President Barack Obama's administration reached out to Aboul Gheit on several occasions to express its views on how the Mubarak regime should handle the crisis. The Egyptian foreign minister believed the U.S. government was attempting a good cop-bad cop approach: "The White House appears very strict against the government, while [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and the State Department show some flexibility," he told Suleiman.
The intelligence chief replied, "It is the traditional distribution of roles."
As the revolution gained momentum, Aboul Gheit describes a regime paralyzed by infighting. On Jan. 31, he attended the swearing-in of the new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, a career military man brought in to restore order. Mubarak, he says, was bored and quiet: "He pretended to be very busy reading some papers."
Other players, however, were already maneuvering to protect their interests. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, then defense minister and the future head of the military junta that would replace Mubarak, informed Aboul Gheit at the ceremony that the military would not sacrifice its reputation to preserve Mubarak's rule. "Some told me that people are talking about using the army to control the situation by force," Tantawi said sternly, according to Aboul Gheit. "And I said from my side the army doesn't strike people at all, or else it will lose its legitimacy."
Gamal, meanwhile, was intent on protecting Mubarak's hold on power, whatever the cost. Gamal was widely believed to have designs on the presidency himself -- though the aging dictator denied that he would orchestrate Gamal's inheritance of power. "Do you think I'm crazy?" Aboul Gheit wrote that Mubarak told him. "To put my son ... my son ... in this jail? Impossible."
While Gamal indisputably played a powerful behind-the-scenes role, Mubarak resisted efforts to place him in the public eye. Aboul Gheit wrote that he suggested to the president in 2010 that Gamal run for a seat in parliament. At the time, the opposition Muslim Brotherhood held nearly 20 percent of parliament, though their presence would be decimated in the 2010 election, which was widely viewed as rigged.
"This is nonsense," Mubarak responded sharply. "They will cut him into pieces. Don't you know what is happening in parliament?"
On Feb. 1, with the police forces helpless to control the swelling protests, Mubarak delivered a late-night speech announcing that he would not run for another term in office. "[The speech] was late ... it was late ... and then I fell asleep," Aboul Gheit writes, mirroring the frustrations of many protesters. The foreign minister was awakened afterwards by a phone call from Gamal, who said that the speech had sparked a "new spirit" and popular sympathy for Mubarak.