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Viewing cable 09CAIRO722, SCENESETTER FOR AMBASSADOR ROSS' VISIT TO EGYPT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO722 2009-04-28 15:03 2010-12-13 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO1066
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHEG #0722/01 1181534
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 281534Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2296
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 000722 

NOFORN 
SIPDIS 

FROM AMBASSADOR SCOBEY FOR AMBASSADOR ROSS 
ABU DHABI PLEASE PASS TO ROSS DELEGATION 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/28/2029 
TAGS: PREL PARM KPAL IS LE SU IR EG
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR AMBASSADOR ROSS' VISIT TO EGYPT 

REF: A. CAIRO 705 
B. CAIRO 618 
C. CAIRO 451 

Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey for reason 1.4 (b). 

1. KEY POINTS: 

-- (S) President Mubarak sees Iran's attempts to exert 
influence throughout the region as Egypt's primary strategic 
threat. However, Mubarak's focus on the Iranian threat 
differs somewhat from ours. While he will readily admit that 
the Iranian nuclear program is a strategic and existential 
threat to Egypt and the region, he sees that threat as 
relatively "long term." What has seized his immediate 
attention are Iran's non-nuclear destabilizing actions such 
as support for HAMAS, media attacks, weapons and illicit 
funds smuggling, all of which add up in his mind to "Iranian 
influence spreading like a cancer from the GCC to Morocco." 

-- (S) In particular, Egypt views Iran as an adversary that 
is trying to undermine GOE efforts on Palestinian 
reconciliation and preventing weapons smuggling to Gaza, 
while endangering key GOE interests such as stability in 
Lebanon and Sudan. 

-- (S/NF) The GOE remains concerned with Iranian efforts to 
interfere in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and Sudan, and Egypt views 
the recently dismantled Sinai Hizballah cell as an 
unacceptable Iranian escalation. 

-- (S) The MFA believes that a harder U.S. line in UN fora on 
Israel's nuclear program would strengthen the U.S. position 
on demanding Iran cease working to develop nuclear weapons. 


2. (S) Ambassador Ross, welcome to Egypt. Your visit comes 
as Egypt continues its efforts to mediate a permanent 
cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, to facilitate 
intra-Palestinian negotiations and to stop the smuggling of 
arms into Gaza. The GOE realizes that Iran is working to 
undermine all of these Egyptian efforts. Many Egyptians see 
the new U.S. Administration as a cause for optimism in both 
the bilateral relationship and in U.S. engagement with the 
region. President Mubarak appears ready to accept President 
Obama's invitation to visit Washington within the next 
several months, which will mark his first visit to Washington 
since April 2004. Special Envoy for the Middle East Senator 
George Mitchell has visited Egypt and the region three times. 
While President Mubarak unfortunately will not be available, 
we have requested meetings for you with Foreign Minister 
Aboul Gheit, Intelligence Chief Omar Soliman, Arab League 
Secretary-General Amre Moussa, National Democratic Party 
Assistant Secretary-General Gamal Mubarak and Interior 
Minister Habib Al-Adly. 

----------------- 
President Mubarak 
----------------- 

3. (S/NF) President Mubarak has made it clear that he sees 
Iran as Egypt's -- and the region's -- primary strategic 
threat. His already dangerous neighborhood, he has stressed, 
has only become more so since the fall of Saddam, who, as 
nasty as he was, nevertheless stood as a wall against Iran, 
according to Mubarak. He now sees Tehran's hand moving with 
ease throughout the region, "from the Gulf to Morocco," as he 
told a recent congressional delegation. The immediate threat 
to Egypt comes from Iranian conspiracies with Hamas (which he 
sees as the "offspring" of his own most dangerous internal 
political threat, the Muslim Brotherhood) to stir up unrest 
in Gaza, but he is also concerned about Iranian machinations 
in Sudan and their efforts to create havoc elsewhere in the 
region, including in Lebanon via Hezbollah. While Tehran's 
nuclear threat is also a cause for concern, Mubarak is more 
urgently seized with what he sees as the rise of pan-Shi'ism 
and Iranian attempts to dominate the Middle East. 

4. (S) The Egyptians have been clear they do not intend to 
resume normal diplomatic ties with the Iranians until 
specific political and security issues are addressed, 
including the renaming of "Islambouli Street" named after 
Sadat's assassin. The GOE recognizes that Iran's long arm 
has extended into Gaza via Hamas, but the same time, they are 
worried that we are going to strike a "grand deal" with the 
Iranians. Accordingly, the Egyptian MFA has reported to us 
that they are in touch with the Iranians and "listen" to them 
on regional issues. The prevailing GOE view remains a 
principled rejection of any diplomatic rapprochement, but we 

CAIRO 00000722 002 OF 003 


believe the Egyptians are maintaining contact in the event 
there is a need for a quick shift in their approach. The 
Egyptians are also marginally increasing cultural and 
economic ties with Iran. The Egyptians are also concerned 
about Iranian Shi'a proselytizing in Egypt. 

----------------------- 
EGIS Chief Omar Soliman 
----------------------- 

5. (S/NF) Soliman, the key GOE advisor on national security 
policy after President Mubarak, recently told us that Egypt 
has started a confrontation with Hezbollah and Iran and will 
not allow Iran to operate in Egypt. Soliman has noted that 
after the GOE's recent arrest of a Hizballah cell in the 
Sinai, Egypt had sent a clear message to Iran that if they 
interfere in Egypt, Egypt will interfere in Iran, adding that 
EGIS had already begun recruiting agents in Iraq and Syria. 
Soliman has warned us against only focusing on one issue at 
time, such as Iran's nuclear weapons program. He believes 
Iran must pay the price for its actions and not be allowed to 
interfere in regional affairs. Soliman has offered GOE 
cooperation on Iran, and welcomes a U.S.-Egyptian partnership 
on combating Iranian influence in the region. 

6. (S/NF) Soliman recently noted that Iranian financial 
support to Hamas amounted to $25 million a month, but that 
Egypt was "succeeding" in preventing financial support from 
entering Gaza through Egypt. According to Soliman, Iran has 
tried several times to pay the salaries for the al-Qassam 
Battalions, but Egypt had succeeded in preventing the money 
from reaching Gaza. Soliman has expressed concern over 
Hezbollah's first attempt to stand up a cell within Egypt, 
and noted to us that Iran was also trying to recruit support 
from the Sinai Bedouins, he claimed, in order to facilitate 
arms smuggling to Gaza. 

---------------------------- 
Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit 
---------------------------- 

7. (C) Aboul Gheit has speculated that the new U.S. 
Administration will engage with Iran, but will be 
disappointed in late 2009 or early 2010 when it realizes that 
Iran will not stop its enrichment activities. Aboul Gheit 
believes Israel may then attack Iran. According to Aboul 
Gheit, the "intransigence" of Israel and Iran will place the 
U.S. in an awkward position with the Islamic world. Aboul 
Gheit will reiterate President Mubarak's strong opinion that 
the only real solution is a nuclear free zone in the Middle 
East, which would require Israel to give up its nuclear 
weapons. Aboul Gheit believes that while the U.S. may not 
perceive a nuclear-armed Israel as a threat, it is so 
perceived throughout the Middle East. In the Foreign 
Minister's opinion, if the U.S. pushed Israel to renounce 
nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Arab governments would be in a 
much stronger position to demand that Iran end its nuclear 
program. 

8. (C) MFA officials have made it clear to us that they do 
not expect Israel to give up its nuclear weapons in the 
absence of comprehensive regional peace; however, the GOE is 
frustrated with what it perceives as a lack of political 
progress in international fora to advance the Middle East 
Resolution that came out of the 1995 Nuclear Proliferation 
Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which called in part for a 
Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (MENWFZ). The GOE's 
campaign for progress on the eventual establishment of a 
MENWFZ -- even if the ultimate goal remains far in the future 
-- will likely guide their approach to the 2009 NPT 
Preparatory Conference in May and the 2010 NPT Review 
Conference. 

------------------------------------ 
Arab League Secretary-General Moussa 
------------------------------------ 

9. (C) Moussa has publicly and privately minimized Iran's 
threat, claiming that the Arab world should strengthen its 
economic and cultural ties with Iran. Moussa believes that 
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses the greatest danger to 
the region, and has consistently pressed the U.S. to do more 
to stop Israeli settlement activity and advance the political 
process between Israelis and Palestinians. The Arab League's 
views on the importance of advancing a Middle East nuclear 
weapons free zone are similar to those of the MFA. Moussa 
also plays an important role in trying to manage intra-Arab 
squabbles, including Qatar-Syria vs. Egypt-Saudi Arabia. The 
Egyptians have made it clear that they consider the Qataris 

CAIRO 00000722 003 OF 003 


"nouveau riche upstarts" who are trying to buy their way to 
influence via big spending and posing as the "true" champions 
of the Palestinian cause by allying themselves with Syria and 
Iran. The Qatari attempt to invite Iran to the Doha Arab 
League summit incensed the Egyptians, many of whom blamed 
Moussa for mismanaging the issue. 

---------------------- 
Interior Minister Adly 
---------------------- 

10. (S) Interior Minister General Habib Al-Adly focuses on 
counterterrorism and suppressing domestic political 
opposition. He will not offer strategic analysis of Iran 
role in the region, but should be able to provide details on 
the nascent Hizballah cell in the Sinai, which the GOE 
recently dismantled and arrested. Adly may also be able to 
share information on the steps the GOE is taking to disrupt 
the flow of Iranian-supplied arms from Sudan through Egypt to 
Gaza. In March, he told us that Egyptian police had killed 
arms smugglers trying to transfer weapons from Sudan into 
Egypt (ref C). He has described GOE efforts to combat 
smuggling over the long Egyptian-Sudanese border region as 
"difficult." 

------------- 
Gamal Mubarak 
-------------- 

11. (C) Ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) Assistant 
Secretary-General and Presidential son Gamal Mubarak does not 
currently play a significant role in Egypt's formal foreign 
policy process, focusing instead on NDP matters and economic 
development. Gamal's recent trip to Washington raised his 
political profile in Egypt, and he is of course a possible 
successor to his father. As a UK-trained former 
international banker, Gamal is perhaps most at home 
discussing economics and the current financial crisis. 

------------------------------- 
Internal Politics and Economics 
------------------------------- 

12. (SBU) We continue to promote democratic reform in Egypt, 
including the expansion of political freedom and pluralism, 
and respect for human rights. Egyptian democracy and human 
rights efforts, however, are being stymied, and the GoE 
remains skeptical of our role in democracy promotion, 
complaining that any efforts to open up will result in 
empowering the Muslim Brotherhood, which currently holds 86 
seats in Egypt's 454-seat parliament. Economic reform is 
ongoing although Egypt still suffers from widespread poverty 
affecting 35-40% of the population. Egyptian-U.S. trade has 
more than doubled in the last four years, reaching almost $9 
billion in 2008. The U.S. exports to Egypt about twice as 
much as it imports. Egyptian banks operate very 
conservatively and have been spared involvement in risky 
financial products, but the effects of the global economic 
crisis on Egypt are beginning to be felt. As the global 
credit crunch worsens, Egypt remains vulnerable as exports, 
Suez Canal revenues, tourism, and remittances -- its largest 
sources of revenue -- are all down and likely to continue to 
fall. 
SCOBEY