Omar Suleiman, intelligence chief who was also a negotiator between the Israelis and Palestinians, has been named Egyptian VP.

Mr. Mubarak has never appointed a vice president since he came into power in 1981. Will it be simply a transitional move when Mubarak steps down? We’ll have to wait and see.

This is the first step to Mubarak stepping down, Gamal Mubarak obviously out. The BBC now reporting that Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa are now in London.

Suleiman’s relationship with the Egyptian military is also key.

Al Jazeera English is talking about Suleiman’s “credibility,” which is the one thing that’s needed for this to work. Western government’s recognize him, which is an obvious plus as well.

Amjad Atallah from NAF tweets: Responding to demands by the rebellion, the Emperor swears in Darth Vader as his Number 2. The rebellion is not amused.

Blake Hounshell points to this Wikileak cable. The Muslim Brotherhood is not happy that Suleiman is likely Mubarak’s successor.

4. (S/NF) Soliman stressed that Egypt suffers from Iranian interference, through its Hezbollah and Hamas proxies, and its support for Egyptian groups like Jamaatt al-Islamiyya and the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt will confront the Iranian threat, he continued, by closely monitoring Iranian agents in Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and any Egyptian cells. Improving relations between Syria and the Arab world would also undermine Iran’s regional influence. Soliman noted “a little change” in Syria’s attitude on engaging with the Arab world, adding that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia shared this view and planned to visit Damascus soon “to help change Syria’s attitude.”

From Foreign Policy on Suleiman, circa 2009:

… Like the elder Mubarak, Suleiman rose to national prominence through the armed forces. The arc of his career followed the arc of Egypt’s political history. He attended the Soviet Union’s Frunze Military Academy in the 1960s — as Mubarak did a few years earlier — and became an infantryman. He then took part in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, likely as a staff officer. When Cairo switched its strategic alliance from Moscow to Washington, he received training at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the 1980s. Suleiman continues to have privileged contacts with U.S. intelligence and military officials, with whom he has now been dealing for at least a quarter-century.

As the head of the Mukhabarat, Suleiman’s political and military portfolio is vast. The GIS combines the intelligence-gathering elements of the CIA, the counterterrorism role of the FBI, the protection duties of the Secret Service, and the high-level diplomacy of the State Department. It also includes some functions unique to authoritarian regimes, such as monitoring Egypt’s security apparatus for signs of internal coups. It is an elite institution, with a long reach inside government as well as abroad. It also crosses over the civilian and military worlds: Suleiman is one of a rare group of Egyptian officials who hold both a military rank (lieutenant general) and a civilian office (he is a cabinet minister, though he rarely attends meetings).

Traditionally, the identity of the head of the GIS is kept secret. But after 2001, when Suleiman began to take over key dossiers from the Foreign Ministry, his name and photograph began appearing in Al-Ahram, the staid government-owned daily. He even appeared on the top half of the front page, a space usually reserved for Mubarak. Since then, his high-profile assignments have garnered high-profile coverage. He has intervened in civil wars in Sudan, patched up the tiff between Saudi King Abdullah and Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi over the latter’s alleged attempt to assassinate the former, and put pressure on Syria to stop meddling in Lebanon and to dissociate itself from Iran.

Most importantly, Suleiman has mediated in the Israel-Palestine conflict, Egypt’s most pressing national security priority. Since the June 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, Cairo has acted as an interlocutor and mediator between Hamas and Fatah. Although its attempts to reconcile the two groups have led to few clear victories — in part, perhaps, because Egypt is clearly hostile to the Islamists — its foreign policy has won the approval of the United States and the European Union.

On the Egyptian street according to Twitter and AJEnglish, chants can be heard rising up against Suleiman.

And after continued emphasis on Al Jazeera, which I emphasized again yesterday (as I did when they broke the Palestine Papers last Sunday, which some have criticized). The New York Times does another story on the network’s coverage today. Well earned.

UPDATE: The White House has to be happy to see Mark Lynch weighing in that Obama’s “handling Egypt pretty well.” Pres. Obama’s speech yesterday was a huge improvement over the rest of the week, especially looking at the State Dept. but also V.P. Biden.