CAIRO: The US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey responded to leaked documents of embassy dispatches by the site Wikileaks Tuesday, saying that it did not represent official US foreign policy.
In what has been coined Cablegate, Wikileaks is publishing over 250,000 leaked documents purported to be dispatched from US embassies worldwide to the State Department in Washington DC.
Some of these cables originate from the US Embassy in Cairo, of which some are ostensibly penned by Scobey herself. They include details on meetings with top Egyptian officials, including President Hosni Mubarak and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who expound on a wide array of regional issues.
Choice pickings from the dispatches include Scobey’s alleged description of Mubarak’s hatred to Hamas, and “visceral hatred” for Iran, whom he described as “big fat liars.” There is also a scene setter penned for US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit who was described as unwilling to discuss Egyptian failings.
In a press statement, Scobey said, “Whatever WikiLeaks’ motives are in publishing these documents, releasing them poses real risks to real people. We deeply regret the disclosure of information that was intended to be confidential. And we condemn it.
“Whatever controversy the purported diplomatic reports may cause, it is important to be clear that such reports do not represent a government’s final determination of official foreign policy. In the United States, they are just one of many elements that shape our policies, which are ultimately set by the President and the Secretary of State.”
When contacted by Daily News Egypt Tuesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry declined to comment and said that no statement had been released on the matter. The ministry also did not state when or whether there would be a response.
Clinton had responded on Monday to the leak, which has caused worldwide embarrassment for the US as it includes personal impressions of numerous foreign officials as well as quotes of their opinions on other nations.
“Our policy is a matter of public record, as reflected in our statements and our actions around the world,” she said, “So I think that this is well-understood in the diplomatic community as part of the give-and-take. And I would hope that we will be able to move beyond this and back to the business of working together on behalf of our common goals.”
A dispatch — with Scobey’s name written at the bottom — described a meeting between a Congressional Delegation headed by Representative Brian Baird with Mubarak, Suleiman and head of the policies committee of the National Democratic Party Gamal Mubarak on the margins of 2008’s World Economic Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh. The meeting took place on May 20 and Gamal Mubarak’s capacity for being there was described in the cable as the “presidential son.”
In this dispatch, President Mubarak allegedly advised the US that the way forward in Iraq was a dictatorship, as the Iraqi people were not suited for democracy. He said, “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.”
Again, Egyptian fears of Iranian influence in the region are apparent in the cable as Suleiman highlights their involvement in Iraq, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and with Shia communities in the Gulf countries.
In the dispatch, Suleiman also bemoans the sometimes obstinate stance the US takes towards Egypt stating, “Your unilateral positions on economic aid are very difficult” but insists that Egypt wants to continue having a “very close” relationship with the US.
As for Gamal, whose presence in this meeting seems opaque, as he holds no executive post especially as he is quoted on regional issues, he tells the Congressional Delegation: “The battle lines are clearer for Egypt than ever before” on issues pertaining to the Middle East.
Asked by a US delegate his opinion of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Gamal responds, “He understand the world better than his father” but was wary of opening Syria up politically or economically for fear of losing control.
Gamal Mubarak also discusses border issues regarding Egypt and Gaza, stating that the smuggling occurring in tunnels beneath the border was a “shared concern”
Egypt recruits agents to counter Iran
Another cable shows that Suleiman also told US top military commander Admiral Michael Mullen in a 2009 meeting that Iran had tried to recruit Bedouins to smuggle weapons into Hamas-controlled Gaza and that Egyptian security had rounded up a cell of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah, AFP reported.
“‘Iran must pay the price’ for its actions and not be allowed to interfere in regional affairs,” the US Cairo embassy cable dated April 30, 2009, quoted Suleiman as telling Mullen.
“If you want Egypt to cooperate with you on Iran, we will … it would take a big burden off our shoulders,” Suleiman is quoted as saying in the cable.
AFP reported that the intelligence chief also told Mullen: “’Egypt has started a confrontation with Hezbollah and Iran’ … [and] if they interfere in Egypt, Egypt will interfere in Iran,’ the cable said.
Suleiman reportedly added that the Egyptian General Intelligence Service had already begun recruiting agents in Iraq and Syria.
In a separate cable on a meeting with General David Petraeus, later in 2009, Suleiman accused Iran of supporting the opposition Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Gamaa Islamiya group.
“Suleiman stressed that Egypt suffers from Iranian interference, through its Hezbollah and Hamas proxies, and its support for Egyptian groups” like the Gamaa and the Brotherhood, said the cable dated July 14.
He told Petraeus, however, that Iran had “heeded” Egypt’s warning to stop interfering in the country.–Additional reporting by AFP.