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Cablegate: Egyptian Liberals Predict Momentum for Reform Will

VZCZCXRO4931
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHEG #4899 2210854
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 090854Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0433
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 004899

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR MIKE SINGH

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM IS LE EG
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN LIBERALS PREDICT MOMENTUM FOR REFORM WILL
BE SET BACK BY LEBANON CRISIS


Classified by DCM Stuart Jones, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Several of Embassy's liberal and activist
contacts have expressed distress over American policy
regarding Lebanon, as well as concern about the ramifications
of the current crisis on Egyptian reform efforts. In a
series of meetings with a range of reform-minded contacts,
poloff was told repeatedly that momentum for political reform
has been ""set back,"" and that the crisis has further
radicalized Egyptians and broadened support for Islamists.
END SUMMARY.

2. (C) In an August 6 meeting with poloff, Nasser Amin
(General Director, Arab Center for the Independence of the
Judiciary and Legal Profession) opined that the Lebanon
crisis is a ""golden opportunity"" for the GOE, as it provides
for channeling the Egyptian activist community,s energies
into protesting against the USG and Israel, vice protesting
against the Egyptian regime. Asserting that, ""we have been
set back 2-3 years in terms of momentum for internal reform
in Egypt,"" Amin also observed, ""Kefaya and other reform
advocates do not want U.S. pressure now for domestic reform,
because if they welcome American support, they will be
tainted as being traitors and accomplices of the war crimes
the U.S. and Israel are committing in Lebanon ... the U.S.
has become a pariah in Egyptian public opinion.""

3. (C) During an August 7 meeting, Mona Zulficar (a prominent
lawyer, leading womens' rights advocate, and member of the
National Council on Human Rights) echoed Amin's comments,
telling poloff, ""those who were pushing for reform before are
now in the streets protesting against the 'Great Satans' of
Israel and America. All momentum for political reform in
Egypt has been lost."" Zulficar lamented that she had to
cancel upcoming TV appearances to discuss human rights and
reform issues, ""as I know I'll be asked about Lebanon, and I
would have to declare my support for Hizbullah, because it is
impossible now for even we liberals to make distinctions
between the resistance that Hassan Nasrallah represents and
the fundamentalist ideology he propogates - I must support
him irrespective of my abhorrence of his Islamist agenda.""

4. (C) At an August 6 meeting with Ghada Shabunder of the
reform group Shayfeenkum (""We See You"") and Engi El Haddad of
the Afro-Egyptian Human Rights Organization, poloff was told
that the USG and Israel are ""systematically rallying support
for Hizbullah by your appalling policies ... who can blame
the demonstrators?"" Bemoaning that Lebanon will likely
""overshadow"" reform activities in the coming months,
Shabunder criticized the U.S. position as a ""betrayal"": ""you
are pushing even secular, educated Egyptians to support
Hizbullah."" Both expressed anxiety about continuing to
accept USG funding via MEPI grants to their NGO's in the wake
of the Lebanon crisis.

5. (C) In an August 8 meeting, leader of the leftist
opposition party Al Taggamu, Refaat Said, opined that U.S.
policy ""in support of Israel is further radicalizing Egypt
and pushing public opinion towards Hizbullah, and therefore
towards Islamists writ large ... You have created a new Arab
hero - Hassan Nasrallah is the 21st century's Hassan Al
Banna."" (Note: Al Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in
1928. End Note). Said asserted that the current crisis has
resulted in, ""general enmity towards the central idea of
peace, and undermined U.S. credibility in terms of pushing
for democratic principles.""

6. (C) Gehad Auda, Chair of the Helwan University Department
of Political Science and reform advocate, advised poloff on
August 1 that, ""the U.S. must regain your honest broker role
... the same Egyptian forces that were demonstrating two
months ago for democracy are now protesting for war. The
dynamic has been radically changed ... the U.S. must 'hit'
Israel somehow, rhetorically or via policy, in order to
salvage the American image among Arabs.8

7. (C) Unlike his counterparts, Hisham Kassem, liberal
publisher of the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Yom,
asserted to poloff on August 3 his continued support of U.S.
policy, despite Lebanese civilian losses, as ""we need to be
in a war against Hizbullah."" He nonetheless highlighted that
he was ""troubled and saddened"" by the sight of Egyptians
demonstrating in support of Nasrallah.

RICCIARDONE

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