Who Is Hosni Mubarak?

Egyptian president has ruled for 30 years and maintained strong ties with U.S.

Jan. 29, 2011 -- The ongoing protests in Egypt revolve around the regime of one man, who has ruled the country for 30 years while operating as one of the United States' strongest allies in the Middle East -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"He's a very strong leader, and his strength has been his success," said Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser to President George W. Bush. "He believes that he still has the support of the pillars of the regime."

Mubarak served as vice president of Egypt beginning in 1975, but was thrust onto the international stage when President Anwar El-Sadat was assassinated during a parade in Cairo in 1981.

Mubarak, a former bomber pilot and head of the Egyptian air force, continued Egypt's friendly relationship with the United States once he became the country's fourth president.

Under Mubarak's leadership, relations between the United States and Egypt strengthened. Egypt joined the United States in the first Gulf War, providing crucial access to the Suez Canal and assisting in fighting Islamic terrorists, especially al Qaeda.

For Complete Coverage of the Crisis in Egypt, Featuring Exclusive Reporting From Christiane Amanpour, Click Here

For over a decade, Mubarak has not served alongside a vice president, but today, he appointed Omar Suleiman, the country's intelligence chief and a long term confidant of the president, to the post.

Edward Walker, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1997, acknowledged the implications turmoil in Egypt could have not only in the Middle East, but also in the United States.

"It's also the core and the throbbing heart of the Arab world. What happens in Egypt could easily be replicated somewhere else," Walker said. "That is why you want them to be your friend."

Regardless of the amiable relationship between the United States and Egypt, all five American presidents Mubarak has dealt with have prodded him to make Egypt a more democratic country.

"I don't think Mubarak is highly creative," Walker said. "He is bright. He certainly knows his security, but he has a somewhat narrow view of the world, which revolves around the whole question of security."

The United States has sent billions of dollars in aid to the 82-year-old Mubarak over the years but never demanded democracy in return for this assistance.

Hadley, the former Bush security adviser, suggested that Washington should temper the demand for democracy for the time being.

"Slow down here," he said. "Don't rush to elections. Give some space to see if we can remediate the terrible situation that Mubarak has created for us."

As more Egyptians join the call for Mubarak to leave, many around the world have joined in solidarity to support the people of Egypt.

Protests occurred in Washington, D.C. and New York today, with demonstrators in the nation's capital calling on the Obama administration to take a stronger position against Mubarak.

"Hey Obama, listen up. Hosni Mubarak's time is up," protestors chanted outside the Egyptian embassy in Washington.

The increasingly volatile situation in Egypt holds the potential to have an adverse effect on the U.S. economy. The Dow dropped Friday by 166 points, in part due to the turmoil in Egypt.

"I think the political crisis in the short term will rock markets," American University political science professor Diane Singerman said. "If we are supportive of these changes, I don't think in the near term or the long term this is going to have much of an effect on our economy."

"It is a bellwether on the Middle East," Hadley said. "We want freedom and democracy to come to the Middle East, but we've seen too many instances where efforts to bring freedom and democracy get hijacked by elements that may be brought to power by democratic means, but have very non-democratic agendas."