Cairo's attempts to hide President Hosni Mubarak's deteriorating medical condition are not fooling the world. The United States and Western intelligence agencies believe Egypt's 82-year-old president is dying of terminal cancer, and that he doesn't have long to live.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that the administration of US President Barack Obama fears the day after Mubarak's' death, and is closely following the situation in Egypt. American sources said the US Central Command and National Intelligence Council are already drawing up possible scenarios that could become a reality after his passing.
A central European intelligence officer told the paper that his agency believes Mubarak will be dead within a year, before Egypt's presidential elections scheduled for September 2011.
Steven Cook, an expert on Egyptian affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations said that during his visit to Cairo some two months ago, he was told that President Mubarak is not well.
"When I was in Cairo in May, it was interesting. People were mellow about the prospect of him being ill. Everyone understood the end was near; the estimates were 12 to 18 months," Mr. Cook said.
Hospital ready for Mubarak
Cook said he heard that an entire floor of the Cairo military hospital was prepared to treat the dying president. "I heard that they pump him up with something that makes him able to function, so he can do these meetings and go to these public events," he said.
A senior US intelligence officer told the paper, "We know he is dying, but we don't know when he will die. You can be dying for a long time, by the way. Look at (Fidel) Castro." Officially, Washington refuses to address reports on Mubarak's health, and State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said in an interview, "No one is looking past Mubarak. He is still the president of Egypt, and we rely on him and his government for the critical role they play in security and stability in the Middle East."
A senior State Department official said that Mubarak has been the president of Egypt for the past 30 years, and his death "will be an historic event when it occurs." Of Mubarak's possible successor, the source said, "You have Gamal Mubarak as a prospective replacement, but you also have ElBaradei as someone who is prepared to compete for the presidency under specific circumstances."
The official said the Egyptian government will face a historic decision after Mubarak dies, and ultimately it will have to account for the wishes of the Egyptian people for more openness after years of authoritarian rule.
Peace treaty at risk?"In some ways, the presidential campaign has already started," the official said. "This is different than the dynamic you see in other countries. There is some open space in Egyptian society, but there is not yet enough to enable a genuinely competitive election among candidates, where more than one have a true opportunity to win."
Steven Cook said the US must pressure Egypt to move towards a more democratic regime, but warned the competitive elections could cause candidates to compete to be more anti-Israel in order to win over voters.
Martin Kramer, an analyst on Egypt at the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center, said the peace treaty with Israel will not die with Mubarak. "
"Egypt has kept the peace deal with Israel through the wars with Lebanon and through intifadas," Kramer said. "They sometimes pull the ambassador; they sometimes send him back. This is not a feature of Hosni Mubarak. This reflects the Egyptian state interest and is very likely to outlast Mubarak."
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