The MasterBlog: Everybody Loves(ed) Hosni - Foreign Policy
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Everybody Loves(ed) Hosni - Foreign Policy

Everybody Loves Loved Hosni

For 30 years the world welcomed Egypt's president -- they shook his hand and looked the other way. But the time for photo ops is likely over. 

FEBRUARY 1, 2011

U.S. President Jimmy Carter brokered the 1978 peace talks between Israel and Egypt when Hosni Mubarak was President Anwar Sadat's vice president. (To sweeten the deal, Carter threw in generous U.S. military support to Egypt, setting the terms of the largely military-driven relationship between the two countries that has continued throughout Mubarak's rule.) Those talks resulted in the 1979 treaty between Egypt and Israel. And while Carter told a reporter on Jan. 30 that he felt he knew "Mubarak quite well," the former U.S. president also said that the Egyptian president had become "more politically corrupt" than he was during their Camp David days. "The United States wants Mubarak to stay in power," Carter commented, "but the people have decided."
AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. relationship with Egypt deteriorated in the early 1980s largely because of mutual distrust over relations with Israel. Egypt was angry that Washington failed to put pressure on Israel after it invaded Lebanon in 1982, while the United States complained that Egypt was slow to normalize relations with the Jewish state after the 1979 Camp David Accord. Mubarak visited U.S. President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1985 in an attempt to rebuild the relationship. After the meeting, Reagan declared that he and Mubarak were "close friends and partners in peace."
Diana Walker//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images 

Egypt was a key player in the 1991 Gulf War: President George H.W. Bush had hoped that President Hosni Mubarak could help broker a solution to the border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait. When Iraq invaded, Mubarak assisted in the creation of the international military coalition that ultimately liberated Kuwait, contributing 35,000 Egyptian soldiers, the third-largest force in the coalition after the United States and Britain. Egypt also participated in the 1991 Madrid Conference, which brought together representatives from Israel and its neighboring Arab countries for the first time in order to establish a framework for lasting peace in the region.

Relations were warm in 1999 when U.S. President Bill Clinton deemed Mubarak a "longtime partner in building a safer and more peaceful world," highlighting the Egyptian president's role in the Middle East peace process, fighting terrorism, and embracing economic liberalization. In 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called Mubarak and his wife, Suzanne, "friends of my family."
Brad Markel/Getty Images

After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush found Egypt an eager and willing ally in the war on terror -- and the prospect of increased military aid from Washington certainly didn't hurt. Mubarak's government cooperated with the Bush administration in renditioning and interrogating (and allegedly torturing) terrorism suspects. But Bush's Middle East Freedom Agenda strained the two leaders' once-friendly relationship. Mubarak did not support the 2003 intervention in Iraq, though he did offer quick diplomatic recognition to Iraq's new government after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Mubarak also bristled at the Bush administration's attempts to promote free democratic elections in Egypt. Things came to a head when the two leaders met at the World Economic Forum in 2008: Bush complained Egypt was not leading by example in Arab state democratization, while Mubarak criticized the U.S. intervention and subsequent imposition of democracy in Iraq.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

As the WikiLeaked U.S. State Department cables show, U.S. President Barack Obama's administration wanted to maintain a strong relationship with Mubarak. "The tangible benefits to our [military-to-military] relationship are clear," one cable read. "Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace." When a reporter described Mubarak as "authoritarian" in a 2009 interview with Obama, the U.S. president objected: "He has been a stalwart ally in many respects, to the United States. ... I think he has been a force for stability." Obama did allow, however, that "obviously, there have been criticisms of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt." After speaking with the embattled Mubarak on Jan. 28, three days after the protests began, Obama said he had told Mubarak he must respond to the crisis with "concrete steps and actions that deliver."
Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

Before Mubarak's almost 30-year presidency began in 1981, Israel and Egypt had a rocky relationship. But Mubarak took the Camp David Accords signed by his predecessor Sadat, which brought an end to decades of conflict between the two countries, and nursed it into long-term stability. Under Mubarak, Egypt assumed a leading role in helping negotiate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and cooperated in fighting smuggling into Hamas-controlled Gaza. In a statement on Jan. 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that his government is now "anxiously" monitoring the situation in Egypt. "No matter what they say," Israeli President Shimon Peres said on Jan. 31, "we owe Mubarak true gratitude for being as steadfast as a rock and for working towards peace and stability in the Middle East."
Clockwise from the top left -- Mubarak with: Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Olmert/Getty Images

Relations between Egypt and the government of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi were once quite tense, with Libya accusing Egypt of betraying the Palestinian cause, and Egypt accusing Libya of engaging in acts of terrorism. But Mubarak successfully forged friendly ties with Libya's leader. Qaddafi and Mubarak have been especially close allies in the Arab League and have negotiated regional issues together with other neighboring leaders, including most recently with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on the subject of Southern Sudan's recent independence referendum.

Saudi Arabia re-established diplomatic relations with Mubarak's government in 1987, after having broken off ties with Egypt in the wake of the 1979 Camp David Accords. Today, Saudi King Abdullah has been the most vocal among Arab leaders in supporting Mubarak through the past week's turmoil in Egypt. On Jan. 29, the king said that the protesters in Egypt were "infiltrators" who "in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt to destabilize its security."

Mubarak and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi look like they could be cousins, right down to the conspicuously dyed hair on their respective geriatric heads. And in fact, the two leaders' countries have long enjoyed close relations -- Italy is one of Egypt's largest foreign investors. The Egyptian strongman was briefly embroiled in one of Berlusconi's innumerate sex scandals late last year, when one of the Italian leader's teenage romantic interests claimed she was Mubarak's granddaughter. (She wasn't.)

Mubarak has been friendly with France's last several presidents, and Nicolas Sarkozy is no exception. Sarkozy's first trip to the Middle East as president in 2007 was a visit to the Egyptian leader, during which he offered Cairo assistance with building nuclear reactors. Mubarak and Sarkozy also worked together in 2009 to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

When Mubarak met President Vladimir Putin in 2006, he said he felt a "strong connection" to the Russian leader; the two men collaborated on plans to build nuclear power plants in Egypt, and Mubarak urged Putin to hang onto power after his second term ended in 2008. The friendly relationship has been passed on to Putin's successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who Mubarak once said he found difficult to distinguish from Putin.

Egypt is Germany's third-largest trading partner in the Arab world, and Mubarak has chosen to show his appreciation by making Germany his favorite medical tourism destination. He has twice remained in the country to undergo surgery after meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel. She was quick to offer advice to Mubarak as the protests against his government in Egypt mounted, urging him in a phone call not to use violence against opponents of his regime.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

From the late-19th through the mid-20th century, Britain variously owned, occupied, and fought over Egypt; today Britain's relationship with its former protectorate is decidedly more normal. Egypt is a popular tourist destination for British citizens -- as anyone who has checked in on the BBC during an Egyptian crisis knows -- and Britain is a large contributor to the European Union's economic assistance plan for Egypt. The two countries also work together in military training exercises and maintaining the security of the Suez Canal. Still, Britain's past and present leaders have not minced words with Mubarak since the protests began; former Prime Minister Tony Blair said Feb. 1 that "it is over" for Mubarak, while Prime Minister David Cameron -- who stopped short of saying Mubarak should step down -- said Jan. 31 that Egypt should have a "proper, orderly transition to a more democratic situation."
Clockwise, from top left: Mubarak seen with Diana, Princess of Wales; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Charles, Prince of Wales

Everybody Loves Loved Hosni - An FP Photo Essay | Foreign Policy

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