Friday, December 10, 2010

Here is part of the profile of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak written before his visit to the US in 2009. It looks like a very good analysis of how Mubarak tries to balance a moderate stance against the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood:

He is a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals. Mubarak viewed President Bush (43) as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran's regional influence.

3. (S/NF) On several occasions Mubarak has lamented the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the downfall of Saddam. He routinely notes that Egypt did not like Saddam and does not mourn him, but at least he held the country together and countered Iran. 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.

¶4. (S/NF) No issue demonstrates Mubarak,s worldview more than his reaction to demands that he open Egypt to genuine political competition and loosen the pervasive control of the security services. Certainly the public “name and shame” approach in recent years strengthened his determination not to accommodate our views. However, even though he will be more willing to consider ideas and steps he might take pursuant to a less public dialogue, his basic understanding of his country and the region predisposes him toward extreme caution. We have heard him lament the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world. He can harken back to the Shah of Iran: the U.S. encouraged him to accept reforms, only to watch the country fall into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists. Wherever he has seen these U.S. efforts, he can point to the chaos and loss of stability that ensued. In addition to Iraq, he also reminds us that he warned against Palestinian elections in 2006 that brought Hamas (Iran) to his doorstep. Now, we understand he fears that Pakistan is on the brink of falling into the hands of the Taliban, and he puts some of the blame on U.S. insistence on steps that ultimately weakened Musharraf. While he knows that Bashir in Sudan has made multiple major mistakes, he cannot work to support his removal from power.

¶5. (S/NF) Mubarak has no single confidante or advisor who can truly speak for him, and he has prevented any of his main advisors from operating outside their strictly circumscribed spheres of power. Defense Minister Tantawi keeps the Armed Forces appearing reasonably sharp and the officers satisfied with their perks and privileges, and Mubarak does not appear concerned that these forces are not well prepared to face 21st century external threats. EGIS Chief Omar Soliman and Interior Minister al-Adly keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics. ...

¶6. (S/NF) Mubarak is a classic Egyptian secularist who hates religious extremism and interference in politics. The Muslim Brothers represent the worst, as they challenge not only Mubarak,s power, but his view of Egyptian interests. As with regional issues, Mubarak, seeks to avoid conflict and spare his people from the violence he predicts would emerge from unleashed personal and civil liberties. In Mubarak,s mind, it is far better to let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole. He has been supportive of improvements in human rights in areas that do not affect public security or stability. Mrs. Mubarak has been given a great deal of room to maneuver to advance women’s and children’s rights and to confront some traditional practices that have been championed by the Islamists, such as FGM, child labor, and restrictive personal status laws.

...11. Israeli-Arab conflict: Mubarak has successfully shepherded Sadat's peace with Israel into the 21st century, and benefitted greatly from the stability Camp David has given the Levant: there has not been a major land war in more than 35 years. Peace with Israel has cemented Egypt,s moderate role in Middle East peace efforts and provided a political basis for continued U.S. military and economic assistance ($1.3 billion and $250 million, respectively). However, broader elements of peace with Israel, e.g. economic and cultural exchange, remain essentially undeveloped.
I actually feel sympathy for Mubarak, and his points about the Shah, Musharraf and the Palestinian Arab elections are cogent - as is his fear that the ultimate winner of the invasion of Iraq is Iran.

There is a bitter irony that the most moderate Arab states) Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia) also are the ones whose citizens are the most anti-semitic, according to polls. [I have not seen a Saudi poll on this matter, chances are the government would not allow the question to even be asked.] Real peace with Israel - full diplomatic relations and normalization - seems as distant as it did in the 1970s. The way that these governments think is not in terms of peace and democracy but in terms of managing conflict, which may be the only realistic way to stop regional situations from devolving into anarchy.

Sometimes, the alternative to the Cold War-era thought process of "He may be a bastard but he's our bastard" is much worse - for the entire world.

UPDATE: The New Republic looks at this exact issue today.

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