tantawi - AP - February 21 2011
Egyptian Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military supreme council at the Ministry of Defence in Cairo, Egypt, February 21, 2011. Photo by AP
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IDF officers complained to their American counterparts in November 2009 that Gen. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defense minister at the time and the current leader of the ruling military council, was “an obstacle” to the efforts to counter arms smuggling to Gaza through Sinai. The comments came during a meeting held as part of U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue.

After the popular uprising earlier this year, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned, transferring his authority to the country’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is headed by Tantawi, 75. The general may be a candidate in the elections scheduled for September.

Despite their displeasure with Tantawi, the Israeli representatives in the talks praised Egypt’s intelligence chief at the time, Gen. Omar Suleiman, who was then being mentioned as a successor to Mubarak. The Israelis said Suleiman was “supportive” of the efforts to stop the smuggling.

The two Egyptian generals’ different approaches, in the opinion of the Israeli officials, also reflected on the organizations they led. The IDF officers complained there was a “lack of coordination between the Egyptian army and intelligence service on counter-smuggling efforts.”