Secret U.S. documents show Voinovich CODEL met with spy boss who died at Cleveland Clinic
Classified state department records show Voinovich led tense 2008 Middle East meetings to discuss Egypt, Israel, Palestine and 3700 tunnels
CLEVELAND, OH – Secret U.S. Department of State cables reveal that Egypt’s late spy boss and ex-vice president Omar Suleiman met in Cairo on January 1, 2008 with a congressional delegation led by now retired U.S. Senator George Voinovich.
Sulieman died during tests at Cleveland Clinic on July 17, 2012 in a city Voinovich once led as mayor. Cleveland Challenger previously reported that President of the Libertarians of the Revolution Party chairman Mohammed Fareed Zakaria filed a complaint with now former Egyptian Attorney General Dr. Abdel Meguid Mahmoud that asked him to question the U.S. and Cleveland Clinic about Suleiman’s sudden death
The intriguing 2008 meeting between Suleiman and Voinovich was revealed in secret U.S. Department of State documents Cleveland Challenger obtained from Julian Assange’s now notorious Wikileaks website. Voinovich had led a congressional delegation of four Republican congressmen to a series of Middle East meetings that included Ohio’s 10th District representative Mike Turner of Dayton. The other members of Voinovich’s “CODEL” (congressional delegation) were Rob Bishop of Utah, Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Phil Gingrey of Georgia.
The de-classified U.S. diplomatic documents Cleveland Challenger reviewed show Voinovich’s CODEL meeting with Suleiman was also attended by U.S. Department of State Deputy Chief of Mission Stuart Jones.
Jones’ report of the Voinovich CODEL meeting with Suleiman shows the late Egyptian vice president and spy boss was angry over neighbor Israel’s accusations that his government was not aggressively patrolling the 3700 tunnels that existed between Egypt and Palestine. The tunnels have been used by smugglers to transport weapons, drugs and other illegal goods into Palestine. He accused Israel of being behind a video that was sent to the U.S. Congress which showed Egyptian soldiers helping HAMAS linked smugglers have the tunnels into Palestine. [PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi recently flooded over 300 tunnels and stepped up patrols.]
Voinovich asked Suleiman if he knew why Israeli officials complained about Egypt’s anti-smuggling efforts. Suleiman responded that Israeli leaders weren’t complaining directly to him and even though information between the two governments continued to be exchanged. He said Egypt, as an example, wanted the U.S. government to participate in LAW10 discussions but the Israeli’s objected.
“They don’t want a witness in the room,” Suleiman told Voinovich, Ohio’s Turner and the other U.S. congressional members. Suleiman’s thoughts appear to echo sentiments that Israel was intentionally trying to sabotage the relationship between the U.S. and Egypt with its repeated calls for the American government to cut off aid to the African nation.
Suleiman shared his thoughts on Iran and a report from the U.S. government’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about his enemy nation’s nuclear capabilities. The December 3, 2007 report showed Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program and did not possess a nuclear weapon. Suleiman said the report “altered the calculus through which Arab states are interacting with Iran.”
Suleiman seemed to think the NIE report represented a major shift in U.S. policy towards Iran since the findings. It supported Iran’s position that leaders had halted its nuclear program and discredited Israeli claims that it had not.
Suleiman said the NIE report had caused other Arab leaders to “recalculate” their position on Iran, taking away Egypt’s ability to categorize their mortal enemy as evil. Suleiman admitted that he and other Egyptian politicians were denouncing the American government’s seemingly “amended” view of Iran and telling Arab leaders not to warm up to the nation.
He called Iran one of Egypt’s greatest threats and spoke of the challenges the nation might face if the Iranian-backed Muslim Brotherhood came into power. He said the Mubarak government sawthe Muslim Brotherhood as enemies. [NOTE: The Muslim Brotherhood is now Egypt's leading political force, Mubarak is in jail and Suleiman is dead.]
Voinovich’s meeting with Suleiman came under attack the next day when he and the CODEL met with Israeli Prime Mininster Ehud Olmert for an hour-long discussion in Jerusalem. Voinovich’s CODEL also met on January 2 with Israeli Minister of Internal Security Avraham Avi Dicter and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The Israeli meetings were held before Voinovich’s CODEL met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Foreign Minister Riad Maliki on January 6.
Voinovich began the meeting with Olmert by lamenting the lack of progress that had been made to create peace between Israel and Palestine since the last time they met in 2001. He praised current discussions between the two nations as a “wonderful opportunity” for peace and a two-state solution.
The state department report notes that the hour-long meeting was “frank and occasionally contentious.” Conversations focused on Israel’s border issues with Egypt, housing tenders in East Jerusalem and continued U.S. support for the Jewish nation and the ongoing peace process. Voinovich stressed to Olmert that Arab support was a key part of any peace solution.
The U.S. embassy official who took notes at Voinovich’s CODEL meeting with Olmert provided more insight about the “video tape” conversation they had held with Suleiman.
“Voinovich pointed out that Egyptian officials had complained to the Codel about Israeli officials privately complimenting Egyptian actions in private meetings, but publicly condemning their actions in the press and going so far to circulate video recordings in the US Congress of Egyptian border guards in cahoots with HAMAS elements. Voinovich stated that the Egyptians were concerned that this would damage USG assistance to Egypt and was unfair,” the official wrote.
Olmert argued back that Israel believed the Egyptians had betrayed their commitments under the peace accords and that private meetings with them had been far worse than any reported comments in the media. He denied Israel’s role in circulating the video to the American Congress and said Egypt’s border troops where riddled with corruption and incompetence.
Olmert stated that although the peace accords allowed for as many as 750 troops on the border, the Egyptians could only muster 250 at a time. The report said he described the smuggling efforts in Gaza as enormous. He claimed smuggled items included heavy arms, ammunition, contraband and narcotics. Olmert’s thoughts were echoed by Dicter when the CODEL met with him later.
Voinovich didn’t back down from his view that Israel’s opinion of the Egyptians’ ability to control the 3700 tunnel crossings might be an over-exaggeration. His opinion was supported by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report which indicated that sealing off the Gazan border from Egypt was far more complex than the story-line the Israelis’ had created. He encouraged Dicter to read the report but got only a lukewarm commitment that the Israeli defense minister might actually follow-up. The state department official said Dicter committed only to “accepting” the document if Voinovich sent it.
It was during the Voinovich CODEL’s meeting with Livni that he learned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s report might not have already been shared with the Israeli’s. Livni was more emphatic than either Olmert or Dicter about Egyptian soldiers helping Hamas’ smugglers.
Palestian Authority (PA) leaders Fayyad and Maliki told Voinovich’s CODEL that they were ready to manage Gaza crossing points.
Fayyad criticized Israel’s Gaza sanctions as empowering Hamas to control and tax trafficking in the 3700 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. Maliki emphasized the PA’s desire to move the nation to a private sector market driven economy led by a transparent government.
Maliki said the PA wanted the West Bank but not by force the men told Voinovich’s CODEL. Maliki thought the West Bank needed to be released to Palestinian control and nurtured into becoming a positive example of Gazan leadership.
He criticized sanctions against Hamas as ineffective because the tighter the restrictions on trade the more they were able to charge for tunnel access.