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Cables show Egypt-US clashes over democracy

Cables show Egypt-US clashes over democracy

Egyptian leaders had clashed with the United States over human rights and government reforms for years before Friday's warning that the situation there threatens U.S. aid to the country, according to a series of leaked U.S. diplomatic messages.
The disclosure of the confidential messages, some of which were circulated within the U.S. government less than one year ago, offers extraordinary insights into the complicated relationship between the United States and Egypt as tensions there escalated.
"The Egyptians have long felt that, at best, we take them for granted; and at worst, we deliberately ignore their advice while trying to force our point of view on them," Ambassador Margaret Scobey wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Feb 9, 2009. It was among the diplomatic messages released recently by WikiLeaks.
Two months earlier, Scobey wrote that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resisted past U.S. appeals for increased democracy, which he has viewed as a threat to his leadership and a boost to internal adversaries seeking to undermine him. Scobey's Dec. 12, 2008, memo to Gen. David Petraeus was in advance of his meeting with Mubarak.
"Mubarak now makes scant public pretense of advancing a vision for democratic change. An ongoing challenge remains balancing our security interests with our democracy promotion efforts," she said.
U.S. officials have urged Mubarak and other senior Egyptian leaders to allow peaceful street protests, and they have condemned the violence stemming from Egyptian government crackdowns on the protests. The United States now is considering reducing the $1.5 billion in military and civilian aid in light of the increasing violence.
Relations between the United States and Egypt appeared to be improving after Obama won in 2008, according to some of the diplomatic correspondence disclosed by WikiLeaks. Mubarak had hopes for improved relations with the U.S. after Obama won, Scobey told Petraeus a month after Obama's victory.
She offered Petraeus some insights into Mubarak's tarnished view of a once strong ally. "The Egyptians have lost confidence in U.S. regional leadership. They believe that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was an unmitigated disaster that has unleashed Iranian regional ambitions and that the U.S. waited far too long to engage in Arab-Israeli peacemaking efforts," Scobey wrote.
"In addition, U.S. and Egyptian differences over the pace and direction of political reform have drained the warmth from the relationship on both sides."
A meeting between Obama and Mubarak would be a good idea "to try to begin repairing the relationship," Scobey advised.
The Egyptian leader visited Washington in August 2009. Writing in advance of the trip, Scobey said the Egyptian president appreciated Obama's interest in restoring "the sense of warmth that has traditionally characterized the U.S.-Egyptian partnership."
"Mubarak viewed President (George W.) Bush as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran's regional influence," Scobey wrote in a May 19, 2009, memo.
And in a point that sheds light on Mubarak's own desire for a strong, supportive military, Scobey wrote: "Mubarak continues to state that in his view, Iraq needs a 'tough, strong military officer who is fair' as leader. This telling observation, we believe, describes Mubarak's own view of himself as someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people."
The American-led invasion of Iraq removed Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein from office. He was later found guilty by an Iraqi court of crimes against the country and was hanged.
Another U.S. diplomatic message outlines the point that "the real center of power in Egypt is the military," according to former minister Dr. Ali El Deen Hilal Dessouki, considered a National Democratic Party insider.
"Dessouki noted that while the military did not intervene directly in matters of day-to-day governance, its leaders were determined to maintain order and that the importance of `legal transition' should not be underestimated," according to the July 30, 2009, cable written by Donald Blome, a political and economic counselor at the State Department.
Mubarak had increasingly expressed his displeasure in recent years with American foreign policy, even to visiting U.S. dignitaries.
"President Mubarak enjoys recounting for visiting members of Congress how he warned former President Bush against invading Iraq, ending with, `I told you so!' and a wag of his finger," Scobey wrote in her February 2009 memo to Clinton.
Even after Obama took office, Mubarak perceived as a threat the U.S. influence in some areas because he believed it undermined his leadership, according to a Feb. 9, 2010, memo that Scobey wrote to Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Egyptian government "remains skeptical of our role in democracy promotion, arguing that any efforts to open up will result in empowering the Muslim Brotherhood, which currently holds 86 seats _ as independents _ in Egypt's 454-seat parliament," Scobey wrote.
Another memo Scobey wrote that same month characterizes the U.S. relationship with Egypt as strong on mutual interests in the Middle East, but strained over other issues, including human rights.
"While we continue to work closely and effectively with Egypt on the range of critical regional issues, our bilateral discussions, particularly relating to human rights, civil society and democracy, remain difficult at times," she wrote.


Updated : 2021-06-19 00:05 GMT+08:00