Saturday, January 20, 2007

What America wanted Mubarak to do (but they found him useless)

(With apologies to reader anonymous who called attention to this interesting article, this is only a short summary, with a few extracts. The article is by Abdulbari Atwan, who is editor in chief of Al-Quds al-Arabi, but this piece isn't in that paper, but rather in today's edition of the Egyptian paper Al-Shaab, from where it was also picked up by a Libyan paper called Akhbar Libya).

Atwan writes that anyone who knows Hosni Mubarak knows what when he is upset with something he can't help letting people around him know about it, so people know that following the recent visit of Condoleeza Rice he has been quite upset and puzzled about why the United States seems to be so angry: What to they want us to do that we aren't already doing, asks Mubarak. Atwan says the anxiety and the bitterness are understandable, but what he doesn't get is why Murarak is in the dark about the reasons. America is facing deteriorating crises in the region: Afghanistan is going from one failure to another. Iraq has turned into a nightmare. Confrontation with Iran is extremely close if not closer, and is awaiting only the trigger-mechanism.
In these circumstances, the United States is looking to its allies in the region for help, but what the United States finds is that these allies themselves [far from being able to help the United States solve any of its crises] are themselves in need of help, in fact they are a millstone around its neck.
Things were different back in the day, when the US picked Egypt along with Israel to be its bulwark in the region, giving Egypt $50 billion over 30 years to make it an economic power; or before than when Egypt was leader of the non-aligned movement, and a highly-regarded leader in Africa as well. Now Egypt is none of those things. It no longer has anything to do with security in the Gulf, its mediator role in Palestine has shrunk to almost nothing, and as for Africa, Egypt attends the opening session of regional meetings then packs its bags again for home, adopting as its position whatever the Libyan authorities say, and far from being widely influential Mubarak doesn't even have a clear idea what the nature of the conflict is in Darfur, which is right on his border.
It is this lack of seriousness, the miniaturiation of the Egyptian role to its lowest limit, the lack of prestige in the Arab or the wider world, that have made it a punching-bag for the Americans, and caused the recent anger of the American administration. It is because American has counted on an Egyptian role in the Arab and the wider world, only to find that the Egyptian role not only no longer offers America anything useful, but on the contrary has become a liability.
And Atwan explains what the Americans were hoping Egypt could do for them, as follows:
What Ms Rice wants from Egypt is to lead the Arab world in boxing in Hamas and voiding their recent election of any meaning, but it turns out that the Egyptian leader hasn't the ability to play that role, and how could he, when he refused to even meet with a Hamas delegation when they were in Cairo, for fear of offending Israel! And she wants Mubarak to lead a campaign of incitement against Iran and its nuclear program and its growing influence in the region; but he isn't able to to that either, his domestic position being too weak, his Arab influence is even weaker, and his PR without influence or credibility...
But most important of all, writes Atwan:
Ms Rice wants President Mubarak to create an Arab situation or state of affairs in Iraq, based on the American approach in Kuwait, namely via a strong Arab/Islamic core that would be able to fill any gap left by any withdrawing foreign power. But that too he is unable to do, first because he fears his own people, second because of his inability to convince any of his neighbors, and third because there isn't any respect for his leadership in the Islamic world. To be really brief about it, the United States has used the Egyptian regime in an exaggerated way, squeezing it to the limit, and now it finds that the Egyptian regime is of no more use to it, just as it is of no use to its people, or to the region either. It has become a giant, but without teeth and without charm or grace either.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey badger,

Thank you very much for translating the article, and your summary is more than enough to convey the message Atwan is trying to get out.
I also think this article shows the correlation between the war in Iraq and political alliances and fallout in the region as a whole, the new American stand could spell regime change for Egypt or at least some political instability, even though that won't change anything but I doubt the US government understands that.

7:05 PM  
Blogger badger said...

You're right. I also thought there was another very interesting point that was raised, and it is that the Americans are upset about the inability to reconstitute an Arab "core", or I guess you could say an Arab "center of gravity" in Baghdad, and America blames Mubarak (and I am sure others) for their inability to contribute anything to that. I'd certainly like to know more about exactly what they have in mind. He mentioned the example of Kuwait. Anyone have any more elaborate explanation?

Anyway, anonymous, this definitely expanded my horizons, and on this or any other point, please let us know again if you see something we would otherwise miss.

5:01 AM  
Blogger badger said...

hmmm, blogspot comments counter not working...

5:05 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I guess that's right. I was hoping there might be some meaning tucked in there beyond the purely military side of things. Shows you how much I know.

2:31 PM  

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