Monday, December 05, 2005

HRW letter to Condi

On the second of December,the Human Rights watch sent a letter to Condolezza Rice, expressing it´s astonishment over the press briefing at the State Dep the day before. In the briefing, State Dep press spokesman Sean McCormack answering questions about the third round of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, stated over and over that the administration is “sure” that the Egyptian government wants “an environment where everybody can express their peaceful free will through the ballot box.” The letter from HRW begins like this

¨Dear Secretary Rice,

We are writing to express our astonishment at the statements yesterday by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack regarding state-inspired violence and irregularities in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. Mr. McCormack’s statements, including his assertion that the State Department has “not received, at this point, any indication that the Egyptian Government isn’t interested in having peaceful, free and fair elections,” are utterly disconnected from the reality of what is happening in Egypt today. They make a mockery of the policies you and President Bush have articulated on numerous occasions this year regarding the importance of respect for democratic freedoms in the Middle East generally and in Egypt in particular¨. Ever since President Bush´s speech on the 6 of November 2003, and accentuated in his inauguration speech, followed by the state of the union and Secretary Rice´s speech in Cairo in June, the expections has been high on the administration to live up to their grand words of democratization in the broader middle east and to Egypt in particular, But quite the the opposite has been true in most cases. In tandem with these grand words the third annual Arab Human development report focusing soley on democratization was alledgedly held hostage by Egyptian and American government objections to some specific wording in parts of the report concerning the new political trend in Arab governing circles, hereditary republics(the Egyptian case) and critique concerning the Israeli and Iraqi ocupations. This of course after the Bush administration had used the first two reports to cherrypick ideas for their MEPI projects. While Secretary Rice was more than frank in the press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al Gheit, and cancelled her trip to Cairo in early February , just days after, ever since there has been ambiguity in the approach to Egypt. HRW raised concern after Black wednesday(the referendum on constitutional change to provide for multicandidate presidential elections), when the administration failed to critizise the Egyptian government,either on the NDP-thugs inspired violence, particularly focused on women, or the change in the constitution itself, tailormade to exclude any potential political force posing a threat to the current political leadership. silence was also the prefered diplomatic tool concering the mass arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood, including high profile Issam al Aryan. Instead supporting the ban on the brotherhood, echoing the Egyptian government´s insistance on constitutional grounds.

So why this disconnect between vision and reality? Perhaps yesterday´s Washington Post can give us a clue. The first strategic goal of this government, has been, and is likely to be untill January 2009, The war on terrorism. Egypt play´s an important part in this. A second reason is Egypt´s role as a ¨leader of peace¨ It´s role in Gaza and it´s help in facilitating talks between different palestinian fractions(among them Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and the new love story between the Egyptian and Israeli government, manifested in joint ventures, Gas projects and Mubarak´s insistance on Sharon being the man who will bring about peace, to the point that it makes you wonder if he has moved ahead and is now part of the Kadima party election strategy. One can perhaps also wonder if Scott McCormack has switched jobs with his Egyptian counterpart.

So the double strategy of security issues first and Egypt´s important role visavi the Palestinians and warmer ties with Israel, has been the reason for the US administration putting the democracy option on the backburner, and it´s not likely that it will regain momentuem, other than in public relations regards, the current parliamentary elections will be hailed as the most democratic elections so far, just as the presidential elections was viewed in a very positive way, if President Mubarak sticks to his election campaign promise to end the emergency law(eventough most likely substituting it with something in the same draconian spirit). This will also be hailed as a positive step.
Other issues,more important than democracy promotion will be the focal point for this administration for the rest of this administration. Iraq, The Israeli-Palestinian track, the search for UBL, and the war on terrorism, but also damage control, in Iraq and on the domestic arena, with probable democratic gaines in mid term elections, the problems faced by Katrina, and the more controversial policies in the war on terrorism, the reasons for going to war in Iraq in the first place, etc etc.

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