Fox News is reporting that an assassination attempt has been made on newly named Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman. Two of the longtime intelligence chief’s bodyguards, Fox says, were killed in the attack. Egyptian security officials, reports Al Arabiya, are denying the reports.

If Fox’s report is accurate, then Cairo’s denials are cause for serious concern. After all, had the Mubarak regime staged the operation as a pretext for a crackdown on opposition protesters, then it would be eager to get the news out to as many sources as possible. That they are hushing up the incident may suggest that the plot originated in the government’s security and military apparatus.

The modern history of Egypt shows that the most likely way to bring down a particular regime is through a military coup. Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated by a cadre of junior military officers also affiliated with the country’s notorious Islamist groups, Islamic Jihad and Gama’a Islameya. And it was Sadat’s precursor, Gamal abd el-Nasser, who brought down the Egyptian monarchy in the 1952 Free Officers’ coup.

If officers were involved in the alleged attack on Suleiman, the regime will move quickly to root out the conspiracy. Those sitting on the fence will have to decide who they think will ultimately prevail in what may be a power struggle within the regime itself.

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