The cost of American policy
In two speeches this week, President Mubarak dealt with Egypt's efforts to contain regional instability and generate economic development. Dina Ezzat
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Addressing top officials in a speech commemorating the Prophet's birthday, Mubarak makes clear the negative impacts of US policies vis-a-vis Palestine and Iraq|
Egypt, which has been making a concerted effort to contain regional instability, particularly in Palestine, Iraq and Sudan, is finding its job increasingly more difficult as the world's sole super power, the US, seems bent on pulling in exactly the opposite direction.
This week, in two speeches marking Labour Day and the birth of Prophet Mohamed, President Hosni Mubarak underlined his serious concerns regarding the negative regional impact of US policies in Palestine and Iraq.
In a speech on Tuesday evening marking the Muslim holiday of the birth of Prophet Mohamed, President Mubarak made a clear reference to "the dramatic developments related to the Middle East peace process and the disturbing developments in Iraq". He called on the Muslim nation to act "to proscribe" attempts to undermine the Arab and Islamic character of East Jerusalem. This, the president said, entails working to impede support for further Israeli settlements on Palestinian territories, which would eventually cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories. There should also be a Muslim response, continued Mubarak, to the imposition of a non- negotiated settlement of the Palestinian borders and the fate of some four million Palestinian refugees.
Mubarak added that efforts should also be made to prevents efforts "to deny Iraq its Arab and Muslim identity and sow the seeds of incitement" among the different Iraqi factions.
Two days later, in his speech to mark Labour Day, Mubarak expressed similar concerns. This time, however, he stressed the direct link between these developments and the internal situation in Egypt. According to facts and figures cited by the president in his May Day speech, Egypt is well on the path of economic take-off, with GDP growth of four per cent, annual job creation of 600,000 new jobs and stable foreign currency reserves. But, he continued, a much higher level of growth is required to deal with the country's current economic challenges. Regional instability is undermining Egypt's efforts on this front.
Egypt is trying to steer more international involvement into the region in an attempt to balance the US policy in the Middle East. This week, during his participation in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership ministerial meeting in Ireland and in encounters with British and French foreign ministers in London and Paris, Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher stressed Egypt's concerns: Washington and the international community need to prevent the Israeli prime minister from taking any action against Palestinian President Yasser Arafat; the Quartet has to honour responsibilities to secure the Israeli and Palestinian implementation of the roadmap and to take a clear stance against any Israeli attempt to undermine the Palestinian cause; the UN has to be directly and seriously involved in the planning and execution of schemes to bring about a national and representative elected Iraqi government; a peace deal between the government and the southern opposition in Sudan should not be crafted in a fashion that aims to encourage the separation of the country into a northern Arab and southern animist state.
Egypt will attempt to achieve Arab consensus in these three policy principles at a scheduled Arab foreign ministers meeting at the Cairo headquarters of the Arab League on Saturday.
According to a source at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, "The current US administration is trying to deal with the region according to its own agenda. It is attempting to minimise the problems it faces and put in place American-style regimes in order to win as many political and economic points as possible ahead of the presidential elections." By doing this, the source continued, solutions imposed by the US are unlikely to be accepted by the people of the region, and are bound to prompt angry and violent reactions.
Egyptian officials, speaking to Al- Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity, described the American approach towards the region as both simplistic and destructive, an approach which is putting at risk Egyptian political and economic interests and which, they fear, could remain largely unchanged even with the election of a Democratic US administration.
"This is their moment of supremacy and glory. Americans feel they can do anything, and they really can do anything. We, however, have to keep our own interests in mind, which we know for a fact are suffering as a result of regional instability," commented an Egyptian diplomatic source.