US State cable 2009-02-23: 09CAIRO326 describes a February 17, 2009 meeting between US Senator Joseph Lieberman and Egyptian President Gamal Mubarak.
Gamal criticizes the Israeli government’s decision not to move forward on the Gaza ceasefire without the release of Corporal Shalit. “The various Palestinian factions are due to begin reconciliation talks in Cairo “in about 10 days” and this development will make those discussions more difficult. It makes Egypt look bad, and strengthens Hamas.”
Gamal discusses a split within Arab ranks between “moderates” (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and “radicals” (Syria and Qatar). He is of the opinion that Iran has skillfully exploited the lack of movement towards peace. The best way to thwart Iranian ambitions in the region, according to Gamal, is to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and create a unified
Palestinian government. “The Palestinians need elections, both residential and parliamentary.”
Lieberman asks if Gamal thought the US should re-engage with Iran. “As long as Ahmedinejad is there, I am skeptical,” Gamal responded. The one thing that is clear, Gamal stressed, is that by removing Saddam, the U.S. opened the door for Iran to flex its muscles and spread its influence throughout the region. “Like it or not, Saddam was a stumbling block to Iranian aspirations. His fall led directly to an increase in Iranian influence on the region.” Now, it is all the more important not to send a message of weakness to the Iranians, Gamal said, “neither from the U.S., nor from the moderates in the region.” We cannot “concede to their policy of aggression.”
There are many in the region, Gamal explained, who believe that the U.S. was weakened by its actions in Iraq, and that Iran was strengthened. Furthermore, there is a perception that the U.S. has been hurt by the economic crisis …(and) will deal with problems in the region in a “less confrontational” fashion … Lieberman said that the U.S. will nonetheless engage in an even more aggressive Middle East foreign policy than previously, as evidenced by President Obama’s choice of Secretary Clinton and Special Envoy Mitchell.
Senator Lieberman then asked Gamal for his assessment of Qatari behavior. They are coordinating closely with Syria and Iran, Gamal said, “in an orchestrated attack on Egypt and other moderate Arab states.” Qatar has enabled Hamas to hamper every effort we have made to cement a ceasefire in Gaza. For some reason, Qatar seems to want to play the role of spoiler.
Gamal said that while Egypt has so far escaped the worst effects of the crisis, “we are bound to feel the brunt of it eventually.” and advised that the US economy needed “a shock”. “You need to inject even more money into the system than you have, and you need to get as much of the bad debt as possible out of it; “you must remove the toxic assets from the books”.