Analysts view Gamal Mubarak as on a mission to reduce tension

Daily Star Egypt Staff
5 Min Read

CAIRO: A visit to the White House by the politician son of President Hosni Mubarak indicates that the Egyptian government and the Bush administration both want to reduce tension over recent repression in Egypt. The choice of Gamal Mubarak, 42, as a high-level messenger also adds weight to the theory that Gamal is the most likely successor to his 78-year-old father, who started a fifth six-year term as president last year, analysts said on Tuesday. Gamal Mubarak saw national security adviser Stephen Hadley last Friday and President George W. Bush briefly greeted him. The Washington Post said he also saw Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. His visit was probably an attempt to stabilize things in Egyptian-U.S. relations, which are under a lot of pressure. He was persuading them to take off the heat, said newspaper editor and opposition activist Hesham Kassem. It is unusual for Bush to see someone of the status of Gamal Mubarak, whose only position is as assistant secretary-general of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP said in a statement that Gamal Mubarak was in the United States to explain the party s vision on political, economic and social reform in Egypt and its views on recent developments in the Middle East. But the visit was not publicized in advance and analysts said the visit to the White House was clearly meant to be secret, revealed only because a reporter spotted him there. They said they expected that Mubarak s main mission was to explain to the Bush administration why the Egyptian government has been using force to crack down on peaceful demonstrations in support of judges seeking judicial independence. Some said he might also have explained his father s plans for Egypt s political future, which hangs in limbo as he ages without any clear procedure for selecting a successor. The United States publicly criticized the Egyptian authorities last week for having police and plainclothes thugs beat up demonstrators and journalists in central Cairo. The police violence is part of a pattern of retracting some of the relative freedoms the Egyptian government allowed last year during elections at the peak of a U.S. campaign for political change in the Middle East. Josh Stacher, an independent analyst based in Cairo, said Gamal Mubarak was probably arguing the Egyptian government had to give economic reform a priority over political reform. Whether the White House bought into that, accepted that, we have no way of knowing. Any time they go there and do this, it s usually a door-knocking campaign to calm down the situation or to refute (reports about) ongoing events, he added. Sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a frequent critic of the Mubarak government, said Gamal Mubarak would have argued to the Bush administration that the alternative to the Mubarak’s was the Muslim Brotherhood, which did well in last year s elections. Like father, like son, he would be presenting the usual arguments about the Islamic scare, he told Reuters. Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said It (the Mubarak mission) means the relationship is still very tense and one of the issues is the democratic transformation in Egypt. This is related to the issue of whether the president has the potential to bring Gamal in or not, which must be a matter of concern to the Americans, he told Reuters. The Muslim Brotherhood, which strongly opposes any Gamal succession, said the Egyptian and U.S. government had a duty to explain what the meeting was about. The relationship is inflamed and there are repeated accusations from the U.S. administration that the president and the government have not fulfilled promises of reform, said Essam Al-Arian, head of the Brotherhood s political department. But there are many questions. Does Gamal Mubarak represent the president, or the government or the party? Is it a private meeting? … Explaining these things is very important, he said. Reuters

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