Mubarak: W. Naive, controlled by Subordinates

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.’

Posted in Egypt | 9 Responses | Print |

9 Responses

  1. sounds like a realist. no sugarcoating.

    i may not like him as a dictator, but i can agree with his assessments. he has a better grip of the MidEast than Bushco ever had.

    i’ve said for years that Bush was the mouthpiece for Cheney and Rumsfield. since they’ve all left, i’ve seen hints in papers, etc from the Strategic Studies Institute (and elsewhere) that this was so.

  2. I agree that certain circumstances need a “tough, strong military officer who is fair” as leader. For example, when those being led have yet to reach maturity, as with children. Or when a group has to pull together quickly in order to survive as with wagon masters across the prairies.

  3. “someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people.” Says Mubarak.

    Given that elites and oligarchs and now kleptocrats will always end up ruling, even here, as the United States morphs into Rome II or some variant on that model, maybe the old Pharaoh has a point about what works best for most of the people, most of the time, in what seems to me to be the real test of humanity: How to go about maximizing the number of people who manage to satisfy at least the first three tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of NEEDS (not 300-foot megayacht and Gulfstream V and private-army WANTS) without descending into cancerous or predatory dead-endedness.

    You’ll never, in this Brave New World, have the mythical “freedom” and “liberty” that so many believe they have, or had, and will not have “representative government.” Seductive myths, to be sure, and they can be used by cynical rulers for decades to keep the rabble distracted and in check, but that’s not how humans work. A consumptive paternalism descends into simple and terminal parasitism.

    And “John Galt” is not gonna work either; all you have to do is observe what’s happening in the hyperspeed functions of the “financial industry,” where capitalizing on instantaneous weaknesses and momentums and inertias in the wider world to grab huge chunks of Made-Up Funny Money that bankrupts whole nations, is the fundamental business model.

    And the military industrialists and the state security apparatus will keep on weaponizing everything and bending every technology to creating new “threats” and ever-more-lethal Force Structures and ever-more-unstable-and-repressive political structures, right up to the point where the species dies of what looks functionally, for all the world, like “disseminated intravascular coagulation.” link to

    So how, one asks, when fortuity and savage self-interest and huge ego and the other items that move an individual and his associates to win the local game of “King of the Mountain,” does the species, either collectively or in smaller groups, raise up those “benevolent dictators” that do not force their serfs and slaves into that state of “destructive destruction” that is the hallmark of history? And keep them in place, when Colonel Hamid, and then Lieutenant Oksana, and then Sergeant Louis, and finally Private Doe masters the model, and serially run their own assassination-and-coup, each level more vicious and destructive than the last?

    I have no idea. Anyone? Class?

  4. Hi Professor:
    Sort of unrelated but, I really like the new look of IC. Clean, succinct, and sort of hip. Well I think so anyway.

  5. Here is my forcast re: Mubarak.

    Mubarak has announced that he is going to run for office again next year. This surprised some people because they were convinced that he was going to appoint or name his son as heir apparent (i.e. that Mubarak would not run because his son was to assume power by ‘running’ for office). My forecast is that Mubarak is only pretending that he is going to run next year because he does not want the opposition to have a full year to build up opposition to Gamal. So, Mubarak will pretend to run until the last minute at which time he will name his son as the person who is going to run for office. Any comments?

  6. You couldn’t have posted on this topic at a better time. I’m literally typing my research paper on US-Egypt relations and their affects on the 2005 and 2010 elections right now. By the way great job with the new layout.

  7. Maybe America also is (Grown) too thick for democracy and tyranny as state of mind is more prevalent and accepted now.

  8. Excellent analysis. However I think it is more likely that the head of the Mukhabarat is the one who is going to assume power, not Gamal Mubarak.

  9. it’s the old “yes he’s a bastard but he’s our bastard”

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