[Homestead] Bush opportunity for regime change in Egypt on the cheap---without an expensive war

tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Wed Feb 2 12:30:01 EST 2005



	

*washingtonpost.com* <http://www.washingtonpost.com/>
*Egypt's Test for Mr. Bush*



Wednesday, February 2, 2005; Page A22

"DEMOCRATIC reformers facing repression, prison or exile can know: 
America sees you for who you are -- the future leaders of your free 
country," President Bush said in his inaugural address. "When you stand 
for your liberty we will stand with you." It didn't take long for that 
promise to be tested. On Saturday Egyptian police arrested and roughed 
up Ayman Nour, the dynamic young leader of a new opposition party 
calling for liberal democracy in that strategic Middle Eastern country. 
On Monday Mr. Nour was ordered to jail for 45 days on a patently bogus 
charge of forgery. To Egyptians, his real offense was obvious: offering 
a moderate democratic alternative to the corrupt dictatorship of 
President Hosni Mubarak.

So far, the Bush administration has responded in a way that backs up the 
president's words. The State Department issued a statement calling Mr. 
Nour "one of Egypt's most prominent opposition leaders," deploring his 
arrest and mistreatment, and calling on the government to "reexamine the 
issue." In private, U.S. officials forcefully raised the case with the 
Egyptian ambassador in Washington, with the president's office and 
foreign and interior ministries in Cairo, and with representatives of 
other Group of Eight countries that joined the United States last year 
in an initiative to promote democracy in the Middle East. A meeting of 
the G-8 and the Arab League is scheduled for March 1 in Cairo; that 
raises the possibility of a U.S. or Western snub of Egypt if Mr. Nour is 
not released.

In fact, Mr. Mubarak has handed Mr. Bush a golden opportunity. The 
76-year-old strongman has been the staunchest opponent of U.S. calls for 
political liberalization in the Arab world -- an intransigence that most 
of the Egyptian elite plainly doesn't support. On the same day he 
dispatched his thugs to beat and shackle Mr. Nour -- the day before 
Iraq's historic elections -- Mr. Mubarak again hinted that he plans to 
extend his 24 years in office by six more years by running unopposed in 
a rigged "referendum" this fall.

In standing up for Mr. Nour, Mr. Bush would be supporting homegrown 
constitutional reform aimed at the creation of a parliamentary system of 
government, to be chosen in a fully democratic election. A deputy in the 
powerless Egyptian parliament for the past decade, the 40-year-old Mr. 
Nour helped found the Tomorrow Party, which was legally registered just 
three months ago. Since then he has issued an alternative constitution 
spelling out a new democratic system and announced a goal of obtaining 1 
million signatures from Egyptians in support of it. He also supported a 
new protest movement called Enough, whose name embodies its message to 
the Mubarak regime.

Mr. Nour is no radical: He recently said he would support Mr. Mubarak 
for another term as president if he first agreed to constitutional 
reform. Neither is he a pet of the United States; he has been a sharp 
critic of U.S. aid programs. He is the sort of "future leader" who Mr. 
Mubarak, and many critics of Mr. Bush's pro-democracy policy, claim 
doesn't exist in Egypt: a secular moderate capable of winning broad 
support. That, and not forgery, is what landed him in jail -- and it is 
why the Bush administration has much to gain by rallying to his side.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
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