Military man thrust into role of leading Egypt out of chaos 


Mohamed Hussein Tantawi has been thrust overnight from obscurity into the world's spotlight as the military leader who will at least temporarily be responsible for order in Egypt.

Tantawi, 75,  is the head of the Higher Military Council, similar to the US Defense Department, and is in line to lead Egypt through the transition to a new government.

Despite Tantawi’s close relationship with his US counterparts there is concern among US and British Officials that the military will not be open to the type of democratic changes being demanded in Cairo's streets.

 Tantawi has had ongoing conversations with US Defense counterparts in the past week. He has been given credit by American officials for the discipline Egypt's military showed in not reacting violently to street protests.

Still, he is not well known. Some have described him as "Mubarak's poodle." He has dedicated his life to the Egyptian armed forces, which play a decisive role in the country's politics. The $1.3 billion in annual US aide goes mostly to the military, which has given American defense officials some sway in dealings with Tantawi and his subordinates.

He has served in three military actions against Israel, starting with the 1956 Suez Crisis. and including the 1967 and 1973 wars.

When Mubarak fired his cabinet last week, Tantawi was appointed  deputy prime minister, while retaining his post as Defense Minister.

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Sara A. Carter

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