As thousands in Egypt celebrate the end of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year reign today, authority in the North African nation has shifted to Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, a man experts and some protestors said is undoubtedly a member of the old regime, but clean of the human rights abuses that plagued the state's intelligence and police agencies.
"He's the defense minister. He's a career officer... Anyone that serves the ministry for that long is part of the regime," Nathan Brown of George Washington University's Elliot School of International Affairs told ABC News. "I would be surprised if he kept that job that long without being loyal [to Mubarak]."
However, John Sifton, a former investigator with Human Rights Watch and author of two major reports on Egypt, said that as far as abuses, "in comparison with the civilian institutions, the military -- let's just say we have a lot more faith and optimism about what's going to happen" now that the military is in charge.
Egypt's recently appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, made the announcement today that a military council, with Tantawi at its head, would wield power in the nation in Mubarak's place, even though several U.S. and Egyptian officials assumed Suleiman would inherit control.
Suleiman, formerly the country's intelligence chief and who oversaw the torture of an Al Qaeda suspect, would have represented little of the change the protestors were hoping for, experts said.
"Mubarak and Suleiman are the same person," said Emile Nakhleh, a former top Middle East analyst for the CIA. "They are not two different people in terms of ideology and reform."
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Though they erupted in applause at the announcement Mubarak was leaving and Suleiman would not assume control, some protestors said Tantawi may not be much different.
"He's corrupt... He's not favored in the military. He's there because he stayed loyal to Hosni Mubarak," 26-year-old Abdelaziz Abdel Nabi told ABC News. "We're scared one of the military people steps up and controls us, like Mubarak did."
A leaked U.S. State Department cable posted on the website Wikileaks, which cited "academics and civilian analysts," called Tantawi "Mubarak's poodle" and said mid-level officers in the Egyptian military were infuriated by his incompetence and blind loyalty to Mubarak. Tantawi has served Egypt's military for years and fought alongside the U.S. and its allies in the 1991 Gulf War.
Brown said Tantawi, and Egypt' success in the immediate future, all depends on what the military council does with its power -- what role Suleiman may play, what institutions are put in place to ensure fair elections and, most importantly, how effective the council is at ending Egypt's long history of police brutality.
Despite being a long-time member of the regime and close ally of Mubarak's through his presidency, Brown said Tantawi has a major advantage in the simple fact that the military is, for the most part, independent of the state's despised police and intelligence forces.