Experts in the bi-partisan Washington-based Egypt Working Group confirmed that they met with senior officials at the White House National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday to discuss political reform in Egypt as well as the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The delegation hoped it could convince the US administration to push for integrity and free and fair elections by opening political competition and allowing domestic and international supervision.
The delegation maintained that it hoped the administration would privately tell their Egyptian counterparts that the electoral process should be fair adding if the elections were rigged and violent, they hoped Obama could go public to raise the issue. Election implications for US policy was also discussed by the two parties
The meeting was significant and indicated that the administration may consider changing policy on democracy and human rights issues in Egypt.
Members of the Working Group on Egypt were also briefed on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to promote respect for human rights and a vibrant civil society, open political competition, and credible and transparent elections in Egypt, including the comprehensive set of actions that support the goals in Egypt. Since President Obama came into power, this is the first meeting with the Egypt Working Group.
Republicans voiced skeptism over Obama’s policy which normally favours stability over political reform in the Middle East. Egyptian rights groups have also criticized the Obama Administration who often cites decisions by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide funds only for registered NGOs.
NSC officials who attended the meeting include Senior Director for the Central Region Dennis Ross, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights Samantha Power, Senior Director for Global Engagement Pradeep Ramamurthy, Senior Director for the Near East and North Africa Dan Shapiro, and Senior Director for Development and Democracy Gayle Smith.
The meeting's attendees noted that Mubarak's regime has either rejected or ignored all diplomatic efforts made by the Obama administration to persuade the authorities to eliminate the 30-year-old Emergency Law imposed since his assuming power. One attendee described the discussions that took place with high level officials as serious as the question of how to pragmatically elevate the question of democratic governance, transparency and accountability in the bilateral U.S.-Egypt relationship was raised.
Regarding Egypt's political opposition namely the influential and popular Muslim Brotherhood Obama officials were told not to worry. They added that the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood winning again a majority of seats in the Egyptian parliament, was unlikely under the current regime.
Experts however analyze that Washington may reduce pressure on Egypt since it needs a powerful Egyptian mediation role in the Palestinian-Israeli peace citing that any change in US policy towards Egypt may be partially prompted by the peace process stagnation.
The delegation stressed that "stability in Egypt is an illusion, and we have to get on the right side of this thing".