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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An improvement?

Jamie Fly argues that the Obama administration should get behind Mohamed ElBaradei's candidacy to be President of Egypt.

Despite this benign neglect by the Obama administration, Egypt faces its best chance for reform because of an unlikely character. Mohamed El Baradei, the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), returned to Egypt in February and has since been feted by opposition groups. It is not clear that El Baradei will run for President in 2011 -- he has smartly demanded that before he decides, he wants the system to be reformed. This rightly has caused many Egyptians to question why, under current Egyptian law, a leading international figure and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize cannot run for President just because he is not a member of a government-approved political party.

In the waning months of his time at the IAEA, El Baradei reportedly worked closely with the Obama administration. President Obama even spoke to him on the phone several times as the United States tried to get Iran to agree to a nuclear fuel swap. Now, however, the administration has been mum on Mr. El Baradei's potential electoral ambitions.

Outside Egypt, El Baradei has been treated rather poorly. Ilan Berman wrote an article on Foreign Policy's website criticizing him for meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood and stating that he might become the "savior of Egypt's Islamist opposition." An article in The Weekly Standard noted his poor stewardship of the IAEA and his failure to halt Iran's race toward a nuclear weapon.

The continued popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood is indeed cause for concern but one meeting should not be construed to imply that the secular El Baradei is a closest Islamist. The Brotherhood is a major political force in Egypt, winning 20% of the seats in parliament in 2005. It is also not a monolith and if El Baradei decides to run, he will have to try to win over some of its moderate elements.

It is true that under El Baradei, especially after the invasion of Iraq and the U.S. failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the IAEA became increasingly anti-American. El Baradei went out of his way to go easy on the Iranians despite evidence that Iran continued to flout its international commitments. However, El Baradei is contemplating a run for the Presidency of Egypt, not of the United States. His credentials as an independent minded international civil servant make it clear that this is not some democratic reformer being foisted on the Egyptian people by Washington.

These commentators are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. El Baradei represents the best chance for democratic reform in Egypt that we may see for some time. It is time for the Obama administration to take a stand on Egypt's upcoming elections and make clear to the geriatric Mubarak that his departure from the political scene is not cause for the elevation of his son Gamal to the presidency.

Is this really a question of some reform being better than no reform? Or is it a question of replacing an uncooperative regime with an openly hostile and uncooperative regime? In general, I'm all in favor of democracy. The problem is that in places like Egypt and the 'Palestinian Authority,' true open democracy means that the Islamists would take over. What the Arab world really needs is what Germany and Japan got after World War II: De-Nazification followed by elections. And that's not likely to happen.

How much influence does the US have? Short of threatening the aid money (which I wouldn't mind seeing happen for other reasons), very little.

In any event, I'm not convinced ElBaradei is the answer.


At 4:26 PM, Blogger nomatter said...

"An improvement?

What is worse, a hurricane or tornado?

On the flip side, he has all the hallmarks of a
fine politician. One being a liar...Two being a master of deception...

Actually he was a magician in another life. The highest qualification for running for public office.

...And seeing his little hi-jinks with concealing the realities of what Iran was up to, (under the eyes of those in high places who knew better) proves as a president nothing can touch him.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

He is probably Obama's idea of next president. Weak, pro-Iranian nuke, power-hungry islamist(or whatever party would serve him)

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

the Mubarak establishment will not allow any other candidate to be elected

At 8:28 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Agreed. The Mubarak regime is corrupt and brutal but there is no real alternative. And having the Muslim Brotherhood take over Egypt is something no one in Israel wants to see happen.


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