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WikiLeaks Cables Show Close US Relationship With Egyptian President

US embassy cable predicted Hosni Mubarak, if still alive in 2011, would run again for presidency 'and, inevitably, win'

by Luke Harding

Secret US embassy cables sent from Cairo in the past two years reveal that the Obama administration wanted to maintain a close political and military relationship with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, who is now facing a popular uprising.

A frank briefing note in May 2009 ahead of Mubarak's trip to Washington, leaked by WikiLeaks, reported that the Egyptian president had a dismal opinion of Obama's predecessor, George Bush.

"The Egyptians want the visit to demonstrate that Egypt remains America's 'indispensable Arab ally', and that bilateral tensions have abated. President Mubarak is the proud leader of a proud nation ... Mubarak is 81 years old and in reasonably good health; his most notable problem is a hearing deficit in his left ear. He responds well to respect for Egypt and for his position, but is not swayed by personal flattery," the cable said.

"Mubarak peppers his observations with anecdotes that demonstrate both his long experience and his sense of humor ... During his 28-year tenure, he survived at least three assassination attempts, maintained peace with Israel, weathered two wars in Iraq and post-2003 regional instability, intermittent economic downturns, and a manageable but chronic internal terrorist threat.

"He is a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals. Mubarak viewed President Bush as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran's regional influence."

It predicted that if Mubarak were still alive for Egypt's next presidential election in 2011, "it is likely he will run again and, inevitably, win". The most likely contender to succeed him was his son Gamal, the cable suggested.

Another cable, dated 23 February 2009, described a meeting between Gamal and the maverick US senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman is said to have listened as the president's son expounded on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Iran's growing regional influence and how Saddam Hussein – for all his flaws – was a bulwark against Iranian ambitions.

Another cable, from March 2009, shows the US's astonishingly intimate military relationship with Egypt. Washington provides Cairo $1.3bn annually in foreign military finance (FMF) to purchase US weapons and defence equipment, and the cable said. "President Mubarak and military leaders view our military assistance programme as the cornerstone of our mil-mil relationship and consider the $1.3bn in annual FMF as 'untouchable compensation' for making and maintaining peace with Israel.

"The tangible benefits to our mil-mil relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the US military enjoys priority access to the Suez canal and Egyptian airspace."

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