Some officials tell me that the Egyptians will get a cool, if not cold, reception in Washington and will be told that the jailing of Nour and his deputy, Moussa Mustafa, is unacceptable. Bush, one source said, is "furious" about the arrests. A U.S. diplomatic letter has been drafted, but not yet dispatched, to other members of the Group of Eight industrial nations; it describes Mubarak's political crackdown in harsh terms and suggests that G-8 participation in an early March meeting in Egypt with the Arab League should be reconsidered.
One official I spoke to pointed out that Condoleezza Rice is due to pay her first visit as secretary of state to the Arab Middle East for the Arab League meeting. If Nour is not freed, the official predicted, Rice may cancel the trip: "She is not going to sit there like a potted plant while the Egyptians do this." But Rice hasn't addressed the issue, and there is no consensus inside the administration on such a tough response. Predictably, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is urging caution; it argues that an overly aggressive U.S. reaction would play into the hands of Egyptian "hard-liners." Such limp logic, of course, is exactly what the chief hard-liner -- Mubarak -- is counting on.
Whatever comes of the Nour affair, the State Department has launched a committee to review policy toward Egypt. That will give democracy advocates at State and the White House a platform for arguing that relations with Cairo should be fundamentally shifted in the coming year. They can count on support in Congress, where key Republicans, such as Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have grown increasingly impatient with Mubarak's refusal to liberalize.It's only now that the State Dept. reviews its Egypt policy? Also, why the snide "predictably" about the reaction of the embassy in Cairo? Incidentally, it's worth noting that David Welch, the highly unpopular
From President Anwar Sadat's perspective, Israel's invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 was a major provocation. Shortly after Egypt had sent an ambassador to Tel Aviv, Israel violated a sister Arab state's sovereignty and put Cairo in an embarrassing situation. Nonetheless, Sadat refrained from retaliating sharply.Perhaps his restraint was helped by the fact that he had been shot dead nine months beforehand.
Ayman Nour, an opposition party leader, enjoys all privileges as a longtime member of Parliament, including immunity from arrest. He is entitled to his own opinions and is free to discuss his political beliefs. But Parliament lifted this immunity upon request of the attorney general when Mr. Nour was charged with forging signatures on petitions that secured legal status for his party, Tomorrow's Party.
A distinction must be made between detaining an Egyptian citizen for committing a crime and voicing his opposition with the government.
Like any citizen, Mr. Nour must be tried under the judicial process; if found innocent, he will be released.
Freedom of speech is enjoyed by every Egyptian citizen. One is not arrested because of his political convictions.
Magdi R. Shaker, Press Counselor Mission of Egypt to the U.N., New York, Feb. 7, 2005(thanks Lindsay)
Rumours abound as to why he was arrested now and what the long-term consequences will be. Some note that the NDP was starting a process of dialogue with the opposition on the day of his arrest and Nur had cheekily suggested that Mubarak should represent the NDP as the other parties would be represented by their leaders. Others claim that Nur had been too outspoken at a meeting with Madeleine Albright, former US secretary of state, the week before. Many think that the arrest is an attempt to discredit the party, foment divisions among its leaders, and maybe even stop it from contesting the elections while Nur is investigated. By arresting Nur, Mubarak has thrown down a gauntlet to Bush a week after his inauguration speech. And through provocative diplomacy he has alienated the Europeans by refusing to recognise a delegation representing the EU presidency that came to express concern. Now we will see if the project for political reform in the Middle East is real or rhetorical.
Mubarak continues to trade on Egypt’s strategic significance to manage the pressure for change. By being constructive on the Iraq issues at the Sharm al-Sheikh summit this week and promising to help with Israeli disengagement from Gaza, he is buying time for his regime. A senior European diplomat concedes: “Democracy poses a double conundrum for the west. Do you want the Islamists in power with their policies on gender, pluralism, etc? Do you want to threaten Egypt’s policy towards Israel, Iraq, etc?” The big test will come next month when the British government, as president of the G8, and the Arab League are due to host a joint summit on democracy and reform - in Cairo of all places. If the summit goes ahead with the situation unresolved, what hope there was for democracy in the Arab world will be languishing with Nur in his cell.
Why does the Mubarak regime continue to resort to these heavy-handed tactics against its peaceful opposition? Here is an attempted answer. Over nearly a quarter of a century, it has perfected the art of scare politics, at home and abroad. Those in Mubarak's regime argue that if he allowed democratization to proceed unchecked, with fair and honest elections, Islamists would undoubtedly take over.
None of his Western listeners ever answer this argument with some very pertinent questions: What, Mr. Mubarak, have you done to preserve the popularity of non-Islamist forces in the country? What has your regime done with more than $100 billion in foreign aid and remittances from Egyptians working abroad? Why has Egypt's ranking during your rule steadily worsened on every development index -- from that of the U.N. Development Program to the World Bank to Freedom House? And why does Egypt now rank with Russia, Syria and Nigeria among the most corrupt countries in the world?
Isn't it these dismal failings that feed popular discontent and contribute to the Islamists' growing numbers? And isn't it Mubarak's repression of secular civil forces that has kept the field empty for the Islamists in Egypt, where there are now more than 100,000 mosques where they can freely preach their message -- but only a handful of registered political parties and human rights groups?
Recently, as calls for political liberalization mounted from pro-democracy activists such as Ayman Nour and from the Group of Eight initiative for the Middle East, Mubarak has geared up his propaganda machine. The newspapers and newscasters now repeat endlessly the argument that economic reform and a settlement of the Palestinian question must take precedence -- as if a choice has to be made between these things and a genuinely democratic government for Egypt. (Lately Mubarak has added Iraq to this priority policy list.)
The free and fair elections in Iraq and Palestine, which would have to be regarded as premature by this standard -- both countries are, after all, under military occupation -- must have come as something of an embarrassment to Mubarak.At the end of the article, he notes his disapointment with the feeble reaction of the Bush administration to the Nour arrest and writes:
What we have so far from George W. Bush is fine language in his inaugural and State of the Union speeches. That message was loud and clear. The credibility of the messenger is what is still in doubt.This is clearly a call to the Bush administration to get tougher on Egypt, something they might be reluctant to do in light of Egypt's current involvement in the Gaza withdrawal and the peace process. Ibrahim is in Washington at the moment, writing his prison memoirs at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. I'm sure that while he's there he'll be having some interesting meetings. Speaking of the Council of Foreign Relations, neo-con thinker Max Boot had a piece in the Los Angeles Times a few days ago on Egypt. This is what he suggests:
Strong words alone will not dislodge an entrenched dictator like Hosni Mubarak. Obviously we're not going to send the 3rd Infantry Division to achieve regime change in Cairo. How, then, is Bush going to back up his demand for democracy? Here's a modest proposal: Reduce or eliminate altogether the $2-billion annual U.S. subsidy to Egypt unless there's real economic and political progress.It's worth noting that this is quite a different take on things that his Council of Foreign Relations colleague Steven Cook, who suggested that giving more money is the answer. Abu Aardvark had a debate about this a few days ago, to which I'll add more soon.
Lawyer Nassir Amin, Director of the Arab Center for the Independence of Judiciary and Legal Profession (ACIJLP), the spokesperson of Alliance for Democracy and Reform (ADR)expressed the concern of the alliance regarding the decision of the High Council of Press in February 8th 2005, Tuesday on not allowing the issuance and printing of Al-Ghad newspaper.
The Alliance’s spokesperson said that the concern of the Alliance is increasing as the decision comes at the same time of the investigations with the chairmen of Al-Ghad party and parliament member Dr. Aymn Nour . He afraid that this decision may show the real dimensions of the accusations against Dr. Nour. The Alliance’s spokesperson said that the allied institutions consider this decision contradicts with the statements of Mr. Safwat El Sherif, General Secretary of National Democratic Party and president of the Shoura Council, who assured that the investigations with Dr. Nour have no relation with Al-Ghad party and will not affect the existence of the party in the Egyptian political life.
The Alliance’s spokesperson said that this decision may lead the party and its newspaper to a series of judicial appeals and then to not implementing the sentence of the judiciary as happened with El Shab newspaper that issued by Al-Amal party and El-Dastour newspaper. He added that the two newspapers are not allowed to work although the judiciary issued many sentences allowing the issuance of the newspapers.
The Alliance’s spokesperson appeals to the President of the Republic to intervene to protect Al-Ghad party and to allow issuing the party’s newspaper. The Alliance’s spokesperson indicated the danger of the decision on the on-going dialogue between the National Democratic Party and opposition parties, and he explained the negative consequences of the decision on the endeavors to create openness in the political atmosphere in Egypt.It looks like Al Ghad (party and paper) may be heading for the political freezer, like Al Shaab (the Labor Party mouthpiece) did a few years ago. Which makes you wonder why they allowed the party to be created in the first place.
"It is futile."
President Hosni Mubarak on the opposition's call for constitutional reform.
"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."
The Borg, in Star Trek The Next Generation.
"My election manifesto has been announced and exists and is applied every day, for I'm not new to the scene and my acts are my manifesto."
President Hosni Mubarak on his campaign program.
"I will continue, aboard this ship, to speak for the Borg. While they continue, without further diversion, to Sector 001, where they will force your unconditional surrender."
Locutus of Borg.
Will the constitution with its flaws remain governing us for more years to come, with no changes allowed to approach it. And will any call to change it be described as futile as President Mubarak said. Or is changing the constitution possible as the policies secretariat said after President Mubarakâ€™s statement? Or is it as Ibrahim Nafaa wrote in Al Ahram two days ago when he said â€œChanging the constitution is present, but it is not the end of the road.â€�A nice summary of the mixed signals coming down from on high.
The difference between the word futile, which President Mubarak used, and the word present which Ibrhaim Nafaa used, is big. So is changing the constitution futile or present? It is known that the editor in chief of a Al Ahram does not interpret the text, and that the text here is the word of the President, which remains an eminent decree with respect to any editor in chief for a state-owned newspaper. Maybe Ibrahim Nafaa wanted to lessen the impact of the word futile on a shocked public opinion.When Mahana talks about "interpret the text" (yigtahad al naS) he uses the verb for ijtihad, which generally refers to interpretation of the Koran. The not so subtle implication is that the word of Mubarak is akin to the word of God. But here is where it gets good:
All those following the political scene in past weeks and months observed the tendency of the authorities and its apparatuses to escalate the situation, leaning towards using force to eliminate the differences with the opposition. This reminds some of September 5, 1981, which culminated with the president of the state himself becoming a victim after he lost the compass of leadership. The late President Anwar Al Asadat thought that the security emergency would be guaranteed by realizing the stability that he desired, and by ridding himself of the annoyances of the opposition, if only temporarily. But the cost was high and he lost his life on the anniversary of the great victory.
Increasing self confidence sometimes leads people to make fatal mistakes, and prevents them from seeing the true magnitude of things. So they behave as if they alone decide who comes and goes from power without considering other forces in society and abroad.This is almost a threat. At the least it is a dark warning. Continue on this path Mr. President and suffer a similar fate to that of your predecessor. The September 5, 1981 event Mahana refers to is Sadat's sudden imprisonment of virtually every opposition figure in Egypt, be they left, right or center. He was assassinated a month later.
...If this state of confusion and fog in the street continues, like that which is present at the pinnacle of power and at the level of the political decision makers, how will we exit from this dilemma? By defining a clear means for the rotation of power and by changing the constitution, and it remains unknown if this is a possibility that is â€œfutileâ€� or â€œpresent?â€�
Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed a truce to end more than four years of fighting, both sides confirmed today.
Negotiators from both sides finalised the agreement during last-minute preparations for tomorrow's summit meeting between the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
"The most important thing at the summit will be a mutual declaration of cessation of violence against each other," said Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator. An Israeli government official, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, confirmed the agreement, adding that the deal would also include an end to Palestinian incitement.So have Hamas and Islamic Jihad really agreed to a final hudna? If so, for how long? And will this mean the Israelis will refrain from bulldozing houses, confiscating land and other measures?