Meet Egypt's New (Interim) Ruler: Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi

Now that the Egyptian military is in charge, it is time to meet the new ruler. Hopefully not the same as the old ruler.

Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman (born 31 October 1935) is an Egyptian military officer. He holds the rank of Field Marshal and has served in the government of Egypt as Minister of Defense and Military Production since 1991; he is commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces.[1]

Tantawi received his commission on 1 April 1956 serving in the infantry, and he participated in the wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973. He held various commands and was assigned as military attaché to Pakistan. Following the dismissal of Lt. General Yousef Sabry Abo Taleb, Tantawi was appointed as Minister of Defense and Military Production and commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces on May 20, 1991; he became the first Egyptian since 1989 with the rank of Field Marshal. In that period, he also participated in the First Gulf War on the coalition side.

As of 2011, Tantawi is seen as a possible contender for the Egyptian presidency.[2] Amidst the 2011 Egyptian protests, Tantawi was promoted to the ministerial rank of Deputy Prime Minister, while retaining the defense portfolio, on 31 January 2011. The Higher Military Council of Egypt is now in charge of Egypt. They are going to rule with the Supreme Constitutional Council as of the 11th February 2011.[3]

Tantawi has served as Commander of the Presidential Guard and Chief of the Operations Authority of the Armed Forces.

And some more just released from Reuters:

Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Higher Military Council that took control of Egypt on Friday after President Hosni Mubarak was swept from power, has spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates by phone five times since the crisis began, including as late as on Thursday evening.

The ties are long-standing and important to Washington, which provides about $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year.

Pentagon officials have been tight-lipped about the talks between Tantawi and Gates but the U.S. defense chief has publicly praised Egypt's military for being a stabilizing force during the unrest. On Tuesday, Gates said Egypt's military had "made a contribution to the evolution of democracy."

But in private, U.S. officials have characterized Tantawi as someone "reluctant to change" and uncomfortable with the U.S. focus on fighting terrorism, according to a 2008 State Department cable released by the WikiLeaks website.

Tantawi, 75, has served in three conflicts with Israel, starting with the 1956 Suez Crisis and in both the 1967 and 1973 Middle East wars.

The State Department cable said he is "committed to preventing another one ever."

Still, diplomats warned ahead of a 2008 visit by Tantawi to Washington that U.S. officials should be prepared to meet a "an aged and change-resistant Tantawi."

"Charming and courtly, he is nonetheless mired in a post-Camp David military paradigm that has served his cohort's narrow interests for the last three decades," the cable said, in reference to the Israel's peace accord with Egypt.

Washington has long urged change in Egypt. But the cable notes that Tantawi "has opposed both economic and political reform that he perceives as eroding central government power."