U.S. officials have hatched a secret plan to end the deadlock between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and opponents of his regime, according to various media and intelligence sources.
The scheme being discussed would have Mubarak leave Egypt for specialized treatment at a German health clinic near Baden-Baden.
His stay would be extended through the September elections, providing a face-saving way to end the impasse and Mubarak’s 30-year reign.
“The United States government's scenario for an end to the political chaos in Egypt appears to be this: President Hosni Mubarak travels to Germany for a ‘prolonged health check’ that would offer the 82-year-old a dignified departure,” reported the online version of Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine Monday.
The New York Times has stated that White House officials are urging secretly Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman to isolate Mubarak from all executive decision-making before Egypt’s elections in September. But Der Spiegel’s reporting suggests that a specific plan to get Mubarak out of Egypt already may be in the works.
The latest scenario would involve a one-way ticket to Germany, ostensibly for medical treatment. Once there, Mubarak effectively would go into exile.
Newsmax contributing editor and Middle East expert Kenneth R. Timmerman comments: “It’s clear the Obama administration is seeking a way to hustle Mubarak out the door of Egyptian politics, but it’s less clear that the 82-year-old survivor of assassination attempts, wars, and Islamist conspiracies will agree to an early departure.
“Whether Mubarak agrees to depart early will depend on how high the Obama administration is willing to turn up the heat,” Timmerman says.
In the past 48 hours, it has become increasingly evident that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister David Cameron are working from a common playbook in their policy toward Mubarak.
Reva Bhalla, analysis director for Stratfor, the Austin,Texas-based global intelligence firm, tells Newsmax that the rumors of a Mubarak exile to Germany have been leaked to “test the political waters.”
She tells Newsmax that Mubarak could be leaving for Germany “in the coming days,” adding: “If you just trace the leaks, it seems that point is nearing for sure.”
Western powers are urging Egyptian authorities to preserve social and political stability in Egypt, while also moving forward with fundamental government reforms.
“He may remain as president as a figurehead until elections can be held in a hospital far, far away,” Bhalla tells Newsmax. “That’s kind of the condition that’s being put on the table. Whether the opposition accepts that is what we’ll be watching. But it seems like a pretty likely scenario.”
Not coincidentally, the German government has let it be known it’s open to an extended hospital visit by Mubarak.
According to Der Spiegel, a senior member of Merkel's center-right party, Andreas Schockenhoff, has stated: "We need a peaceful transition in Egypt. If Germany can make a constructive contribution in an international framework, we should receive Hosni Mubarak — if he wants that."
Der Spiegel also reported Monday that unnamed officials have contacted the Max-Gundig-Klinik Buhlerhohe medical clinic near Baden-Baden to discuss an extended Mubarak stay.
The luxury clinic in southwest Germany specializes in cancer treatment.
Mubarak has traveled to Germany for medical care before. In the spring of 2010, surgeons at the Heidelberg University Clinic in Germany removed Mubarak’s gallbladder and a polyp.
There were rumors but no confirmation that cancer was the cause. Bhalla says she has no reason to doubt the veracity of several sources close to Mubarak, who have said the Egyptian leader had cancer.
“How serious those health issues are, I think, may be a reflection of the political interests of the day, obviously,” she says.
The posh medical facility near Baden-Baden boasts 2,100-square-foot suites for its patients. Administrators there would not comment on the Der Spiegel report that Mubarak might come there for treatment.
If Mubarak does exit Egypt as the demonstrators insist he must, he will do so in style.
Middle East observers estimate his wealth at between $40 billion and $70 billion. Mubarak’s wife and two sons are said to be billionaires as well.
Mubarak’s foes reportedly want to seize his assets. Deciding what to do about the strongman’s assets may be causing a delay in expediting his fate, Bhalla says.
Bhalla says it is likely that Mubarak, a longtime U.S. ally, no longer controls the levers of power in Egypt.
Egypt’s new vice president, Omar Suleiman, has assumed an increasingly prominent role in leading the nation. Protesters and Egypt’s regime continue their face off in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, while Mubarak is said to be relaxing in a villa at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Bhalla doubts that Mubarak still has a voice in his own future. The nation’s military will determine the timing for what happens next, she says. One major consideration for them: how to persuade Mubarak to leave without appearing to bow to the pressure of protesters, which might encourage more turmoil.
Timmerman, the best-selling author whose latest book is titled “St. Peter’s Bones,” tells Newsmax that the Obama administration must tread very carefully in showing Mubarak the door.
“Any more pressure than they are currently exerting could pose a serious threat to other U.S. allies in the region — Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia,” he says. “Cooler heads within the administration may balk at a region-wide tumult that could only harm U.S. interests.”
Mark Lowenthal, a former assistant director for the Central Intelligence Agency who serves as president of the Reston, Va.-based Intelligence and Security Academy, tells Newsmax he’s not so sure Mubarak will be leaving Egypt as quickly as generally assumed.
He notes that civic unrest appears to have waned somewhat following recent government concessions.
“I get the sense a little steam went out of the opposition over the past couple of days,” Lowenthal says. “Now it may be just be that nobody wants to push this completely, and everyone’s waiting. But it’s not as evident to me that he’s leaving immediately.”
He adds that confirmation Mubarak has left Egypt would not come “until he is actually en route.”
Mubarak would hardly be the first leader to step down for medical reasons.
About eight months after deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi left Iran in February 1979, former President Jimmy Carter allowed him to visit the United States for gallbladder treatment.
Some blame that visit for triggering the hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran that occurred in November 1979. Although the parallels between Iran and Egypt are limited, the United States would probably welcome the help of a third country to provide exile for a politically radioactive Mubarak, according to Bhalla.
Pahlavi died in Egypt in July 1980, reportedly from complications related to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was buried in Cairo.
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