Top CEIP Researcher: US Has no View over Mubarak’s Possible Successor

Top CEIP Researcher: US Has no View over Mubarak’s Possible Successor

Michele Dunne, a senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and editor-in-chief of the CEIP”s Arab Reform Bulletin, sees that it is the Egyptian people”s right to have the chance to determine their attitude towards democracy away from any guardianship. She sees also that the ruling regime in Egypt hasn”t allowed any real competition. This actually required the courage to abandon power and the give the opportunity to be circulated.
Michele Dunne worked in the White House between 2002 and 2003 and tried during this period to bring closer the US relations with Islamic states, confirm that there is a difference between the war against terrorism and Islam as a religion. She organized meetings between president Bush by the Muslim community in the United States . She is also considered one of the most prominent experts in US-Egyptian affairs in US research center.
We met her during her visit to Cairo to attend the National Democratic Party congress to which she was invited for the third time in a row.
Interviewer: There a general state of frustration that dominates over popular and political circles in Egypt . Isn”t it disappointing?
Michele Dunne: Any country that experiences a state of change or a transitional stage witnesses a period of activity which is followed by a period of stagnation then a political momentum again. This because political change does not move in a straight line.
I was worried about some developments that have recently taken place in Egypt . I think that there are important promising developments, like the freedom of speech, the emergence of independent media, the expansion in founding non-governmental organizations. However, I have recently observed the jails against editors-in-chief of newspapers over issued related to criticizing government, in addition to shutting down two human rights organizations. I hope that this is not a new trend adopted by government.
I think there is still some kind of vividness and courage in media and press and that people are ready to continue pressing for more freedom of speech even if they face government harassments. I hope that such vividness and courage continue and I hope that the last issues are just individual cases that don”t reflect a general trend to backpedal from freedoms gained in the last two years.
Interviewer: Do you feel while attending the NDP congress that there are plans for Tawreeth “hereditary transfer of rule from president Mubarak to his son?
Michele Dunne: What is noticed is that every time the NDP congress is held, the importance of Gamal Mubarak”s role increases and he emerges as the most prominent candidate. There are many preparations to make him the most prominent candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP), but there many things which we do not know. These things may affect the course of the coming presidential elections. It is still difficult to predict what will be the circumstances or what will happen at that time.

Interviewer: Do you think that the current regime in Egypt is really able to continue opening the political field?

Michele Dunne: It can if it wants, but the problem is that this regime says that is reforms laws and the constitution, but what it hasn”t done is opening the door for a real competition. This is something thing which they should do. They should face it and determine whether they believe in a circulation of power through allowing a real competition and whther they can accept to lose elections one day. They can do this but is is very difficult for agroup that monopolized power to abandon it.

Interviewer: You said in a research paper coauthored with Dr. Amr Hmzawi and Dr. Nathan Brown that the coming period will be very important in the US-Egyptian relations because this stage will witness the election of a new Egyptian President. Do you think that the United States knows whom it will back as Mubarak”s successor?

Michele Dunne: I am fully sure about this issues more than my assurance over who will succeed Mubarak. The United States has no specific over who it will back. There is no dialogue between the United States and Egyptian government over who will succeed Mubarak. US officials informed me that they want to retreat from this file. They think that it isn”t appropriate to intervene to support any specific candidate.

Our government does not strategically think about future problems. For honesty”s sake, the US administration handle only current problems and it has no strategic insight.
Interviewer: Has the US administration stopped backing democracy?

Michele Dunne: I”d like to confirm that change in Egypt concerns Egyptians, not the United States .
Although the United States isn”t currently backing democratization, this backing will return in the era of another administration which may support it like the same force in Egypt in 2003-2005. The US administration will have a reaction towards what people will do in this region and towards any possible democratization.
The issue of democratization in the world has been a part of the US foreign policy. What president Bush”s administration did was focusing on democratization in the Middle East . Bush did not invent this policy because all former POTUS exerted efforts in this field.

Interviewer: Wasn”t this democratization a part of serving US interests in other countries?

Michele Dunne: Sometimes, but don”t forget that there is a friendship between the US administration and dictators. The US administration backed reformist powers like what happened in the Philippines for instance.
US interests are always important and democratization is one of these interests, but it isn”t the interest.
The question is: Has the issue of democratization in the Middle East in the focus of the US administration? the answer is that this issue wasn”t on the US agenda but it is now topping the US interests in the region. Bush has for a while put it as a priority in his agenda and it has retreated but it hasn”t disappeared.

Interviewer: But the US administration is currently backing authoritarian regimes in the Middle East more than it did to democratic movements.

Michele Dunne: I don”t expect the US administration and president Bush to sever relations with old regimes.
Interviewer: But the US administration offers support to these regimes to survive.

Michele Dunne: The administration has a continuous relation with these regimes and it offers them a continuous military aid. By the way, both sides benefit from this aid. I think that the administration doesn”t see this cooperation as a help to these regimes to maintain rule. They try for example to encourage Egyptian government to gradually open the political field to have a political competition and develop political institutions. Backing democratization does not mean that they will sever relations suddenly with all governments in the region.

Interviewer: What is your opinion regarding the continuous threats of stopping US aid to Egypt ?

Michele Dunne: I think that this won”t happen this year. What”s more important is that we hear year after another increasing demands from Congress over the aid. This is why I call for reviving the US-Egyptian – relations.
People in both countries want relations to continue but they should study how to revive these relations.
The US-Egyptian has always been progressing in two parallel ways one based on cooperation and regional issues which depends on diplomatic, military and strategic relations, and the other foot is cooperation for development and reform in Egypt .

Interviewer: After Hamas election wins and after 2005 elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood candidates garnered a fifth of the the People”s Assembly seats and the ensuing US backpedaling from democratization, how will the US administration solve the dialectics of relation between its desire for pressing for democratization and the fears from Islamists rise to power?

Michele Dunne: There is no doubt that Hamas election win in Palestine led to a big problem for the US administration. However, president Bush is still defending the US support to the Palestinian elections, saying supporting the Palestinian elections was the appropriate thing that needed to be done and that the elections were free and fair.
The problem was with Hamas because it reached power adopts terrorism and wants to destroy Israel, but the Muslim Brotherhood”s wins in the in the Egyptian parliament was not a big problem for the US administration.

Interviewer: Does this mean that it may accept the Muslim Brotherhood win in parliamentary elections in Egypt ?

Michele Dunne: I don”t expect for the time being that the Muslim Brotherhood can win a majority neither in parliament nor in presidential elections. However, the US administration does not have any problem in a Muslim Brotherhood participation in the political life in Egypt . The real problem was with Hamas this may definitely be because the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is a very sensitive issue for the United States . The US administration faced huge criticisms because of Hamas. Some reiterated after the Palestinian elections blaming the administration and saying:” You spoiled every thing in Palestine because of your democratization.

Interviewer: What about the fear from the Muslim Brotherhood”s possible rise to rule?

Michele Dunne: 70% of the Egyptians don”t take part in the elections. So, we do not know their directions and what they want. We don”t know the ones they will back. I think that the Egyptian people deserve to be given the chance to express themselves politically.

Interviewer: Why has the Arab Region failed in riding the third wave of democratization?, how long will it continue failing?, when will it reach one of these waves of democratization?

Michele Dunne: I think that political change is coming in the Arab world. We are seeing signs for this. But it is difficult to predict it. We have seen changes on the sidelines but we haven”t witnessed any real change in any Arab country. The only countries that faced huge changes are Iraq because of the military invasion and Palestine which is currently witnessing a violent chaos.
We have witnessed huge developments in spreading information and in the freedom of speech and the abolition of taboos. We are seeing a new generation which is contacting, on a larger scale, foreign countries while many of them want this country to compete with the world under globalization.
We have witnessed huge changes, but I don”t know when they will have a presence on the ground. However, I think this will happen one day.

Michele Dunne
Senior Associate & Editor, Arab Reform Bulletin

Michele Dunne is an expert on Arab affairs.  She was visiting assistant professor of Arabic at Georgetown University from 2003-2006. Formerly a specialist at the State Department and White House on Middle East affairs,  Dunne’s research interests include political and other public discourse in the Arab world, trends regarding political, economic, and social reform in the region, and U.S. policy and public diplomacy toward the Middle East and the Muslim world. She recently wrote, “Integrating Democracy Promotion into U.S. Middle East Policy,” a Carnegie Endowment paper, and “Libya: Security is Not Enough,” a Carnegie Endowment Policy Brief, both in October 2004.

Selected Publications: “Ending Support for Terrorism in the Muslim
World in A Practical Guide to Winning the War on Terrorism (Hoover
Press, 2004); Democracy in Contemporary Egyptian Political Discourse.
(John Benjamins, 2003); “Mapping Egypt’s Future: The Fading
of Old Certainties” (IISS Strategic Comments No. 7, August 2001)

Ph.D., M.A., B.S., Georgetown University
Recent Articles, Testimony and Commentary:
Incumbent Regimes and the “King’s Dilemma” in the Arab World: Promise and Threat of Managed Reform (Carnegie Paper, December 2007)
Egypt’s National Democratic Party: The Search for Legitimacy (Web Commentary, November 16, 2007)
Getting Over the Fear of Arab Elections (Daily Star, October, 02, 2007)
More Articles…
Incumbent Regimes and the “King’s Dilemma” in the Arab World: Promise and Threat of Managed Reform December 2007
Palestinian Perspectives on a Middle East Peace Meeting October 2007
Morocco: From Top-Down Reform to Democratic Transition? November 2006
More Events…

Michele Dunne
Quick Facts
Contact Information:
Phone: 202-939-2264
Fax: 202-483-4462
Email Michele Dunne

Areas of Expertise:
Democracy; Egypt; Middle East; Political Reform