Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's sleepy summer-time visit to Washington is purposefully timed. He wants to avoid Congressional scrutiny of
- his government's human rights abuses,
- the anti-Semitic Egyptian publishing industry,
- Egypt's massive military build-up, and
- its very mixed record in regional peacemaking.
...for years Cairo has done everything possible to prevent the normalization of relations with Israel by any other Arab states. Mubarak has consistently opposed the reconvening of the so-called multilateral committees, effectively shutting-down this second-tier negotiating track. Egypt also impeded Israel's attempts to be accepted into a regional grouping at the UN, and has backed the attempt to label settlements as war crimes under international conventions. At the moment, too, Mubarak has rejected President Obama's call for Arab world good-faith concessions to Israel.
...After years of tension resulting from the Bush administration's focus on human rights and democratic development, the traditional US-Egyptian bilateral "bargain" has been effectively restored. In exchange for cooperation on key mutual interests - the peace process and the Iranian threat - Washington appears to have shelved longstanding concerns over internal Egyptian governance.
So don't expect Obama to deliver a pro-democracy message to Mubarak.
Just the opposite.
Despite his much-ballyhooed and grandiose June 4 "Address to the Moslem World," Obama is abandoning the Muslim world to its long-standing dictators. A July report by the Project on Middle East Democracy found that while the Obama administration has increased its request for democracy funding in the Middle East overall, it has cut such funding for Egypt by more than half and cut aid to independent civil society organizations by more than two-thirds.
Michele Dunne of the Arab Reform Bulletin this week expressed to The Washington Post the degree of betrayal she feels about Obama.
WHILE THE Obama-Mubarak partnership may be useful in mitigating some regional crises, many question marks hang over Mubarak's Egypt.
Ehud Eilam of the BESA Center has written about the many reasons for instability in the Israel-Egypt relationship including the all-important question of succession. Efraim Inbar and Mordechai Kedar of the BESA Center have convincingly outlined Cairo's two-faced approach to competition and cooperation with Israel and Hamas.
...Israel cannot rely on Egypt to help crush Hamas. Egypt does not mind if Hamas bleeds Israel a little; it gains domestically by indirectly aiding Hamas build its military capacity; gains internationally by playing a mediating role in a conflict which it simultaneously helps maintain on a "low flame"; and Cairo, they say, is anyway largely incapable of stopping the Sinai Beduins from continuing as the main weapons smugglers into Gaza.
The same goes for the peace process. Egypt is in favor and at times helpful, while at other times it acts to stiffen Palestinians positions away from compromise with Israel...