemal Jimmy Mubarak to succeed his 76-year old father as Egyptian president is nearly over, notwithstanding Mubarak Sr.’s denials. A book just out in Cairo, “Gemal Mubarak – Revival of National Liberalism,” performs an excellent PR job on the incoming president. The book, clearly written to order by Gahad Awda, a member of the ruling party’s central committee, introduces young Mubarak’s political agenda and his vision for the future of his country.
Much less glossy reading matter was handed to President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month. It was put in his hands, gift-wrapped as a special package, ahead of his trip to Washington next month.
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On May 19, DEBKA-Net-Weekly revealed its contents: a large stack of Iraqi intelligence documents that US forces seized in Baghdad and which expose the deep penetration of the Mubarak regime achieved by the deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.
After opening his gift, Mubarak called an emergency session in the presidential palace of his key advisers, intelligence chiefs led by General Omar Suleiman and top military and police commanders.
The documents spelled out in detail how Farhan Hassan, Iraq’s deputy ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, turned his office into a center of espionage and recruiting post for Iraqi agents in Egypt, the United States and the Gulf.
At the end of the meeting, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources, Mubarak ordered his security forces to start rounding up all the Egyptians listed in the documents as agents of Hassan’s Iraqi network. Some 120 people were picked in the first wave.
The package also contained Hassan’s reports to Baghdad. Under the codename “Number 3” attested to his ranking in the Iraqi hierarchy, he filed directly to Saddam Hussein.
Number 3 described in detail how he bought the loyalty of “several prominent Egyptian journalists”, among them popular columnist Sayid Nasser, who were willing to publish articles shooting Saddam’s propaganda line. One report outlined Hassan’s steps for the recruitment of Shuwaike Abu Zayad, the wife of one of Egypt’s top diplomats. She passed to Number 3 all the Egyptian foreign ministry’s top-secret cables and documents.
As expectations of a US invasion of Iraq mounted in 2002, Mrs. Abu Zayad handed the Iraqis the ministry’s secret computer codes. Iraqi intelligence then tapped in from Baghdad and downloaded document after document, including the secrets of US-Egyptian military cooperation and transcripts of conversations between Mubarak and the past and present US defense secretaries, William Cohen and Donald Rumsfeld. The Iraqis also read all the secret reports and documents pertaining to the annual US-Egyptian “Bright Star” military maneuvers.
Number 3 was particular fond of boasting to Saddam that he had recruited about 20 Egyptian generals who had been transferred to the reserves and farmed out to administrative jobs in Egypt’s military industries. They positively gushed with information on their former units and new jobs.
Hassan also enlisted engineers, industrialists and doctors, some of them personal physicians to Egypt’s senior military officers and political leaders. Saddam placed extremely high value on information on the health of top Egyptians.
Number 3 performed many more services for his master in Baghdad. They included:
1. Thwarting special operations mounted by the Iraqi opposition in Washington and London. In the US capital, according to one of the documents, Hassan recruited Najib Salhi, an Iraqi general and former commander of Iraq’s 4th Division who defected to the United States. The general’s people collected information in Washington on the activities of Iraqi opposition figures, including Mohammed Chalabi, now a senior member of the Iraqi Governing Council.
2. Using Iraq’s Arab League office in Cairo to recruit agents from Eastern Europe. The documents are chock full of the names of Russian and Czech diplomats who served Iraqi intelligence. Number 3 was able to pass along to Baghdad volumes of secret cables and military reports that Moscow sent to or received from its embassies in the Middle East and Gulf.
3. Running a large number of import-export companies registered in Cairo. They were used as fronts for information, goods and money sought by Iraq.
4. Overseeing operations at the Qatar-based al-Jazeera, the biggest and most influential Arab satellite television in the world. Hassan got first look at intelligence gathered by the station and paid its staffers to tout the Iraqi line. This operation was a great success. Hassan’s people managed to enlist the services of Faisal al-Qassam, one of the station’s best-known broadcasters. Qassam, a Syrian, edits and moderates al Jazeera’s popular daily phone-in show, “Counterpoint”. Only a few of the dozens of callers who telephone from across the Arab world to discuss current events get on the air. But before every show, Number 3 or one of his minions decided with Qassam on the issue to be discussed and handed him a list of viewers who would call in with the questions they would ask. Those viewers were, of course, Iraqi intelligence agents from across the Arab world who read out the questions dictated from Baghdad.
The Egyptian regime therefore has its hands full rolling up Hassan’s pro-Saddam network. It is waiting for a second stack of secret Iraqi files to come in from Washington. The president will then be able to finish a thorough clearing-out in time to hand a sparkling clean administration over to his successor