A 2008 diplomatic cable from the US Embassy in Cairo leaked by WikiLeaks on Friday shows another side to the United States’ relationship with Egypt in recent years. The cable outlines how the State Department helped an Egyptian pro-democracy activist attend a “Youth Movements Summit” in New York and how the unnamed activist presented an “unwritten plan for democratic transition in 2011.”
While the United States has received criticism for its support of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in the face of anti-government protests, the newly released cable indicates that the US was also supporting his detractors. It notes State Department efforts to apply pressure on Egypt in order to have dissidents released from custody.
The cable also described meetings that the Egyptian activist held with US members of congress. Among those he met with in 2008 were Representative Edward Royce and current chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The pro-democracy activist told embassy officials that one of the congressmen even invited him to speak at a congressional hearing scheduled for early 2009 regarding “religious and political freedom in Egypt.”
Perhaps most relevant to current events in Egypt was an aspect of the plan for “a transition to a parliamentary democracy” before the scheduled 2011 [Egyptian] presidential elections.” He claims that a range of opposition groups, “including the Wafd, Nasserite, Karama and Tagammu parties, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Kifaya, and Revolutionary Socialist movements” all supported the unwritten plan. Furthermore, he says that the opposition groups were interested in “receiving support from the army and the police for a transitional government.”
The US attitudes expressed in the diplomatic document are skeptical and cautious; plans are described as uncorroborated and “highly unrealistic.” The diplomat who authored the report noted that the activist’s goals are at odds with mainstream “opposition politicians and activists.”
Another detail contained in the cable is an account of how the activist attempted to convince his contacts in Washington to blackmail Egyptian government officials. He described his hopes that the United States government might threaten to reveal information about GOE (Government of Egypt) officials’ alleged ‘illegal’ off-shore bank accounts.” He adds that “Mubarak derives his legitimacy from US support, and therefore charged the US with ‘being responsible’ for Mubarak’s ‘crimes.'”
In the views he expressed in the leaked document, NGOs working on political and economic reform live in a “‘fantasy world,’ not recognizing that Mubarak — ‘the head of the snake’ — must step aside to enable democracy to take root.”