Diplomat: Egypt Dislikes Suleiman's "Slimy Background"

Egypt Vice President Omar Suleiman
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman
Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman

Egyptians won't be satisfied if the departure of toppled President Hosni Mubarak leads to the empowerment of Vice President Omar Suleiman, a former top State Department official told CBS News' "Washington Unplugged" Friday.

Ambassador Edward Peck, a career diplomat who served in Egypt and Tunisia, said that Suleiman in many ways takes an even harsher and more authoritarian view of power than Mubarak.

"He's been involved in a number of things that the people of Egypt do not like," including being the CIA's point man for the rendition and torture of terror suspects in Egypt, Peck said. He said Suleiman has "kind of a slimy background."

Mubarak ceded power not to Suleiman but to the Egyptian armed forces and it is not clear what Suleiman's eventual role will be, if any. Still, Suleiman is a former military and intelligence officer with close ties to the military power structure.

He "is always going to be a little trickle of saliva" that could be slurped back up into power at any time, Peck said.

Complete Coverage: Anger in the Arab World

With or without Suleiman, a transition to democracy is no certainty, Peck said: "It just takes one or two generals to say, 'Hey I kind of like being in charge.' That's happened before."

Peck suggested that the U.S. has strained its credibility with other Arab world leaders by its somewhat erratic response to the events in Egypt - seemingly shifting allegiance to whatever actor seemed to be in the lead.

"We have a just a tattered thread in that part of the world of the respect and reliability that we used to think we enjoyed on a regular basis," Peck said.

At the same time, Egyptians do not like Egypt's policy toward the Palestinians, which has tracked closely with American support for Israel. "They are seen as toadies, pushed around by the American puppetmasters," he said.

"From the American perspective ... the best outcome ... is a government that transitions into something that resembles a democracy," Peck said. "It isn't going to be the quintessence of democracy."

Watch the interview below:

  • Ken Millstone

    Ken Millstone is an assignment editor at CBSNews.com