Or Democracy Packaged by Mubarak for Bush

During her last visit to Cairo on February 22, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice listened to Egyptian liberals complaining their government was abetting the Islamist opposition by stifling other opposition parties, including their own.

The liberal oil executive and writer, Tareq Heggy, conceded that eliminating the Islamic movement would be undemocratic. He proposed instead an effort to bolster the liberals and build them up for a lead role in Egyptian politics.

Egypt’s liberals have good reason for concern.

They have been squeezed to the sidelines by the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s emergence in Egypt’s last elections as the largest opposition force in the country. Running as “independents”, the Brethren seated 88 members in the 454-seat parliament.

In the period leading up to the vote, President Hosni Mubarak’s campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood was a sore point between him and President George W. Bush.

The Americans were uncomfortable with ruling National Democratic Party thugs breaking up MB rallies and throwing masses of activists in jail after stirring up riots in their urban strongholds as provocations.

Even on election-day, uniformed government heavies were out stirring up trouble at polling stations in Brotherhood districts as a pretext for shutting them down in mid-polling. Bush and Rice kept up a stream of messages to Cairo, cautioning Mubarak to desist from his strong-arm tactics and let voting proceed freely.

But then, some time in December, the Americans smelled a rat. According to DEBKA-NetWeekly’s intelligence sources, the hostile exchanges between Hosni Mubarak and Brotherhood leaders did not quite ring true to Washington’s ears.

Although the street clashes and mass detentions against Muslim activists continued in the streets of Cairo, something quite different was going on in the Gaza Strip.

A contingent of high-ranking Egyptian officers had been posted there from the time of the Israeli pullback at the end of 2005 as part of a joint US-British-Israeli effort to build up Palestinian security capabilities for reining in terrorism.


Muslim Brotherhood helps Hamas get elected – with Mubarak’s blessing


But outside those duties, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources reveal, those officers were discovered holding stealthy talks with Hamas leaders about their prospects in the forthcoming January 25 Palestinian elections. And, while fellow MB members were fighting Mubarak’s security forces in Cairo, senior members arrived from Cairo to join the talks with Hamas.

The Egyptian officers did not let their US and British intelligence colleagues in on these goings-on. They kept quiet about their joint operation with Egyptian fundamentalists to give the Palestinian offshoot a leg-up in its run for elected office.

But eventually, the Americans jumped to Mubarak’s double game of publicly bludgeoning the Muslim Brotherhood at home, while secretly co-opting its members to boost Hamas’ election prospects in the Palestinian territories.

Washington decided to get to the bottom of it.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly exclusively reports the findings of this inquiry.

It soon transpired that the street clashes between Egyptian police and Muslim Brotherhood and the mass arrests of its activists were faked, with both sides playing up to the audience. The MB’s capture of 20 percent of the national assembly seats was likewise staged in advance.

What astonished US policymakers most of all was that the pact between Mubarak and his inner circle and the MB leadership was not hurriedly put together for the December 2005 election. It was a longstanding arrangement, dating back to late 2004 or as far back as two years ago.

The secret was confined to a tiny group: President Mubarak and his son and designated successor, Gemal Mubarak, and, on behalf of the Islamic movement, Mahmoud Izet and Issam Al-Arian (cousin of Prof. Sami Al-Arian who in December 2005 was acquitted by a court in Tampa, Florida of eight terrorism-related charges, including conspiracy to murder or maim civilians overseas.)

The accord this foursome clinched and faithfully pursued over the last two years was revealed as follows:


A pact designed to seat his son in the presidential palace


1. Both sides, the Mubaraks and MB representatives, promise to keep their agreement secret and not expose it in any form or circumstance.

2. The Muslim Brotherhood undertakes to stay out of any anti-Mubarak street protests. DEBKA-Net-Weekly reports that the movement has scrupulously kept to its side of the bargain.

3. The MB will not organize boycotts of referenda called by the presidency or of elections. This too has been upheld.

4. MB propaganda against the government will not target the president or the Mubarak family.

5. The Brotherhood will not compete for National Assembly seats occupied by senior officials of the Mubarak government or the ruling NDP. This too was observed.

6. President Mubarak for his part undertakes to give the Brotherhood free rein to run its candidates in all Egypt’s elections, turning a blind eye to the fact that the movement is outlawed.

7. Egyptian security will not arrest prominent members of the MB, only small fry. Mubarak has kept his word on this clause too.

8. The two sides agreed that the present parliament will not serve its full four-year term; it will be cut short and a new general election take place before 2009.

10. The deputies elected on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood to the serving and future national assemblies will not oppose lawmaking to enable the presidency to be transferred from Hosni to Gemal Mubarak.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly sums up the benefits to both sides from this secret deal.


The Mubaraks

A. The Muslim Brotherhood has let itself be Mubarak’s club for beating down the liberal and left-wing opposition parties who object to the succession being handed down to Gemal Mubarak and will contest it.

B. Mubarak has armed himself with a rejoinder for Washington’s complaints about his flawed democracy: he has demonstrated that the most powerful opposition movement in Egypt was given the chance to win a strong presence in parliament.

C. He has put President Bush in a tight spot; if he rejects Gemal he will have to put up with a Muslim fundamentalist regime in Egypt.


The Muslim Brotherhood

This party has won the freedom to nurture its political strength for taking over Egyptian government one day – albeit after the reign of Gemal Mubarak. But the MB has a tradition of patience and of taking the long view, a trait it shares with its offshoot, the Palestinian Hamas.

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