Cablegate: Codel Ackerman Meetings with Mubarak, Suleiman,

DE RUEHEG #1416/01 1891355

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 001416



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2028

REF: A. CAIRO 1193
B. CAIRO 1388

CAIRO 00001416 001.2 OF 003

Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey, for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: In separate June 28 meetings with President
Hosni Mubarak, EGIS Director Omar Suleiman, and FM Ahmed
Aboul Gheit, CODEL Ackerman and the Ambassador discussed
Israeli-Palestinian developments (focusing on Egypt's goals
for building upon the current "calming period"), Egypt's
regional relations, and various human rights criticisms of
Egypt. CODEL Ackerman was composed of Rep. Gary Ackerman
(D-NY), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Thad McCotter
(R-MI), Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Rep. Russ Carnahan
(D-MO), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), and professional staff members
David Adams, Jamie McCormick and Howard Diamond. End summary.


2. (C) In a 75-minute meeting with Mubarak, CODEL Ackerman
focused largely on Israeli-Palestinian peace process issues,
with Mubarak noting in regard to the current Egyptian-backed
"calming" between Israel and Hamas that, "Hamas cannot be
trusted, but at least we can try to make them calm for the
time being." Mubarak observed that "Gaza is not only Hamas,"
and therefore, he had asked EGIS Director Omar Suleiman to
bring the leaders of at least ten Palestinian factions to
Cairo for discussions. XXXXXXXXXXXX.
He stressed that combating tunnels on Egypt's
borders is "the job of both Israel and Egypt, not just
Egypt," and that the sea border between Egypt and Gaza is
"also problematic." Mubarak detailed Egypt's efforts to
detect tunnels, asserting that 2-3 tunnels are destroyed
daily, for a total of 280 destroyed tunnels to date. Mubarak
urged that Israel do a better job of patrolling its side of
the border, so that both countries can better combat
smuggling - "we cannot control it 100%. We need lots of
forces to do that."

3. (C) In lengthy remarks critical of Iran's "trouble-making"
regional role, Mubarak noted that a variety of Iranian
officials have visited him to make the case for rebuilding
diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tehran. Mubarak said
that he had offered to restore relations if the Iranians
would (1) return to Egypt some extremists, now resident in
Iran, who were involved in the 1981 assassination of Anwar
Sadat, and (2) rename Tehran's Islambuli street (named after
Sadat's assassin). He said the Iranians had made "many
promises, but never delivered" and that over the past few
months, the Iranians have eased up on the effort to engage
with Egypt. He observed that Iran is "dangerous,
over-confident, and threatening." When queried by Rep.
Ackerman as to the extent of Egypt's economic relations with
Iran, Mubarak said that commercial contacts are "quite
limited, because I do not trust them." He also said that he
expects to cross paths with Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad at
the mid-July Euro-Med summit in Paris - "we will shake hands,
but there will be no substantive meeting." Mubarak
emphasized that he is still not prepared to invite Assad to
Egypt, "because he has said so many things against us." On
Iraq, Mubarak observed that a "fair dictator" is needed, and
that "it would be a big mistake for you to leave suddenly. A
strong leader, and capable armed forces and police are needed
before you leave." He noted that Egypt is prepared to host
and train 2,000-3,000 Iraqi forces every few months, but that
the offer had not been acted upon by the Iraqis.

4. (C) In response to Rep. McCotter's question about recent
sectarian violence at an Egyptian monastery (ref A), Mubarak
said that the issue is a dispute over land, not an
inter-religious problem. Noting that the land in question
belongs "neither to the Copts nor the Muslims, but to the
state," Mubarak said that the issue has been exaggerated by
the media, and that the reality is that Christians and
Muslims live "easily together" in Egypt. Following a Mubarak
monologue on the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Rep.
Ackerman noted that the U.S. is supportive of Egyptian
efforts to crack down on extremism, but that "there is a
difference between terrorists and domestic political
opposition. If your policy is to kill all the weeds in your
garden, you will probably end up killing all the flowers as
well. It is so important to have an increased tolerance of

CAIRO 00001416 002 OF 003

the legitimate opposition here, so that it is not suppressed,
leaving Egyptians with only illegitimate and terrorist
outlets to turn to." Mubarak responded by elaborating further
on the threat posed by the MB. When Rep. Jackson-Lee inquired
about "Egyptians who have been thrown in jail simply for
speaking their minds," Mubarak responded "That is impossible!
Only terrorists get put in jail." He opined that freedom of
the press has improved dramatically ("I have opened up the
gates of freedom to the maximum"), with journalists
constantly criticizing the government, and that only those
who break the law are put in jail.

5. (C) Rep. Neugebaeur inquired about Egypt's planned nuclear
program, which Mubarak stressed "is for nuclear power only.
We are a party to the NPT, and of course will allow
inspections, as we have nothing to hide." Asked by Rep.
Ackerman about the impact of the Al Hurra TV station, Mubarak
said, "I've never seen Al Hurra - it is better for you to
close it. Anti-Americanism is the result of American policy
in the region, not a propaganda failure."


6. (C) In a subsequent meeting, EGIS Director Suleiman
asserted that the "real threat" is extremism, and underlined
what the Egyptians plan to do to combat it - (1) strengthen
relations and coordination with the Israelis, (2) support
Mahmoud Abbas, and (3) bring the Palestinian Authority (PA)
back to Gaza. He opined that Hamas is under pressure, as the
Gazan population is very poor and "becoming wild." Suleiman
enumerated the benefits of the "calming" period that he
engineered as the lack of violence preventing which prevents
a further inflaming of Palestinian emotions (and the
resultant increase in Hamas' popularity) due to TV footage of
Palestinians injured and killed by Israelis. He also said the
"calming" allows for Israeli cities near Gaza to not be
threatened. Ultimately, Suleiman hopes that if the quiet
period persists, jobs can be found for Gazans, and thus their
hope for the future will return. Outlining an overall
three-stage vision for the future, Suleiman said first, calm
in Gaza must be achieved, to be followed within weeks by
talks regarding Shalit's release. After that, a dialogue
will be started about returning the PA to Gaza, using as an
incentive the "sweetener" that Rafah will be re-opened, under
Israeli and European observation, with the PA in control.

7. (C) Suleiman opined that the first few days of the
"calming" period had not been ideal, but that he had
counseled the Israelis to be patient, as "it takes time for
Hamas to get things under their full control." He said that
he was encouraging indirect negotiations between Hamas and
Israel, and that on July 15, "we will start negotiating on
principles for how Shalit will be released." Suleiman also
noted his appreciation for USG-provided tunnel detection
equipment, which he said would be operational in August.

8 (C) Suleiman repeated throughout the meeting his goal of
creating a "new atmosphere" that can "build confidence, keep
the region quieter, and give Abbas and Israel a better chance
of achieving agreement on final status issues." He said that
before the end of the year, the Palestinians and Israelis
need to reach some sort of understanding - "not necessarily a
final agreement, but something tangible" - on border issues,
Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem. He advocated that Israel
offer Palestinians the opportunity to come back to Israel for
"family unification" purposes, opining that "not that many,
maybe only ten to fifteen thousand" will actually want to
return, but that such an offer would "satisfy the Palestinian
desire for return." Suleiman also urged enhanced economic
support for the Palestinians from the international community
- "the economy has to improve, and give people hope." He also
commented that, "the Israelis must help Abbas by lifting
their siege and giving security responsibility to the PA,
thereby giving the PA some credit .... Give the PA a chance
to prove they are capable."

9. (C) Ackerman queried Suleiman as to whether 750 Egyptian
personnel were consistently at posts along the border;
Suleiman confirmed that the Egyptians are currently
maintaining a constant presence of 750. In response to
queries about Hamas' popularity, Suleiman averred that it has
decreased, stating that, "Palestinians are suffering, and
they blame Hamas, not Israel."


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10. (C) In a later meeting with FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the FM
complained to the CODEL that the U.S. ESF package to Egypt
"has been halved to $200 million annually, while Egypt is
paying debts and accruing interests to the U.S. of $350
million per year, with the net result that Egypt is paying
you $150 million per year. This hurts us, and between two
allies, the poorer party should not be paying the richer
country." Aboul Gheit argued that Egypt is a pillar of
stability in the region, but will not be able to maintain
that stability if the economy does not improve, jobs get
created, and the bread subsidy continue to get paid. On
relations with the U.S., Aboul Gheit noted that "we are not
estranged, we work together with honest discussions, but we
do not understand why we should be paying you $150 million
per year." During a lengthy discussion on the centrality of
the peace process, and the need for both Palestinians and
Israelis to make concessions, Aboul Gheit observed that
paradoxically, the "calming" period might help Hamas to
strengthen its standing with Palestinians - "Hamas is
offering law and order in Gaza, but also economic
deprivation. With this calming, Israel might resume the flow
of commodities and trade with Gaza, so the quality of life
there might improve. Meanwhile, nothing is improving in the
West Bank, where the PA is in control, so Hamas looks better
than the PA."

11. (C) Turning to Lebanon, Aboul Gheit noted that he was
urging the Israelis to "give Shebaa Farms to the UN - that
would take away Hizbullah's pretext for being in Lebanon, and
therefore corner both them and the Iranians." He remarked
that there was little Israeli enthusiasm for such an
approach. On Sudan, the FM noted his frustration with the UN.
He said that Egypt had offered the UN two Egyptian
battalions, "roughly 3,500 people, to work under the UN as a
hybrid force. And we are now ready to commit even a third
battalion, to help stabilize Darfur." Aboul Gheit said that
the UN has agreed to take one Egyptian battalion, but wanted
a second battalion from the Europeans or Nepal, "but the
Sudanese will not agree to this."

12. (C) Aboul Gheit became visibly irritated when pressed on
Egypt's recent forcible return of Eritrean refugees to
Eritrea (ref B), noting that UNHCR officials are "lazy" and
have not interviewed Eritreans for resettlement, while
meanwhile the refugees are "doing terrible things here in
Egypt, and thus we do not want them here." He asserted that
those who criticized Egypt for returning the refugees should
offer to take refugees themselves, rather than pressing Egypt
to do so: "If you want refugees, we can give you 1000 today,
or maybe you can give us $50 million to care for them here!"
He pronounced that "out of 4 million refugees resident in
Egypt, UNHCR has resettled only 16 in the past year!"
Responding to questions about journalists and bloggers being
detained and sectarian tensions, Aboul Gheit and one of his
assistants asserted that Egyptian law guarantees full
equality to all Egyptians, of any religion or creed. "The
problem is that Egyptian citizens are not yet at an advanced
stage of development .... how, as a government, do you
maneuver in a society prone to violence? Remember, we are not
America, we are not Europe. We are Sicily!"

13. (U) This cable was not cleared by CODEL Ackerman.

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