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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Sick man of the Middle East

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If Mubarak and his close advisers really want to know how the American foreign policy establishment views their regime today, they should closely read the alarming and gloomy reports and analyses written by influential think-tanks, policy-journals, human rights organizations, media outlets, and hearings and testimonies by the United States House of Representatives committee on international relations.

Mubarak is portrayed as the sick man of the Middle East, and Egypt is seen as a country in decline. A near-consensus exists that the Arab world’s most populous nation — 82 million people — is teetering on the brink of social precipice. These observers warn that if social and political conditions are not improved, Egypt could ultimately become a political liability rather than a strategic asset.

Despite being urged by human rights groups to seek guarantees from President Mubarak about making measurable progress in the fields of human rights and democracy, Obama did not publicly press his Egyptian counterpart to undertake political reforms.
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Speaking following their White House meeting, Obama acknowledged that there “are some areas where we still have disagreements,” presumably over political governance. Yet the American president neither mentioned what those disagreements are nor uttered the words “rule of law” and “human rights,” in deference to his Egyptian guest.

In private, U.S. officials are terribly anxious about the potential for political and social instability in Egypt and the lack of mechanism for succession. They are deeply concerned that President Mubarak, a frail 81 years old and now in his 28th year in power, has repressed legitimate political dissent and turned Egypt, historically the cultural capital of the Arab world, into a weak and declining power plagued by chronic poverty, pervasive corruption and the rise of extremism.

The Mubarak regime should not lose sight of the fact that a country’s worth and value stem from the strength of its open society and the individual freedoms enjoyed by its citizens. Western leaders, including Americans, respect governments viewed as legitimate and have disdain for illegitimate authority, even those of clients.

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