Hosni In The House
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak meets with President Obama at the White House today to renew Egyptian-U.S. relations in what is widely perceived to be a crucial partnership in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Criticism of Obama has come from many camps, as the discussion is not set to cover democracy and human rights concerns. Egyptian dissident Ayman Nour accuses Obama of failing to deliver on his promises to promote political reform.
Mubarak’s invitation to the White House has disappointed Egyptians and Obama supporters alike, writes Egyptian dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim in the Wall Street Journal. By supporting yet another dictator friendly to the U.S., Obama is pursuing status quo politics with Egypt and reneging on his commitments to change and democracy articulated in his Cairo speech, writes Ibrahim.
Governance is a key issue in relations with the octogenarian Mubarak, as 2011′s presidential elections loom. Concerns over succession have become a top issue for observers since Mubarak’s son, Gamal has accompanied his father to Washington. Gamal is thought to be in waiting for the presidency; his appearance could be an attempt to introduce the administration to Egypt’s future leadership, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Some argue that Gamal Mubarak may be just what the U.S. needs, writes Sara Khorshid in the Guardian. He is a Western-minded economic reformer who could facilitate the Americans’ recent policy of indirectly supporting democratic reform via economic development. Yet she writes that despite Gamal’s liberal economic agenda, poverty and corruption remain pervasive and destabilize Egypt. Additionally, Gamal’s ascension to the presidency could prompt conflict if resisted by either the political or military establishments, which could shake the foundation of the regime. For Obama, addressing poverty, corruption and illiteracy are key to supporting Egypt, argues Khorshid.
Observers have provided a host of other policy suggestions for the Obama administration in approaching democracy with Egypt. In an interesting article in the Huffington Post, Neil Hicks writes that Obama should use today as an opportunity to ask Mubarak to secure election processes and political reform–which he launched for the 2005 elections–for upcoming parliamentary elections in 2010. Credible elections, writes Hicks, will be the first step to democratic reform and respect for rule of law and human rights in Egypt.
The American commitment to development in Egypt, argue Tamara Coffman Wittes and Michele Dunne, must be centered on supporting accountable and transparent governance, which are the insurers of development success. As a post-Mubarak era is on the horizon, they argue that Obama and Mubarak should strengthen Egyptian-U.S. relations by establishing a broad strategic partnership for the future. This would address military cooperation, foreign aid, governance and political rights in Egypt.
Importantly, Wittes and Dunne insist that the U.S. should provide robust funding for civil society groups. A recent POMED report, however, reveals that such funding is on the decline. Civil society assistance, they argue, will empower everyday Egyptians to make democratic demands and will remove the risk that the U.S. is imposing a democracy agenda. Additionally, “funding civic groups is key to the Obama Administration’s stated assistance goals: American aid is meant to build partnerships with citizens abroad, not just with their governments.”
Contrariwise, Abdelmonem Said in the Washington Post writes that it is time to look beyond the “myopic” American-Egyptian relationship that focused on democratization and Egyptian-Israeli relations. Egypt’s stability makes it a central player in an increasingly unstable region prone to political fragmentation. Obama and Mubarak can forge a partnership that will work to address Israeli-Palestinian peace, Iraq’s security and nuclear Iran. Moreover, such a partnership, rather than focusing on the minutiae of democratization, will hamper the immediate threats of human and state security.