US embassy cables: Egypt’s choice not just between Islam and dictatorship, says US
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000493
FOR THE DIRECTOR FROM THE AMBASSADOR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2016 TAGS: PTER, KCRM, PREL, EG
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR FBI DIRECTOR MUELLER’S VISIT TO EGYPT
REF: 05 CAIRO 8938
Classified by Ambassador Francis Ricciardone for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) Thank you for rescheduling your visit to Egypt. The Egyptians will welcome you warmly, but you should be aware of some shifts in the political context and atmospherics of our relationship with Egypt since we last updated you in December (reftel). Several internal developments in the past eight weeks have put a strain on our bilateral ties, although the core of our partnership in law enforcement and mutual security affairs remains solid.
2. (S) Your visit presents an opportunity to review and upgrade our law enforcement/intelligence cooperation with the Egyptians. The CIA has a strong and growing relationship with the Egyptian Intelligence Service (EGIS). We believe your visit can help the FBI to establish a similarly robust and productive partnership with the State Security Investigative Service. Although they see the national interest in improving law enforcement cooperation, leaders like Omar Soliman, Interior Minister Adly, SSIS Director Abdel Rahman and especially President Mubarak–all of whom we expect you will meet–remain suspicious of our intent. On our side, we should be ready with concrete proposals to advance practical cooperation in law enforcement. Exchange of forensic and biometric data and associated upgrades of Egypt’s capabilities in this field could provide a good beginning.
3. (C) Three developments in the past eight weeks have altered the political context. First, widespread irregularities and violence marred the parliamentary elections which concluded on December 8, drawing criticism from both domestic and international quarters, including the United States. Second, the December 24 conviction and jailing of opposition leader Ayman Nour, was an unconvincingly disguised act of political repression. Third, the December 29 operation by GOE security forces (who fall under the authority of Interior Minister Adly) to disperse a large group of Sudanese refugees squatting in a downtown park went badly awry, with 27 Sudanese dead. All three security-related incidents have undermined Mubarak’s credibility as a leader of democratic reforms, and has strained our ties with Egypt. The bedrock of our strategic interests with Egypt, however, remains as important as ever.
4. (C) After a long period of quiet, the specter of terrorism returned to Egypt in late 2004. Interior Minister Adly, and State Security Director Hassan Abdel Rahman, have now seen three major terrorist incidents on their watch:
— The bombing of three resorts in the Sinai, October 2004; — The bombing at a major Cairo tourist market, April 2005; and — The Sharm el-Sheikh bombing, July 2005.
5. (C) Not withstanding these terrorist attacks and the MOI’s role in the election problems and Sudanese refugee deaths, Interior Minister Adly held on to his seat in the late December cabinet shuffle, and will remain a key interlocutor for us in the foreseeable future. Adly is an old-school, conservative security man, highly skeptical of any form of democratic political opening that might impact traditional MOI SoPs. But he has been very cooperative with us in most operational areas of security and law enforcement.
6. (C) We hope you will stress our interest in expanding technical cooperation, generally in your meeting with President Mubarak, and more specifically in your meetings with the Minister of Interior and the State Security Director. For example, Egypt should be a leading candidate for the FBI’s initiative to upgrade sharing of fingerprint and other biometric data on suspected terrorists and other criminals. Now that Washington has identified a funding source we hope you will be able to tell the Egyptians that we are ready to move forward with this project, which would include extensive training and equipment upgrades for Egyptian personnel. In addition, we hope you will invite State Security Director Hassan Abdel Rahman to bring a high level delegation to Washington to visit FBI HQ and the Quantico training facilities early this year. We expect that once he sees what the FBI can offer and establishes some personal contact, he will be more forthcoming with intelligence cooperation on their side. Not withstanding his suspicions, he probably would welcome an offer from you to expand training opportunities for Egyptian personnel at the FBI Academy.
7. (C) Until recently, the GOE was reluctant to discuss publicly the issue of Trafficking in Persons (TIP), which as you know has taken on a high policy profile in Washington. However, on January 23, Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak delivered the keynote address at an international conference on TIP in Athens, denouncing the practice and calling for stronger international coordination to combat it. Particularly if you meet Mubarak, you may wish to compliment Egypt and Mrs. Mubarak in particular, for taking on an unaccustomed new role as an outspoken advocate against TIP and reiterate USG interest in cooperating with Egypt in this campaign.
8. (C) The November-December parliamentary elections resulted in a five-fold increase in the number of seats held by independent candidates representing the outlawed but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood. The GOE has a long history of threatening us with the MB bogeyman. Your counterparts may try to suggest that the President,s insistence on greater democracy in Egypt is somehow responsible for the MB,s electoral success,and may even try to draw a cautionary example out of Hamas’ January 25 election victory. (The GOE sees Hamas, with fair reason, as spawned by the MB.) We do not accept the proposition that Egypt’s only choices are a slow-to-reform authoritarian regime or an Islamist extremist one; nor do we see greater democracy in Egypt as leading necessarily to a government under the MB. The images of intimidation and fraud that have emerged from the recent elections favor the Islamist extremists whom we both oppose. The best way to counter narrow-minded Islamist politics is to open the system. If the Egyptians are willing, the FBI could serve as a resource and partner, among other U.S. agencies and programs, in professionalizing the Egyptian security services and modernizing their investigative techniques. This would enhance the credibility of the security apparatus and remove an arrow from the Islamists, quiver.
9. (C) We believe the Egyptians will welcome your visit as a serious effort to enhance our law enforcement cooperation, and another mark–only three weeks after VP Cheney’s visit–of the American recognition of the value of our larger partnership across the board. RICCIARDONE