Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mubarak takes Nour's issue personally, and it makes him seethe when we raise it

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 CAIRO 000231 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2019 
Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey 
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (S/NF) Madame Secretary, Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit has 
been looking forward to meeting you since your nomination was 
first announced.  The Egyptian leadership, including 
President Mubarak, are encouraged by the Administration's 
immediate attention to the Middle East and your and the 
President's early outreach to them. Overall, the Egyptians 
believe they did not receive fair treatment from the previous 
Administration and hope to see improvements.  Aboul Gheit 
likely will explain Egypt's "soft power"--its ability to 
influence regional events without benefit of deep pockets. 
He likely will focus more on the strategic challenges of the 
region--the peace process and Iran--but may also address some 
pending bilateral matters.  He may ask for your support for 
Egypt to be part of an expanded G8 or G20 and press the 
candidacy of Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosny for 
Director General of UNESCO.  He may not raise human rights 
(specifically Ayman Nour), political reform, or 
democratization; but you should.  Aboul Gheit will want to 
discuss Gaza, including smuggling and counter-tunneling; 
Iran; and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  On Iraq and 
counter-terrorism, we and the Egyptians see largely 
eye-to-eye; intelligence cooperation is close and effective; 
and our military-to-military relationship is durable but 
stuck in a force-on-force mindset. 
2. (S/NF) Summary continued:  Aboul Gheit is smart, urbane, 
with a tendency to lecture and to avoid discussing Egyptian 
failings with all-purpose recourse to Egyptian sovereign 
pride. However, because this is his first meeting with you 
and it is in Washington, he may be more inclined to listen. 
You should thank him for Egypt's continuing regional 
leadership, in particular regarding their efforts to bring 
about a ceasefire in Gaza, and press him for Egypt to 
continue to use their influence and good offices to achieve a 
permanent solution to intra-Palestinian infighting and 
conflict.  You should also stress the need for Egypt to more 
effectively insure that Hamas cannot rearm via smuggling 
across -- or tunneling under -- the border with Gaza.  Aboul 
Gheit will press for your attendance at the March 2 Gaza 
Donors Conference in Cairo, and may complain about unhelpful 
Qatari and Syrian behavior.  He will also want to explore US 
intentions towards Iran; President Mubarak told Senator 
Mitchell during his recent visit here that he did not oppose 
our talking with the Iranians, as long as "you don't believe 
a word they say."  End summary. 
Respect and Appreciation 
3. (S/NF) In terms of regional affairs, Special Middle East 
Envoy Senator George Mitchell struck the right chord during 
his recent visit to Cairo when he told President Mubarak that 
he was here to "listen and hear your advice."  The Egyptians 
have long felt that, at best, we take them for granted; and 
at worst, we deliberately ignore their advice while trying to 
force our point of view on them.  You may wish to thank Aboul 
Gheit for the vital role Egypt played in bringing about a 
ceasefire in Gaza, and its efforts at making it last.  You 
should ask him what the current state of play is between 
Hamas and Fatah and have him describe Egypt's vision of the 
future for the Palestinians, both among their factions, and 
vis a vis Israel.  Note:  Although the Egyptians will react 
well to overtures of respect and appreciation, Egypt is very 
often a stubborn and recalcitrant ally.  In addition, Egypt's 
self-perception as the "indispensable Arab state" is 
contingent on Egyptian effectiveness on regional issues, 
including Sudan, Lebanon, and Iraq. 
Egypt and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict 
4. (S/NF) Although Aboul Gheit was never enthusiastic about 
the Annapolis Peace process, resolution of the 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the primary strategic 
political goal for the Egyptians.  They are proud of their 
role as intermediary, well aware that they are perhaps the 
only player that can talk with us, the Israelis, and all 
Palestinian factions.  Mubarak hates Hamas, and considers 
them the same as Egypt's own Muslim Brotherhood, which he 
sees as his own most dangerous political threat.  Since the 
CAIRO 00000231  002 OF 004 
June 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, the Egyptians, under the 
leadership of intelligence chief Omar Soliman (the de facto 
national security advisor with direct responsibility for the 
Israeli-Palestinian account) have shifted their focus to 
intra-Palestinian reconciliation and establishment of the 
Hamas-Israel ceasefire.  Soliman brokered a half-year-long 
truce last year, which Hamas broke in December, leading to 
the Israeli invasion of Gaza.  He has recently re-started 
those efforts, with the goal of getting Hamas to agree to a 
year-long ceasefire, which should give the Egyptians space to 
bring about their political goal of Palestinian 
reconciliation under a technocratic, non-partisan government 
headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. 
Gaza and Tunnels 
5. (S/NF) Smuggling through the Sinai Peninsula and into Gaza 
is an old and complicated problem for Egypt.  Egypt views a 
well-armed and powerful Hamas as a national security threat, 
a point driven home in dramatic fashion by the January 2008 
border breach when Hamas bulldozed the old border fence and 
more than half a million Palestinians poured into Egypt, 
unchecked and hungry.  Since the closure of the Egypt-Gaza 
border following the June 2007 Gaza takeover by Hamas, most 
smuggling of consumer goods and weapons has gone underground. 
 The narrow corridor between Egypt and Gaza is as 
honey-combed with subterranean passageways as a gigantic ant 
6. (S/NF) Although it is not directly in Aboul Gheit's 
bailiwick, belonging more to the security and intelligence 
forces, nonetheless the issue of tunnels and rearming Hamas 
is the subject of intense scrutiny (by Israel and the 
Congress), and sensitivity (by the Egyptians).  Long 
criticized by Israel for "not doing enough" to halt arms 
smuggling via tunnels, the Egyptians have stopped complaining 
and started acting.  Egypt has increased efforts to counter 
arms smuggling by accelerating its $23 million FMF-funded 
tunnel detection program along the Egypt-Gaza border and 
requesting U.S. support to purchase four backscatter X-Ray 
machines to scan vehicles entering the Sinai for weapons and 
explosives (note Aboul Ghait may not be of this 
EGIS-originated request).  Egypt also continues to cooperate 
with Israel, especially via intelligence sharing, to prevent 
militants from Hamas and other extremist organizations from 
crossing the Gaza border, and on thwarting militant activity 
in Egypt. Egyptian efforts are all justified under President 
Mubarak's pledge that Egypt with "protect its borders." 
7. (S/NF) Egypt will not take any action that could be 
perceived as collaboration in Israel's siege of Gaza, and 
they have been hyper-sensitive to any suggestion that 
foreigners are assisting them or overseeing their efforts to 
counter smuggling. Aboul Gheit publicly distanced Egypt from 
our January MOU with Israel to combat arms smuggling into 
Gaza, although he knew about it in advance and consulted with 
Secretary Rice and me about its contents.  The Egyptians do 
not want to be stuck holding the Gaza bag, and must be able 
to point the finger of blame at Israel for the plight of the 
Palestinians.  At the same time, Egypt has withstood scathing 
and widespread criticism in the Arab world for refusing to 
open the Rafah border crossing to supply Gaza.  Even during 
the height of the December fighting, the Egyptians only sent 
medicine and medical supplies through the Rafah border; all 
other humanitarian goods went through the Israeli crossing at 
Kerem Shalom.  They likewise insist that Rafah will only 
reopen to handle Gazan travellers when the Gazan side is 
under PA control with EU observers according to the 2005 AMA. 
8. (S/NF) Ultimately, Egypt believes that the only realistic 
and viable solution to erode Hamas' power and stop arms 
smuggling is the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza 
and the opening of Gaza's border to legitimate trade.  While 
in the short term we can best assist the Egyptians with 
technical know-how and training, long term counter smuggling 
success will depend on reducing the financial incentives to 
smuggling by providing the Sinai Bedouin with legitimate 
economic opportunities and by regularly opening the Gaza 
borders to trade, thereby reducing economic incentives to 
The March 2 Gaza Donors Conference 
9. (S/NF) President Mubarak told Senator Mitchell that he 
CAIRO 00000231  003 OF 004 
wanted to personally invite you to the March 2 Gaza Donors 
Conference in Cairo.  Aboul Gheit will press hard for you to 
accept this invitation.  He is keen to keep up the momentum 
on Gaza reconstruction and for Egypt to be seen as taking the 
lead in helping the Palestinians.  It is very important to 
him that this conference be at the ministerial level, and he 
will be disappointed if you are unable to accept. 
Iraq and Iran 
10. (S/NF) President Mubarak enjoys recounting for visiting 
members of Congress how he warned former President Bush 
against invading Iraq, ending with, "I told you so!" and a 
wag of his finger.  In addition, there are Egyptian 
misgivings about Nuri Al-Maliki and Shia majority rule in 
Iraq.  Egypt therefore will need additional prodding to 
continue to take steps to help  rehabilitate Iraq into the 
greater Arab world.  You should ask Aboul Gheit when he plans 
to fully open the Egyptian embassy in Baghdad and exchange 
accredited ambassadors with Iraq (the first Egyptian 
ambassador to post-Saddam Iraq was assassinated).  As for 
Iran, Mubarak has a visceral hatred for the Islamic Republic, 
referring repeatedly to Iranians as "liars," and denouncing 
them for seeking to destabilize Egypt and the region.  He 
sees the Syrians and Qataris as sycophants to Tehran and 
liars themselves.  There is no doubt that Egypt sees Iran and 
its greatest long-term threat, both as it develops a nuclear 
capability and as it seeks to export its "Shia revolution." 
Nonetheless, Mubarak told Mitchell pointedly that he did not 
oppose the U.S. speaking to the Iranians, as long as we did 
not "believe a single word they say."  Aboul Gheit will be 
keen to hear your description of U.S. intentions towards 
Iran. In his conversation with Senator Mitchell, Aboul Gheit 
carefully noting he was speaking personally, expressed more 
interest into bringing the Syrians into negotiations again; 
President Mubarak was not enthusiastic about dealing with the 
Syrians at this time. 
U.S. Assistance to Egypt 
11. (S/NF) The greatest Egyptian outrage a year ago -- 
Congressional conditioning of $100 million of U.S. assistance 
to Egypt -- may now be moot, according to our latest 
understanding of the state of play with the FY2009 
appropriations language.  Beyond the issue of conditioning, 
the Egyptians resent the U.S. unilateral decision to cut ESF 
in half, from $415 million in FY-08 to $200 million in FY-09, 
a level which the Egyptians find embarrassing, not because 
they need the money (they say), but because it shows our 
diminished view of the value of our relationship.  In my 
view, it is important to the U.S. to continue an ESF program 
aimed at health, education, and poverty eradication to 
demonstrate concern for the Egyptian people as opposed to a 
strictly military assistance program. Egypt has also been 
unhappy with the use of these funds to support democracy in 
Egypt.  It would be useful if you could urge that Egypt 
accept the FY 2009 levels so that we can proceed to program 
funds to benefit Egypt, while promising to engage in a 
serious review of the conflicts that exist and a desire to 
resolve them as soon as possible. 
12.  (S/NF) Concerning military assistance, the Egyptian 
political and military leadership feel that they have been 
"short changed" by our holding to an FMF level of $1.3 
billion, (the same level for 30 years despite inflation), and 
which they contrast with increases to our military assistance 
to Israel.  Finally, Egypt seeks a higher profile in 
international financial circles (Finance Minister Youssef 
Boutros Ghali was recently named Chairman of the IMF's 
policy-setting committee, the IMFC, the first from a 
developing country), and Aboul Gheit is likely to ask for 
your support to include Egypt in expanded G8 and G20 fora. 
Ayman Nour and Saad Eddin Ibrahim 
13.  (S/NF) Egypt's political leadership considers our public 
chastisement of their treatment of jailed former opposition 
Al Ghad party leader Ayman Nour as interfering with internal 
affairs and infringement on national sovereignty.  Mubarak 
takes this issue personally, and it makes him seethe when we 
raise it, particularly in public.  Aboul Gheit's view is that 
we have made Ayman Nour a freedom martyr, and a damaging (and 
CAIRO 00000231  004 OF 004 
distorting) prism through which we view our relationship with 
Egypt.  Much the same can be said about Saad Eddin Ibrahim, 
the outspoken political science professor and democracy 
activist who is in self-imposed exile in the U.S. because of 
spurious law suits brought against him for allegedly defaming 
Egypt.  In a negative development in late January, Egypt,s 
Attorney General-equivalent took action to advance the only 
criminal case pending against Ibrahim.  You should press 
Aboul Gheit hard on Nour and Ibrahim, and also urge the GOE 
to stop arresting other less prominent political activists. 
Nour's health is bad and he has served more than half his 
sentence; he deserves a humanitarian pardon. You may wish to 
lay down a marker for a future discussion on democratization 
and human rights concerns.  You might note that although you 
and the President want to improve the relationship, Egypt 
could take some steps to remove these very volatile issues 
from the agenda. 
Farouq Hosny 
13. (S/NF) Egypt has mounted a full-scale international 
campaign to support the candidacy of Culture Minister Farouq 
Hosny for Director General of UNESCO.  The Arab League and 
the African Union have already publicly stated their 
commitment to Hosny, and the Egyptians believe they also have 
the support of several Europeans, notably the French.  Aboul 
Gheit will also seek US support -- or, at least, not to 
actively oppose -- the candidacy of Farouq Hosny as the next 
Director General of UNESCO.  The U.S. informed him last year 
that we could not support the candidacy and urged Egypt to 
put forward another name. Abould Gheit will argue Hosny's 
merits for facing down the Islamic extremists who want to 
narrow the space in Egypt for artistic expression.  U.S. 
objections have been to statements Hosny has made that 
"Israel had no culture. . .it stole cultural ideas from 
others and claimed them as its own" and other objectionable 
remarks.  If we plan to derail the Hosny candidacy, we must 
provide a credible alternate, preferably an Arab and/or 
Source: 09Cairo231
الترجمة العربية: بقلم حازم فؤاد

Mubarak on Iranians: "They are big, fat liars"

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001637 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/21/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey, for reasons 
1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary: On July 2, Senator Kerry and the Ambassador 
discussed regional developments with President Hosni Mubarak, 
including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, and Israel-Palestine. 
Mubarak said that Egypt was working to find a solution in 
Sudan, but preferred to do so "quietly."  Mubarak warned 
against a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.  While he 
called Iranians "liars" and said they sponsor terrorism, he 
opined that no Arab state would join the U.S. in a formal 
defense alliance against Iran for fear of retaliation. 
Mubarak expressed frustration with the Israeli-Palestinian 
peace process, and was particularly disparaging about the 
lack of Palestinian unity.  End summary. 
AU "Soft" on Mugabe 
2. (C) In a 60-minute meeting with President Mubarak in Sharm 
El-Sheikh, Senator Kerry began by asking for Mubarak's views 
on the discussions at the African Union Summit, which had 
concluded in Sharm El-Sheikh the previous day. Mubarak said 
he had been at the Summit until late in the evening and was 
tired. He reported that some member states had condemned 
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, while others told him to 
form a national unity government and find a role for the 
opposition parties. Mubarak said he couldn't prevent Mugabe 
from attending the conference in Egypt because Zimbabwe is a 
member of the African Union. He said the British were behind 
this "big fuss" and that the pressure from other African 
leaders was "sufficiently soft that Mugabe can do what he 
Sudan:  Quiet Diplomacy Is Best 
3. (C) In response to Senator Kerry's query about the 
situation in Sudan, Mubarak said the issue was not discussed 
publicly at the AU summit. He also said "this issue could 
have been worked out" if it were not debated so publicly 
because "two tribes always work things out." Mubarak noted 
Egypt's attempts to "try and help the (Sudanese) people" 
through the Egyptian hospital in Sudan and the efforts of 
EGIS Director Omar Suleiman to advise on North-South 
Iraq:  Don't Pull Out Too Soon 
4. (C) Turning to Iraq, Senator Kerry asked Mubarak if he had 
changed his opinion of Prime Minister Al Maliki after Iraq's 
successful stabilization efforts in Basra and Sadr City. 
Mubarak said he "I am not critical. He came to Cairo.  I gave 
him my phone number but he hasn't called us." He noted that 
Egypt offered to host and train Iraqi forces, but that the 
offer had not been acted upon by the Iraqis.  He said the 
U.S. "cannot withdraw until you strengthen the armed forces 
and police. Until then you have to stay." 
Beware The Iranians 
5. (C) Mubarak's top concern for the stability of Iraq and 
the region is Iran. He believes that "as a result of the 
invasion of Iraq, Iran is spreading everywhere."He urged the 
U.S. to be wary of what Iran says. "They are big, fat liars 
and justify their lies because they believe it is for a 
higher purpose." He said he believes this opinion is shared 
by other leaders in the region. Nonetheless, he opined that 
no Arab state will join the U.S. in a defense relationship 
vis-a-vis Iran out of fear of "sabotage and Iranian 
terrorism." He said Iran's sponsorship of terrorism is 
"well-known but I cannot say it publicly. It would create a 
dangerous situation." Mubarak said that sanctions are the 
best hope for containing Iran, but Arab states won't dare to 
endorse them. 
Not Optimistic on The Peace Process 
6. (C) On the Middle East Peace Process, Mubarak said he sees 
no progress between Syria and Israel and doesn't expect any 
progress between Israel and the PA leadership. He said that 
"Palestinians are quarrelling" and Hamas and other factions 
will reject any agreement made by Abu Mazen. Senator Kerry 
CAIRO 00001637  002 OF 002 
suggested the parties appeared to be close in some areas. In 
response, Mubarak reiterated he doesn't believe the many 
Palestinian factions will reach agreement and, thus, they 
only serve to undermine Abu Mazen's efforts. 
7. (C) This cable was not cleared by CODEL Kerry. 
Source: 08Cairo1637
الترجمة العربية: بقلم نوارة نجم

Mubarak suggests that the best solution for Iraq is a "fair dictator" that comes to power via a coup

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001067 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/20/2018 
Classified by DCM Stuart Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary: Codel Baird discussed Egyptian and regional 
issues with Egypt's political and business leaders on the 
margins of the May 18 - 20 World Economic Forum (WEF) in 
Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.  President Mubarak, Intelligence 
Chief Omar Soliman, and presidential son Gamal Mubarak 
focused on the need for deep engagement to resolve the 
Israeli/Palestinian crisis and to hinder Iran's growing 
influence in the region.  On Iraq, Mubarak said "you cannot 
leave" but advised strengthening the military and allowing a 
"fair" dictator to come to power via a coup.  "Forget 
democracy," he opined, "the Iraqis are too tough by nature." 
 On the economic side, Egypt's business leaders regretted the 
lack of a U.S.-Egypt free trade agreement and asked the U.S. 
to push Egypt harder on good governance and democratic 
reform.  Codel Baird consisted of Representatives Brian Baird 
(D-WA), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jeff 
Fortenberry (R-NE), and Jim Cooper (D-TN); Representative 
Jane Harman (D-CA) joined the codel briefly on May 18.  End 
President Mubarak 
2. (C) The codel began by thanking Mubarak for his positive 
leadership on regional issues.  Mubarak said that he had 
advised Vice President Cheney and other U.S. officials not to 
invade Iraq and that "no one listened," but that now "it 
would be a mistake" to withdraw forces immediately because it 
would further open the door for Iran.  Asked about U.S.-Egypt 
relations, Mubarak confirmed that "we have very good 
relations with the U.S.," but "your administration is not 
well-informed."  However, "I am patient by nature," he said, 
in apparent reference to U.S. criticisms over human rights 
and democratization.   Congressman Shays encouraged Mubarak 
to engage with Iraq as much as possible and asked if Egypt 
would send an ambassador, to which Mubarak replied "no, I 
cannot do it.  When there is stability I am willing, but I 
cannot force civilians to go." 
3. (C) Asked about Egypt's reaction if Iran developed nuclear 
weapons capability, Mubarak said that none will accept a 
nuclear Iran, "we are all terrified."  Mubarak said that when 
he spoke with former Iranian President Khatami he told him to 
tell current President Ahmedinejad "not to provoke the 
Americans" on the nuclear issue so that the U.S. is not 
forced to strike.  Mubarak said that Egypt might be forced to 
begin its own nuclear weapons program if Iran succeeds in 
those efforts. 
4. (C) Asked about whether the U.S. should set a timeline for 
withdrawal from Iraq, Mubarak said "you cannot leave" because 
"you would leave Iran in control."  Mubarak explained his 
recipe for a way forward: "strengthen the armed forces, relax 
your hold, and then you will have a coup.  Then we will have 
a dictator, but a fair one.  Forget democracy, the Iraqis are 
by their nature too tough." 
Omar Soliman 
5. (C) Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS) chief 
Omar Soliman gave the codel an expansive evaluation of the 
key issues in the region.  He focused on Iran's growing 
influence in Iraq, with Hamas, with Hizballah in Lebanon, and 
with Shia communities in the Gulf.  To solve regional 
problems Egypt is working on three tracks - Palestine, 
Lebanon, and Iraq. 
6. (C) Egypt hopes to achieve something soon on the 
Palestinian track, he said, but neither side is ready to stop 
the vicious circle of violence, although most on both sides 
want "quiet."  Soliman's job now, he said, is to bridge the 
gaps on specific issues like border crossings, prisoner 
exchange, and bringing Hamas and the PA back together.  He 
hoped to see an agreement on borders for a Palestinian state 
by the end of 2008, and noted that as a practical matter very 
few Palestinian refugees would seek right of return. 
7. (C) On Lebanon, speaking a week before the Doha agreement 
was penned, Soliman said the three problems are Syria's large 
influence, lack of power of the majority over militia forces, 
and weak Arab support for the government.  Syria is seeking a 
deal with Israel and the U.S. over returning the Golan and 
canceling the Hariri tribunal to lessen its meddling and 
Lebanon needs a strong, nationalist army.  Soliman bemoaned 
that the Arab states have too poor relations with Syria to 
CAIRO 00001067  002 OF 002 
push them effectively. 
8. (C) On Iraq, Egypt meets regularly with Jordan, Saudi 
Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, and Turkey to discuss reducing Iranian 
influence.  The GOI must understand it has support from the 
Arabs and the U.S., not just Iran, he said.  Soliman 
advocated making Iran suffer economically to be "too busy 
with its people" to make problems in Iraq.  Reducing Iranian 
influence will help the Iraqi government become one, and not 
a competition between Sunni and Shi'a. he said. 
9. (C) Asked about the consequences of any U.S. strike on 
Iranian nuclear capabilities, Soliman said such an attack 
would not destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities and would only 
unite Iranians with their leadership and against the U.S.  He 
repeated the need to make Iran "busy with its people" by 
effective sanctions, citing the successful example of Libya. 
Asked about Sudan, he said that Egypt is still working to 
make north-south unity attractive, and to encourage talks 
between the GOS and rebels and between Bashir and Deby. 
10. (C) Asked what it means when Arabs say that the U.S. 
"should listen to us," Soliman gave the example that 
President Mubarak warned Vice President Cheney about the 
consequences of the U.S. invading Iraq.  Additionally, "your 
unilateral positions on economic aid are difficult." 
However, Soliman emphasized that Egypt is keen to continue to 
have a "very close" relationship with the U.S. 
Gamal Mubarak 
11. (C) Gamal opined that the "battle lines are clearer for 
Egypt than ever before" on regional issues.  The region "will 
not realize its full potential as long as geopolitical 
problems continue," he said.  With the Israeli/Palestinian 
problem in particular, "we are racing against time."  Gamal 
advocated close engagement by the U.S., Egypt, and other 
countries (NFI) in order to make practical improvements in 
the every day lives of Palestinians and develop a framework 
for a final deal, with borders as the key issue.  Other 
regional issues such as Iran and Lebanon are "much more 
complicated," he said; "the picture is not that rosy." 
12. (C) Representative Baird raised the issue of USAID 
efforts to assist conservation of Red Sea reefs, which Gamal 
agreed was an important issue.  Representative Shays asked 
Gamal's opinion of Syria President Bashar Al Assad, to which 
Gamal replied that "he understands the world better than his 
father," but that he is worried that opening up politically 
or economically could result in a loss of control. 
13. (C) Representative Harman asked for Egypt to do more to 
fight smuggling to Gaza through tunnels, perhaps by setting 
up roadblocks a few miles before the border to intercept 
contraband.  Gamal said that the border is a "shared concern" 
and Egypt is doing what it can to address smuggling. 
14. (C) Representative Fortenberry asked about how to counter 
a developing Iranian nuclear program.  Egypt and Saudi 
Arabia, as well as Jordan, are the "heavyweights" that can 
counter Iran, Gamal said, but he advocated movement on the 
Israeli/Palestinian track to remove a prime issue that Iran 
can use as a pretext. 
American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt 
15. (SBU) The AmCham group led by President Omar Mohanna 
(Suez Cement) lamented that the lack of a U.S.-Egypt FTA 
continues to push Egypt's trade towards Europe and away from 
the U.S.  They praised the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) 
program and advocated expanding it to upper Egypt, though 
they acknowledged that increasing Egyptian textile exports to 
the U.S. would be a sensitive issue in the U.S. textile 
lobby.  Karim Ramadan (Microsoft) praised the historic role 
of USAID in Egypt and asked that it continue with a focus on 
education and health, areas in particular need of development 
in Egypt. 
Source: 08Cairo167
الترجمة العربية: بقلم نوارة نجم

Soliman: "Egypt wants Hamas isolated"

S E C R E T CAIRO 000009
SIPDIS SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2018 TAGS: PREL PGOV IS IZ SY EG SUBJECT: CODEL VOINOVICH MEETING WITH EGIS CHIEF SOLIMAN Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Stuart Jones Reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D) 1. (S) Summary. EGIS Chief Omar Soliman told Ambassador and a visiting Codel led by Senator George Voinovich December 31 that he is optimistic progress will be made on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, Soliman was concerned with continuing Israeli criticism of Egyptian anti-smuggling efforts. He was worried that the Egyptians would not be able to work out an arrangement with the Israelis for Hajj pilgrims to return to Gaza. On Iran, Soliman said that the USG's release of the National Intelligence Estimate had altered the calculus through which Arab states are interacting with Iran. On Iraq argued that the Iraqi government needed to amend its constitution and that Prime Minister Malaki should not deal with the Iraqi people in a "sectarian way." End summary. 2. (S) Soliman led off the New Year's Eve meeting by telling the Codel that the region is at a special, critical juncture. Egypt is America's partner. Sometimes we have our differences. But Egypt will continue to provide the USG with its knowledge and expertise on the critical regional issues, such as Lebanon and Iraq. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core issue; Soliman contended a peaceful resolution would be a "big blow" to terrorist organizations that use the conflict as a pretext. For this reason, President Mubarak is committed to ending the Israeli-Arab "stalemate." 3. (S) Soliman applauded the Administration's efforts, commenting that Annapolis had given hope and begun a process. The timing is right for progress based on four factors. First, the PA leadership is moderate and willing to negotiate. Second, Hamas is isolated and politically cut off in Gaza. Third, the Israelis are ready for peace; Soliman assessed that the GOI coalition is broad and strong, and larger than Rabin's coalition of the mid-nineties. Fourth, Arab states are ready to see an end to "the struggle." 4. (S) Soliman stressed that Egypt stands ready to help the U.S. effort. The GOE knows both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and knows the obstacles to peace. Soliman recommended two steps be taken. First, both the Israelis and Palestinians must be pressed hard to sign an agreement, which the U.S. and international community could endorse, to be implemented at the proper time. Second, the U.S. should insist that "phase one" of the Roadmap should be completed before the end of 2008. 5. (S) Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Soliman opined that the Palestinian Authority was ready to sign an agreement, but that establishment of a state may take between 1-3 years. While Hamas is isolated politically and unable to stop an Israeli-PA agreement, it remains entrenched in Gaza, and it was unclear to Soliman how long that would last. At one point in the discussion, Soliman seemed to imply Hamas may remain in control of Gaza for more than a year; at another juncture, he told Senator Voinovich that if negotiations proceeded briskly, Hamas may be forced to cede power in Gaza in 3-4 months. The bottom line for Hamas, according to Soliman, is that they must be forced to choose between remaining a resistance movement or joining the political process. They cannot have it both ways, he said. 6. (S) Palestinian training: Soliman reiterated GOE willingness to train and support Palestinian security forces. He claimed that the GOE had training facilities ready, but that he was waiting for an answer from U.S. Security Coordinator General Keith Dayton. (Note: We have advised Soliman that initial training of Palestinian security forces will take place in Jordan, and that we will revisit the option of training in Egypt this spring. End note). He continued that the GOE would keep pressure on Hamas but will maintain "low-level" contacts with Hamas. Egypt, he said, wants Hamas isolated. The Qassam rocket attacks must stop. When they do stop, the GOE will ask Israel to "meet quiet with quiet." 7. (S) Border issues: Senator Voinovich asked Soliman why the Israelis continue to report problems with Egypt's anti-smuggling efforts. Soliman said that the Israelis do not complain to him directly, and that GOI-GOE cooperation and exchange of information continues. He was at a loss as to why Israeli politicians continue to criticize Egypt publicly. The GOE would like the USG to be included in the GOI-GOE LAWIO discussions, but the Israelis continue to object. "They don't want a witness in the room," Soliman said. Nevertheless, Soliman was willing to turn the page. "We have a short time to reach peace. We need it. We need to wake up in the morning with no news of terrorism, no explosions, and no news of more deaths. We want everyone happy. That is the Egyptian dream." 8. (S) Syria: Congressman Turner asked if Iran and/or Syria might be play a spoiler role. Soliman answered that Syria wants desperately to halt the United Nations special tribunal on the Hariri assassination. At the same time, the SARG is ready to negotiate with the Israelis, and Soliman believed that the GOI also is ready. Syria, Soliman said, can be induced to play a constructive role but added that there are no guarantees, however, on Syrian performance. 9. (S) NIE: Regarding the USG's National Intelligence Estimate of Iran's nuclear program, Soliman was concerned that many in the Arab world were recalculating their position vis a vis Iran based on an assumption that the NIE represented a USG policy shift. Soliman said the Egyptians are working to correct this misimpression among Arab states. "We tell the Arab world: Don't be happy with the NIE and don't warm up to Iran. We know that the United States will never allow Iran to have a nuclear bomb." 10. (S) Iran: Soliman said that Iran remains a significant threat to Egypt. It continues to influence Shiaa in Iraq and the Gulf. Iran is supporting Jihad and spoiling peace, and has supported extremists in Egypt previously. If they were to support the Muslim Brotherhood this would make them "our enemy," he said. The GOE continues to press the Iranian regime to turn over extremists given "safe harbor" in Iran. This issue, he said, will remain an obstacle to improving Egyptian-Iranian relations. (Soliman met with Iranian former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani earlier in the week. Larijani was in Egypt on a week-long "private visit." 11. (S) Iraq: Soliman said he remains concerned that the Maliki government in Iraq is not representing all Iraqis (i.e. the Sunni population). The GOE has urged Maliki not to deal with the Iraqi people in a sectarian way, and to amend to constitution to allow greater Sunni representation. In addition, the Iraqi government must remove militias from the ranks of the army and police. In the long run, Soliman did not think that the decrease in violence would be sustainable absent these two steps. In addition, Iranian influence is problematic. Soliman said that the GOE had worked to reconcile 21 clans and tribes in Iraq, with good results, and that this kind of efforts had to continue. He assessed that both Sistani and Sadr were practical men, and able to be dealt with. 12. (U) Delegation composition: Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM) Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA) 13. (U) The delegation did not clear this message. Ricciardone
Source: Cable08Cairo09
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