Gamal Mubakak meets Bush, Cheney, Rice, Hadley

Gamal Mubarak met with Dick Cheney and other senior US officials the day after last week's protests:

Gamal Mubarak, 42, a powerful political player and widely considered a possible heir to his father, Hosni Mubarak, told the U.S. officials that Egypt is committed to further democracy but said it would be a long-term process that will include setbacks. "There was no tension at all," Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmi said in an interview. "They listened to his explanation of what was happening."

. . .

[Egyptian ambassador to the US Nabil] Fahmi said Mubarak was on a "private visit" and decided to see top administration officials Friday. A source familiar with the talks said Mubarak came to the United States to renew his pilot's license. Neither side announced the meetings, which were first reported by al-Jazeera television and later confirmed by U.S. spokesmen.

Aside from Cheney, Mubarak had a separate White House meeting with national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. President Bush stopped by for a few minutes to shake Mubarak's hand and convey greetings to his father. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stayed for a portion of the discussion with Hadley. It is unusual for a private foreign citizen with no official portfolio to receive so much high-level attention.
Why does he have a pilot's license in the US? Is he a US citizen? Would someone really make a trip all the way over there to renew a pilot's license and, while at it, casually stroll by Dick Cheney's office to see if he had time for a cup of coffee and a nice chat? And meet the president while hanging around the West Wing's water cooler?

My bet is that this is related to the heat Egypt has been getting in Congress on the military aid issue. And that would suggest, contrary to common pundit wisdom in Egypt, that Gamal does indeed have a foreign affairs/security portfolio on top of his public domestic policy/economy agenda. But of course it could be about all kinds of other issues, not least succession scenarios and his father's ailing health, which is rumored to be a growing concern in US circles.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.