Cablegate: Scenesetter for the July 31 Visit of Secretaries

DE RUEHEG #2280/01 2051701
O 241701Z JUL 07

"S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 002280




E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/20/2017

Classified By: Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone
for reasons 1.4 (a), (b), and (d)

1. (C) The Egyptians welcome the joint visit of the
Secretaries of State and Defense as a clear signal of mutual

recognition of shared strategic interests, despite recent
highly publicized bilateral tensions. President Mubarak and
ministers Aboul Gheit, Tantawi, and Soliman, expect the focus
of the bilateral sessions to be on restarting the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and Iraq. They are also
keenly interested in U.S. intentions towards Iran, and we can
exploit the bilats to press on Sudan. We should also remind
the Egyptians that we want them to approach democratic
political reform as a positive and enduring element in our
relations, and neither a cause for antagonism nor a passing
USG interest that they can successfully outwait. At the
""Gulf Cooperation Council Plus Two"" meeting, the Egyptians
will work with us constructively, though typically with scant
initiative, on addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
Iraq, Lebanon, terror, and weapons of mass destruction.


2. (S) The Egyptians are eager to see a re-energizing of the
peace process. In public, they reacted moderately positively
to the President's July 16 speech, though in private they say
they see little new in it. The instability of Gaza continues
to vex the Egyptians. Hamas' June takeover of Gaza has now
left the GoE and Hamas face to face on the Philadelphi
corridor. The Egyptians have told us repeatedly that they do
not seek immediate Hamas-Palestinian Authority rapprochement,
but they do see this as ultimately necessary -- after first
""squeezing"" Hamas. The GoE evidently has maintained limited
contact with Hamas, not so much to seek Palestinian
reconciliation as to avoid clashes on the border, and to keep
Egypt involved as ""a player.""

3. (S) The Egyptians deeply resent Israeli complaints that
Egypt either cannot or will not stop smuggling into Gaza,
even as the Treaty of Peace precludes Egypt from stationing
military forces on the border. As we and the Israelis have
stepped up the pressure on this issue, the MoD has begun more
emphatically to assert a need to ""revisit"" with the Israelis
the terms of the 28-year-old Treaty. They also have invited
any Americans who will take the trouble to observe first hand
their efforts at combating smuggling along the Philadelphi
corridor. Two Congressional delegations have visited Rafah
recently. The Egyptians continue to communicate with the
Israelis through EGIS and military channels in their efforts
to find and destroy smuggling tunnels. We have urged them to
maximize the amount of Border Guard Forces allowed per
GoI-GoE agreements, including in ""Zone B,"" and to use these
increases to support their mission along Philadelphi. We
also have informed them of Israeli interest in increasing the
channels of communication at the border, to include civilian
security services.

4. (C) The closure of the Rafah crossing since June 9 has
stranded thousands of Gazans in Egypt. The GoE, GoI, and PA,
with our support, appear to have reached high-level political
agreement on July 22 to allow the Gazans to return via
Israel, but this process has not yet started on the ground.


5. (S) Constantly in private and occasionally in public,
Mubarak and Aboul Gheit continue to stress that a precipitous
U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be a ""double"" disaster.
Mubarak has led Arab political engagement with the Iraqi
government. Since receiving PM Maliki in April and hosting
him again at the Iraq Neighbors Conference in Sharm in early
May, Mubarak has received Iraqi (Sunni) VP Hashemi in June,
and this month Egypt has hosted U.S.-sponsored training
sessions for Iraqi technocrats. The GoE views as further
evidence of GoI incompetence the fact that the GoI has not
responded to repeated GoE urging to nominate an Iraqi
ambassador to Cairo. While welcoming the visits of PM Maliki
and his predecessor, as well as president Talabani, FM
Zebari, and NSA Rubaei, the GoE also maintains discreet and
limited contacts with legitimate non-violent Iraqi opposition
figures, notably Ayad al-Allawy and Adnan Pachachi. Mubarak
frankly expects the Maliki government to fail, and continues
to see a ""strong but fair"" leader as the most urgent
requirement for Iraqi stability. Egypt has scored some
successes against the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, but
transit to Iraq through Syria (which does not require visas

CAIRO 00002280 002 OF 003

for Arab citizens) remains a problem. Foreign Ministry
contacts have told us the ""GCC Plus Two"" participants are in
wait-and-see mode in expectation of General Petraeus'
September report.


6. (C) We have two vital security interests with Egypt: its
peace with Israel, and unfettered U.S. military access to the
Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace, including ground-based
support for USAF operations. The Egyptian political and
military leadership has long controlled and guaranteed both
of these U.S. interests, despite negative popular attitudes.
The GoE has made it clear that they directly link our FMF
assistance to their protection of our strategic interests
here. Egyptian leaders have continued to express their ire
at the recent congressional effort to place conditions on
FMF, arguing that any reduction would send a powerfully
negative message ""to the Egyptian people"" that the U.S. is
reconsidering the strategic basis of the relationship, rooted
in Camp David.

7. (C) The GoE should work with us to strengthen and update
the military relationship within the context of explicit
shared interests, such as the global war on terrorism, border
security, and PKOs. In addition, we should be clear that
Egyptian democracy and human rights issues are enduring, core
American interests and will remain significant factors in the
FMF assistance debate. Our reduction of Bright Star to a
table-top exercise sharply disappointed the MoD, but they now
appear accurately to have grasped the reasons for this. More
recently, the Egyptians came through with emergency
ammunition for Lebanon, ultimately reducing their initially
inflated prices to fair levels. A few words of thanks to
Tantawi from SecDef would help us the next time we turn to
MoD for such help.


8. (C) Mubarak's long-standing suspicion of ""Shiite"" Iranian
machinations is unabated, not least because he knows the
general Egyptian populace is historically and theologically
""soft on Shiism."" Hamas' ascendancy in Gaza has only
increased GoE leadership concerns about the need to counter
Iranian influence over Hamas, particularly due to Hamas'
links with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Gazan family
ties to the Bedouin in Sinai. President Mubarak and his
national security team will seek a readout of our intentions
on Iran. They have told us outright that they suspect we are
setting the stage for a military strike against Iran.


9. (C) Although Egyptian officials will say that Sudanese
president Bashir,s acceptance of the hybrid force obviates
the need for &further pressure,8 we should nonetheless push
them to press Bashir on accepting UN command and control and
a full Chapter VII mandate for the hybrid force in a UNSCR
currently under discussion. Egypt,s primary concern
continues to be the stability and territorial integrity of
its southern neighbor, and Aboul Gheit has praised UN/AU
initiatives to bring together Darfur Peace Agreement
non-signatories as showing that the international community
is united in pressing all parties for peace. Increasing
confrontations between Egyptian security forces and Sudanese
refugees being smuggled into Israel have occurred recently,
resulting in the deaths of several refugees. The MFA has
denied the GoI's claim, widely reported in the Israeli media,
that Mubarak ""agreed"" with Olmert in Sharm in late June not
to refoule Sudanese refugees, should Israel deport them to


10. (S) Egypt's domestic political situation has reverted to
stagnation, as the country fatalistically awaits Mubarak's
departure. Economic growth continues, but the poorest
Egyptians have yet to benefit proportionately to their
numbers. Prices continue to rise, and the freer media
environment gives greater salience to populist opposition to
continuing, though slower, privatization of public companies
and banks. Labor has also protested salary delays and
perceived threats of layoffs, with wildcat strikes and
occupation of factories -- another political phenomenon given
greater impact by a freer media. The GOE's campaign of
arrests and intimidation of the Muslim Brotherhood resulted

CAIRO 00002280 003 OF 003

in the MB's ""independent"" candidates winning none of the
seats in the June 11 Shura Council (upper house) elections,
which were dominated by candidates from Mubarak's ruling
National Democratic party. The GoE continues to use a
military tribunal to prosecute 40 MB activists on money
laundering and related charges.


11. (C) Elements of the GoE-controlled press attacked
democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim for his participation
in a late May meeting on Arab democracy in Doha, as well as
his attendance at a June 6 meeting with President Bush in
Prague. Ibrahim is traveling outside Egypt. NDP legislators
and pro-GoE writers have called for his arrest and trial on
treason charges upon his return, but Mubarak and Aboul Gheit
have assured the Ambassador, albeit back-handedly, that
Ibrahim and other such dissidents, whose cases we have
pressed, have ""nothing to fear."" We have also raised with
Mubarak, PM Nazif, and Aboul Gheit the arrests and harassment
by GoE security services of several religious activists.
USAID continues to fund a robust range of democracy programs
with Egyptian civil society, but we expect continued GoE
controls and outright pressure on NGOs. We maintain close
contacts with Gameela Ismail, wife of Ayman Nour, who tells
us that she is hopeful that Nour's request for a health-based
parole will be granted on July 31. We detect no change in
the GOE's stance on Nour.

© Scoop Media

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