No shift in US Mideast policy, says expert

Abdel-Rahman Hussein
3 Min Read

CAIRO: A senior Egyptian journalist says he expects the Bush administration to create a bloc of ‘friendly’ Arab nations to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.

Atef Al Ghamry, Al Ahram’s Washington bureau chief, also downplayed recent US criticism of Arab governments saying the Iranian threat – and means to deter it – has become a top priority for the State Department.

In light of recent criticism by the US State Department concerning Egypt’s human rights record, as well as muted criticism of the current constitutional amendments passed through the Peoples’ Assembly, journalist and former Al Ahram Washington bureau chief Atef Al Ghamry said “I don’t think these criticisms signify policy change by the US administration.

“This doesn’t mean that there will be no criticism because they need to appease Congress and cannot ignore the values they claim to advocate, he added.

Last week the State Department’s annual report indicated Egypt is one of several countries where human rights abuses occured in 2006.

Respect for human rights conditions has deteriorated in the country over the past year, the report also said.

The report maintained that “common and persistent torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees by Egyptian police, security personnel and prison guards was ongoing.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit lashed out at the State Department report in a statement saying: “The United Nations did not grant any state the right to consider itself a guardian of human rights in the world. It seems that those who prepared it [the report] are unfamiliar with the objective realities of some of the countries they dealt with, including Egypt.

Ghamry believes that while the US advocates democratization and political reform in the Arab region, foreign policy for separate nations is disparate.

“We have noticed that the US approach towards Arab nations varies. For example there is praise for reform, and criticism of its pace. This all depends on the current circumstances in the region in regards to US interests.

Current US foreign policy towards the region will “continue as long as the Bush administration is in power. This is because Bush declared it US policy to institute reform in the region in order to protect US national security, Ghamry said.

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