Who Is Hosni Mubarak?

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

ByABC News
January 29, 2011, 8:05 PM

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.

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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."