The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged obamacairospeech
Links for 07.08.09 to 07.09.09
Bint Al-Beltway | Blog by Washington-based policy wonk, good stuff on Syria, Lebanon, US MENA policy, technology and military issues.
Middle East Report Online: The Day After “Victory”: Kuwait’s 2009 Election and the Contentious Present by Mary Ann Tétreault and Mohammed Al-Ghanim | On Kuwait's election.
Palestinians reject Netanyahu's 'economic peace' plan - Haaretz - Israel News | As well they should, Palestinians don't need an economic boost, they need independence and the end of the occupation.
A Renditions Scandal in Britain—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine) | On the case of Rangzieb Ahmed, an Ethipian rendited to Pakistan, which is currently being investigated by Britain. Which is more than you can say about Obama's decision not to investigate and prosecute these cases in America.
Hamas: Mubarak doesn't know soldier's condition - Yahoo! News | Mubarak had said Shalit was well, but Hamas says Hosni has no idea what he's talking about.
International Crisis Group - Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along The Trigger Line | Another ICG report on the important issue of how to settle resource-sharing, political rule among the Kurds and Arabs of Iraq, urges US to mediate resolution before withdrawal.
In Morocco, an Alternative to Democracy - Morocco Board News Service | Excellent critique of a stupid WaPo article on Morocco.
Q&A with Iranian Opposition Politician Ebrahim Yazdi Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Essential interview with Iranian opposition figure.
The Israeli ambassador is a dual national. | Isn't that a problem?
Views | A veiled attack on freedom in France's niqab debate | Egyptian Muslim Brother Ibrahim al-Houdeiby on the France/niqab debate. Interesting use of Obama's Cairo speech at the end.

Egypt-US: Just like the old days

Barack Obama's Cairo speech -- whatever you might say of his fine rhetoric on Islam and Palestine -- was also, and over time might also be chiefly, a reassertion of the traditional relationship between Egypt and the United States, dropping most pretense of being interested in democracy promotion. Instead, in the democracy segment of his speech, he mostly focused on those things that are popular with Americans, such as religious (rather than civic and political) freedoms, and appeared to warn against Islamist parties being elected when he warned that democracy is not just about elections (a fine claim if he had added that it's also about civic rights, rather than mentioning it in the context of Islamism - "there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others").

But I wouldn't take all this rhetoric too seriously: just as Obama was contemplating making the speech, he was giving the go-ahead on the resumption of the usual military ties between the two countries. After 2005, when the US-Egypt relationship was damaged and Congress (mostly driven by the Gaza tunnels issue but given political cover by Egypt's poor human rights record) wanted to reduce aid. At the same time, the Bush administration was withholding certain weapons deals - a tactic that has been used in the past as a form of pressure (or negotiating tactics), with some results. Obama has now dropped these claims by approving multiple deals, including 24 new F-16 fighter jets :

Egypt's hosting of President Barack Obama's "mutual respect" speech to the Muslim world came at the same time the Obama administration quietly was agreeing to Egypt's longstanding request to purchase some 24 F-16 fighters, according to a report in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.

According to informed sources, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates relayed the commitment in his May 5 meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Another source adds:

The Egyptian request for the F-16 fighter jets and other military equipment had been denied repeatedly by the former Bush administration over Egypt's record on human rights and democracy.

The other equipment included the Longbow Apache helicopter, mobile air defense systems and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) which is a guidance kit that converts existing unguided or "dumb" bombs into "smart" munitions.

Lockheed Martin chief executive officer Robert Stevens confirmed that the company had been notified of the Egyptian request.

The 24 F-16s would replace some of the other 220 F-16s of varying capability that Egypt has acquired on five separate occasions beginning in 1980 under direct U.S. Foreign Military Sales and through the Netherlands and Turkey.

Egypt has been flying the F-16 since 1982, and acquired a total of 220 of those jets since 2002 (42 Block 15 F-16A/B, 40 Block 32 F-16C/D and 138 Block 40 F-16C/D).

Now it may be that the deals went ahead as part of wider negotiations we are unaware of, or as a reward for Egypt's role in the Middle East Peace Process post-Gaza War. But it could also just be that the Obama administration is rejecting all previous Bush policies in the region, even the ones that had some good rationale. Egypt is headed into an uncertain presidential succession, with possible regime divisions on who will succeed the ill, 81-year-old Hosni Mubarak and a disgruntled, strained population. Perhaps it wants to secure the continued pro-US leaning of the officer corps. Perhaps it just wants to give US arms companies money and help keeps jobs in the US in a recession.

But one thing it's not is a principled foreign policy, and one thing Barack Obama is not is a holier-than-thou president. So let's stop treating him as the second coming.

Over the next few days I'll take a look at some of the other outcomes of the speech and some recent changes in the Egypt-US relationship.
Les islamistes Ć©gyptiens sensibles au discours de Barack Obama - Afrique - Le
Les islamistes égyptiens sensibles au discours de Barack Obama - Afrique - Le
Le Monde picks up on different interpretations of Obama's speech among Muslim Brothers. It also cites Egyptian expert on the MB Amr Shoubaki (one of my faves), mentioning he has recently published a book on the MB in French - seehere. Mabrouk ya Amr!

Obama's Lost Opportunity to Address Coptic Persecution
Obama's Lost Opportunity to Address Coptic Persecution
If you read this release from something called the Assyrian International News Agency, where the same person that voices concern for the Copts also condemns "the Islamization of America", you'll worry that some Coptic activists are making the mistake of associating with fringe loonies to the detriment of their worthy cause. But then again Copts in exile have long played political football with the situation of their brethren who remain in Egypt.