We now have the full text of the May 19, 2009 cable giving background in preparation for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to President Obama at the White House. This is the one where he said Iraq basically needs strong man rule.
But the cable is full of other insights:
1. Mubarak boycotted the Bush administration, starting in 2005, declining to make an annual trek to Washington. He only resumed the custom after Bush was out. He was furious at Bush’s public shaming of him for lack of democracy in Egypt.
2. “Mubarak viewed President Bush (43) as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran’s regional influence.”
3. Mubarak opposed the holding of the Jan. 2006 elections in the Palestine Authority that brought Hamas to power
4. Mubarak, being himself a military dictator, see military dictatorships as benign. He didn’t want Gen. Pervez Musharraf to lose power in Pakistan and opposed ” elections in 2006 that brought Hamas (Iran) to his doorstep. Now, we understand he fears that Pakistan is on the brink of falling into the hands of the Taliban.”
In other words, Mubarak, a wily old survivor, saw W. as a spoiled, brash, brat, and after he had Condi Rice publicly insult him in 2005, he just wrote that administration off, stopped coming to Washington, and lamented the clusterf**k Bush unleashed on his, Mubarak’s Middle East. He didn’t get the sense from the meetings he did have that Bush had the slightest idea what he was talking about, and he was convinced that Bush allowed himself to be bossed around by his own employees.
‘ President Mubarak last visited Washington in April 2004, breaking a twenty year tradition of annual visits to the White House. Egyptians view President Mubarak’s upcoming meeting with the President as a new beginning to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship that will restore a sense of mutual respect that they believe diminished in recent years. President Mubarak has been encouraged by his initial interactions with the President, the Secretary, and Special Envoy Mitchell, and understands that the Administration wants to restore the sense of warmth that has traditionally characterized the U.S.-Egyptian partnership. The Egyptians want the visit to demonstrate that Egypt remains America’s “indispensible Arab ally,” and that bilateral tensions have abated. President Mubarak is the proud leader of a proud nation. He draws heavily from his own long experience in regional politics and governance as he assesses new proposals and recommendations for change.
¶2. (S/NF) Mubarak is 81 years old and in reasonably good health; his most notable problem is a hearing deficit in his left ear. He responds well to respect for Egypt and for his position, but is not swayed by personal flattery. Mubarak peppers his observations with anecdotes that demonstrate both his long experience and his sense of humor. The recent death of his grandson Mohammad has affected him deeply and undoubtedly will dampen his spirits for the visit which he very much wants to make. During his 28 year tenure, he survived at least three assassination attempts, maintained peace with Israel, weathered two wars in Iraq and post-2003 regional instability, intermittent economic downturns, and a manageable but chronic internal terrorist threat. He is a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals. Mubarak viewed President Bush (43) as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran,s regional influence.
¶3. (S/NF) On several occasions Mubarak has lamented the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the downfall of Saddam. He routinely notes that Egypt did not like Saddam and does not mourn him, but at least he held the country together and countered Iran. Mubarak continues to state that in his view Iraq needs a “tough, strong military officer who is fair” as leader. This telling observation, we believe, describes Mubarak’s own view of himself as someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people.
¶4. (S/NF) No issue demonstrates Mubarak,s worldview more than his reaction to demands that he open Egypt to genuine political competition and loosen the pervasive control of the security services. Certainly the public “name and shame” approach in recent years strengthened his determination not to accommodate our views. However, even though he will be more willing to consider ideas and steps he might take pursuant to a less public dialogue, his basic understanding of his country and the region predisposes him toward extreme caution. We have heard him lament the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world. He can harken back to the Shah of Iran: the U.S. encouraged him to accept reforms, only to watch the country fall into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists. Wherever he has seen these U.S. efforts, he can point to the chaos and loss of stability that ensued. In addition to Iraq, he also reminds us that he warned against Palestinian elections in 2006 that brought Hamas (Iran) to his doorstep. Now, we understand he fears that Pakistan is on the brink of falling into the hands of the Taliban, and he puts some of the blame on U.S. insistence on steps that ultimately weakened Musharraf. While he knows that Bashir in Sudan has made multiple major mistakes, he cannot work to support his removal from power.’