WaPo on Egypt-US relationship

The Washington Post, in its now increasingly rarer series of editorials on Egypt, highlights the crackdown on the press and the Bush administration's abandon of its policy of democracy promotion. Nothing very interesting, really, especially as the editorial suggests it was Bush that "inspired" the democracy movement (no, it's existed since at least 1952 in various forms, Egyptians did not wait for Bush to start hoping for democracy) and heaps praise on the largely irrelevant former (?) regime "intellectual" Osama Al Ghazali Harb and his irrelevant new party (will he be the Post's new Ayman Nour, since the US has forgotten about him?)

Blah.

I'm too distracted these days between Lebanon and work in Morocco to write about it much, but there are some important things taking place with the upgrade of the bilateral US-Egypt relationship. Condi Rice insisted that the US-Egyptian Strategic Dialogue (for that is it's name) includes discussion of Egypt's domestic situation, but the Egyptian press for the last few days has been quoting Mubarak saying that the US now understands that Egypt will not tolerate intrusion into its internal affairs etc... He literally goes on at lengths about this, and the message to the domestic audience is clear: fuggetaboutit -- it being American pressure on the regime, or even deciding not to support the regime as long as it continues the current repressive trend.

What the temporary pressure from the Bush administration did "inspire" democracy activists to do (although I think the 2005 election period was more important as far as Egypt was concerned) was go to international public opinion for their cause. The result of the reversal of policy is that those who dared stick their necks out will now be served a cold dish of revenge by the regime. What started with Ayman Nour, continued with Kifaya and Muslim Brotherhood activists, the judges and most recently the press is likely to continue until the regime feels it has hammered in the message enough: you are alone. For activists, especially during the coming phase of succession-transition, this will leave two possibilities: getting off the streets and stopping (or greatly reducing) their efforts, or escalating either through campaigns by foreign-based groups (such as those started by by Egyptian-Americans recently), or through political violence.
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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.