British foreign minister Jack Straw met for an hour last
week with Gamal Mubarak, the youngest son of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. According to a British official cited
in al-Qanat, an Arabic online daily, Straw met Gamal
because he "is a very important person who certainly
enjoys great influence." The meeting was significant
because it took place less than a month after President Mubarak appointed Gamal to a high-level post in the
National Democratic Party (NDP), Egypt's governing political institution. Despite repeated, emphatic, and official
assertions to the contrary, all indications point to Gamal
being groomed to succeed his father.

Hosni Mubarak assumed Egypt's presidency in 1981 and
now ranks among the Middle East's most veteran leaders. Egypt's two previous presidents both served until their
deaths (Gamal Abdel Nasser by natural causes; Anwar
Sadat by assassination), and there is no sign that Mubarak
anticipates retiring from public life when his fourth six-year
term expires in 2004. Unlike both his predecessors,
however, the seventy-four-year-old Mubarak has never designated a vice president.

According to Article 82 of the Egyptian constitution, if the president, "due to any temporary obstacle, is unable to
carry out his functions, he shall delegate his powers to a
Vice-President." Article 84 states that in the absence of a
vice president, " the Speaker of the People's Assembly
shall temporarily assume the Presidency."

Constitutional contingency plans notwithstanding, there
are practical reasons for anxiety over future leadership in Egypt. Mubarak has been the target of at least two
close-call assassination attempts. The first was a June 26, 1995, attack by the radical group al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The second, believed perpetrated
by an unaffiliated individual, took place on September 6,
1999, in Port Said, Egypt. These attacks were poignant reminders that Mubarak would not be ra'is forever.

Gamal's Appointments
Although he lacks an appointed successor, Mubarak began
to focus attention on his son Gamal in 2000 by appointing
him to the general secretariat of the NDP. The president
also named his son as head of the party's Youth and Development Committee.

Egypt was soon abuzz with the rumor that Gamal was
being groomed to succeed his father. But both Mubaraks denied any plan to create a family legacy in Egypt's presidential palace. " We are not a monarchy," said
Gamal in 2000. The following year, he offered a more
nuanced formulation: " Neither the president nor I would
agree that I seek, accept or be offered any executive post while my father is the chief executive."

His father also downplayed the notion of his son's succession: " I cannot determine who my successor will be according to my whim. . . . If he does not have the support
[of the people] the process begins again. If I say this or
that person should be my successor, the people can
reject him."

Mubarak's senior foreign policy advisor, Osama el-Baz,
insisted in a September 2002 Newsweek interview that
"Gamal Mubarak is not running for any official office. He's interested in public issues, like any young man interested
in the future of his country, but he's not going to pursue
any official position."

Days later, however, before a televised audience and an estimated 6,000 powerful bureaucrats, the NDP named
Gamal as secretary-general for policies, the party's third
most powerful position. His father even hinted about plans
for his son's succession: " Broadening the participation of young people in political life," said the president, "is an essential guarantee of a smooth handover of responsibility from one generation to the next."

Who Is Gamal?
Gamal, thirty-eight years old, is the younger of Mubarak's
two sons. A graduate of the American University in Cairo,
he served as an executive for Bank of America International
in London from 1988 to 1994. Following that, he was executive director of the Egyptian MedInvest Associations
Ltd, a financial services company. Recognized as a
proponent of economic liberalism, democratization, and bureaucratic reform, Gamal serves as head of the Future Generation Foundation, a protopolitical organization
that describes its aims as preparing young Egyptians for
the job market and increasing their political awareness.
After he formally joined the NDP in January 2000, there
was talk that he would vie for parliament in the November 2000 elections. In the end, however, he chose not to run.

The Syrian Model
Will Hosni Mubarak buck the precedent of his two
predecessors and arrange for his son's succession? If so,
he would take Egypt further away from its role as Arab trendsetter and down the path of leadership-by-inheritance already trod by another Arab republic, Syria.

The Asad family story is now well known: Former Syrian strongman Hafiz al-Asad first groomed one son, Basil, and
then turned to another, Bashar, when the former was killed
in a 1994 automobile accident. An ophthalmologist by
training, Bashar was whisked up the military ladder
to prepare for leadership. Hafiz, known to be in poor
health, further ensured his son's succession by purging potential challengers and then arranging, shortly before
his death, for Syria's parliament to amend its constitution
by lowering the legal age for the presidency from forty to
thirty-four. After Hafiz's June 10, 2000, death, Bashar won
a reported 97.29 percent of the presidential vote and
formally succeeded his father.

There is much that President Mubarak could have taken
from the Bashar episode. The first lesson is the lack of
popular opposition to the principle of arranging for one's
son to succeed -- what in the West would be derisively
termed nepotism. Although Syria was ridiculed in
international and regional media, there were virtually no
critical voices inside the country to stand in the way of
either the elder Asad's plans or the younger Asad's aspirations. In Egypt, the arrest and jailing of Saad Eddin Ibrahim -- who was among the few Egyptian voices
who criticized the possibility that the Mubarak family would follow the Asad model -- has had the effect of further
silencing any prospective opposition.

The second lesson Mubarak may have learned is the importance of giving Gamal significant policy responsibility
well in advance of succession; hence his NDP appointment. This could preempt the sort of international criticism Bashar suffered for having little experience in government when
he took office.

The third lesson is the necessity of clearing the path for his
son. Whereas this required the sacking and public humbling
of certain officials in Syria, Mubarak is able to achieve these ends by keeping the vice presidency vacant and making
sure no other public figure achieves significant national popularity.

Since 1952, all Egyptian heads of state, including President Mubarak, have been military men -- Gamal is not. His succession could usher in a new era of civilian, and perhaps liberal, rule.

The likelihood of this, however, is by no means certain.
While the NDP is Egypt's most powerful party, it is infused
with two decades of old guard corruption and bureaucratic inertia. Even if Gamal's commitment to democratic, liberal reform is real, it will take more than the herculean efforts
of one person to remake the NDP into a vibrant force for positive change.

Meanwhile, the senior Mubarak seems to want to avoid too hasty a process of empowering his son, evidenced by the conspicuous absence of Gamal among the list of eight presidential appointees to the NDP's politburo.
Nonetheless, Gamal does hold a very powerful post in the
NDP, answering only to two close associates of his father, longtime information minister and current NDP secretary-general Safwat al-Sherif and the NDP's number two, Kamal

If Gamal achieves success in reforming the NDP, this might legitimize his possible appointment as political heir and perhaps show that he has what it takes to lead a country
as powerful, proud, and important as Egypt. If he fails to implement reform and falls in with Egypt's old guard, then
his rise to the top will only affirm a sad trend of dynastic mediocrity among other Arab states.

Jonathan Schanzer is a Soref fellow at The Washington Institute.


Algeria's GSPC and America's 'War on Terror'
By Jonathan Schanzer -POLICYWATCH #666 -

Last week, intensified Islamist violence prompted
Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to launch his
military's largest counteroffensive against radical
Islamic elements in five years. The target of this
ongoing operation is the Salafist Group for Preaching
and Combat (GSPC), a breakaway faction of the Armed
Islamic Group (GIA). GSPC deserves special attention in America's "war on terror" for its extensive ties to al-Qaeda
and its devastating effect on Algeria.

Radical Islamic violence erupted in Algeria in 1992 when
the military nullified a sweeping electoral victory for the
Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Led by the GIA (formed in
1993) and the armed wing of the FIS (known as the
Islamic Salvation Army [AIS]), Islamists launched a
ruthless campaign against the government, the military,
and civilians that included school burnings, religiously motivated killings, and bombings. Their goal was to
overthrow the secular Algerian government and replace
it with an Islamist regime.

As the war raged, it became apparent that the majority
of the Islamist combatants adhered to the rigid and
utopian Salafist branch of Islam, which excludes all but
one interpretation of the religion -- that revealed by the Prophet Muhammad and his "salaf," or companions.
Between 1996 and 1997, Salafist violence reached its
zenith. The GIA massacred thousands of Algerian civilians thought to support the regime and oppose their jihad.
After a decade of violence, the death toll is estimated at 150,000.

Enter GSPC
The massacres of 1996-1997 led to significant
fragmentation among Algerian Salafists. The GSPC was
formed in 1998 by Hassan Hattab (aka Abu Hamza), who
left the GIA and condemned "shedding the blood of
innocent people in massacres." Hattab's group rose to prominence after Bouteflika's January 2000 amnesty
deadline for Islamists. Although some 5,000 AIS militants surrendered their weapons, the GSPC refused the
amnesty, one of only a few groups to do so.

The GSPC began with 700 fighters, but now boasts an estimated 4,000. Its current tactics include attacks at
false roadblocks and raids on military, police, and
government convoys. Since January 2002, an estimated
900 people have been killed in Islamist-related violence
in Algeria. Although the GSPC does not always accept responsibility for its attacks, many believe that the group
is behind the majority of such operations, which have increasingly been launched in the heart of the country
and its suburbs. The U.S. State Department now calls
GSPC the "most effective remaining armed group" and the "largest, most active terrorist organization" in
Algeria today.

Ties to al-Qaeda
Before GSPC emerged in 1998, its cadres were part of
the GIA. Several hundred GIA members had fought in
the Afghan-Soviet war, and many of them had links of
one sort or another to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda provided support to those who returned to
Algeria and formed the GIA in 1993, but the GIA was by
no means an al-Qaeda front; it was a separate group
with which al-Qaeda felt some affinity and therefore

Once established in Algeria, the GIA launched several
attacks against the country's patron, France. On August
3, 1994, five French embassy officials were killed and one
was injured when GIA guerrillas attacked a French
compound in Algiers. In December 1994, the GIA hijacked
Air France Flight 8969 and unsuccessfully attempted to
blow up the Eiffel Tower. A 1995 bombing campaign
attributed to the group in Paris killed seven and injured
more than 100. In 1996-1997, however, the GIA was
responsible for a rash of massacres in Algeria that claimed
the lives of thousands and led to the group's decline; its indiscriminate tactics alienated it from the majority of
Algerians and, surprisingly, from al-Qaeda.

By rejecting the GIA's brutal tactics, the GSPC attracted
the financial and logistical support al-Qaeda. The Algerian
el-Khabir newspaper has even asserted that the GSPC
was created by bin Laden himself, though Algerian
authorities have every reason to exaggerate such links.
Nevertheless, French intelligence recently confirmed just
how tightly the two groups have worked together.
Moreover, the U.S. State Department's Patterns of
Global Terrorism 2001 report noted that GSPC
"adherents abroad appear to have largely co-opted the external networks of the GIA," including recruits,
finances, false documents, and weapons. This network
has helped to facilitate GSPC attacks not only in Algeria,
but worldwide.

For example, the State Department has accused
"Algerian extremists associated with the GSPC of planning
to disrupt the Paris-Dakar Road Rally" in 2000. In addition, Italian police arrested several suspects linked to a GSPC
cell in Milan on April 4, 2000, while four individuals thought
to be members of a GSPC cell in France were arrested in
connection with a plot to bomb a Christmas market in
eastern France in 2000. The Algerian suspects implicated
in the millennium bombing plot are also thought to have
ties to the GSPC, although the evidence is not yet

GSPC after September 11
Soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, a press
release appeared in the Algerian al-Youm daily, allegedly penned by Hattab, threatening that the GSPC would
"strike hard" at "American and European interests in
Algeria if they implement their threats to attack Arab
and Muslim states . . . [or] if they continue to harass
[the] Islamist network in the U.S., U.K., France, and
Belgium." Several days later, on September 23, 2001, President George W. Bush's Executive Order 13224
blocked the finances of the GSPC and other terrorist
groups. On March 27, 2002, the group was designated
a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. government.
In May 2002, the State Department documented the
growing strength of the GSPC in Patterns of Global
Terrorism 2001, noting that "civilians have been
attacked" despite the group's alleged focus on
government targets.

Indeed, the GSPC's global profile has expanded
significantly over the past year. In late September 2001, Spanish police announced that they had dismantled an
al-Qaeda cell of six Algerians belonging to the group.
They were in possession of false passports and
sophisticated forgery equipment. In January 2002,
the Observer in London obtained a GSPC video
imploring viewers to "kill in the name of Allah until
you are killed" and to "fight all the sick unbelievers."
In April, Dutch authorities arrested several Algerians
accused of supporting the group's terrorist activities.
Most recently, two Algerian men arrested in Pakistan
on September 21 were believed to be members of the

As America's "war on terror" enters its second year, the
GSPC remains relatively unnoticed, despite the fact that
it is among the most active of the twenty-seven groups commonly listed under the aegis of bin Laden's network.
The GSPC's surge in terrorist activity is a painful
reminder that even loosely affiliated and relatively
obscure al-Qaeda subgroups can destabilize the Middle
East, terrorize Europe, and perpetrate acts of violence
around the globe.

President Bouteflika met with President Bush in
November 2001, and the two leaders promised to
cooperate in the fight against terrorism. But words are
not enough. Algeria's GSPC has emerged as a critical
arm of the al-Qaeda network that demands sustained attention in counterterror efforts worldwide.

Jonathan Schanzer is a Soref fellow at The Washington Institute.

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