Mubarak: ‘Egypt will never accept pressure. However, we are willing to be persuaded.’

A January 2009 cable published today by the Telegraph offers a stark picture of U.S. diplomatic interactions with Hosni Mubarak — and specifically, the Egyptian president’s ability to play on American fears of instability in the region to win aid. Emphasizing the Egyptian role in the Middle East peace process, Mubarak told four U.S. senators ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images.
AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images.
AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images.

A January 2009 cable published today by the Telegraph offers a stark picture of U.S. diplomatic interactions with Hosni Mubarak -- and specifically, the Egyptian president's ability to play on American fears of instability in the region to win aid. Emphasizing the Egyptian role in the Middle East peace process, Mubarak told four U.S. senators -- just on the eve of Barack Obama's inauguration -- that rather than pushing for democracy, "the U.S. should appreciate more the role Egypt plays in regional stability." Mubarak complained at length about U.S. efforts to push for political reform in his country and expressed hope that Obama would "listen to [his] friends" better than George W. Bush, the cable claims.

The senators met with Mubarak for "an hour and a half long breakfast at the Presidential Palace on December 14 [2008]," according to the cable. The meeting covered subjects as wide-ranging as Hamas, Somali piracy, Iran, and the Iraq war. Mubarak allegedly claimed that he had warned then-U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney to avoid war with Iraq because the United States "won't be able to get out and you will drown in Iraq." (Mubarak noted that, while George H.W. Bush had listened to similar advice, "his son does not.") Mubarak also noted that the Iraq war would strengthen Iran's position in the region.

Interestingly, the conversation also turned to U.S. assistance for Egypt, which arrived at an unconditional $1.3 billion per year. The cable claims:

A January 2009 cable published today by the Telegraph offers a stark picture of U.S. diplomatic interactions with Hosni Mubarak — and specifically, the Egyptian president’s ability to play on American fears of instability in the region to win aid. Emphasizing the Egyptian role in the Middle East peace process, Mubarak told four U.S. senators — just on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration — that rather than pushing for democracy, "the U.S. should appreciate more the role Egypt plays in regional stability." Mubarak complained at length about U.S. efforts to push for political reform in his country and expressed hope that Obama would "listen to [his] friends" better than George W. Bush, the cable claims.

The senators met with Mubarak for "an hour and a half long breakfast at the Presidential Palace on December 14 [2008]," according to the cable. The meeting covered subjects as wide-ranging as Hamas, Somali piracy, Iran, and the Iraq war. Mubarak allegedly claimed that he had warned then-U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney to avoid war with Iraq because the United States "won’t be able to get out and you will drown in Iraq." (Mubarak noted that, while George H.W. Bush had listened to similar advice, "his son does not.") Mubarak also noted that the Iraq war would strengthen Iran’s position in the region.

Interestingly, the conversation also turned to U.S. assistance for Egypt, which arrived at an unconditional $1.3 billion per year. The cable claims:

In an unusual, if oblique, reference to U.S. assistance to Egypt and calls for political reform, Mubarak told Senator Dorgan that "Egypt will never accept pressure. However, we are willing to be persuaded." He then asked after the health of Congressman David Obey, seen by the Egyptians as the main force behind Congressional attempts to condition U.S. assistance to Egypt. "He is a good man," Mubarak noted. "But he has been causing us trouble for the last three years."

Newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman also appears in the 2009 cable, speaking with the senators in a separate meeting about the Middle East peace process. And finally, the delegation held meetings with the foreign minister, Aboul Gheit, who "identified the Muslim Brotherhood as the ‘vanguard of radicalism’ and highlighted the long history of radical Islam acting as a destabilizing and threatening force in Egypt and the region."

Such conversations seem almost ominous in the current climate, where we are watching all these same topics play out — from U.S. concerns about what a post-Mubarak Egypt would mean for Middle East peace, to congressional worries about the Muslim brotherhood, to Mubarak’s own reticence to be "persuaded" into reform. 

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

Tag: Egypt

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