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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

We sell Tomatoes

I was reading the transcript of Condi Rice’s speech at the American University in Cairo. The speech was bold and unprecedented, the secretary of state used the phrase “the Egyptian government should..” at least 5 times. Rice also met with a group of opposition leaders in an attempt to listen to their points of view.

Now, can Miss Rice do the same thing in other countries? Can she visit other countries in the region and meet opposition figures and deliver harsh speeches there? Can she do the same thing in Saudi and Qatar for example?

I believe the Egyptian government is currently under this US pressure for reform for two main reasons. First, Egypt is still the center of gravity of the entire Arab world no matter how weak politically and economically it may seems to be. Egypt led the way when Arab nationalism was the fashion. Arab countries started to make peace with and contact Israel only after Sadat went to Jerusalem. And currently the Arab world suffers from a thing that was born in Egypt which is political religious fundamentalism. The US and the rest of the Western world are hoping that this time Egypt will lead the Arab countries towards democracy.

The second reason why Egypt has all the eyes on it is the fact that we sell tomatoes to America and not oil nor land for military bases.

Condi Rice cannot go to Saudi Arabia and give a speech demanding the Saudi king to carry out a certain list of reforms. Apart from one or 2 statements urging reform, She still cannot meet Saudi dissidents on Saudi’s soil. The US is still held hostage to its demand for Saudi oil and that ties its hand preventing it from adding more pressure on the Saudi regime which is responsible for a lot of the mess the world is in now. Just look how the Saudi prince was greeted in Crawford (President Mubarak was asked not to visit the US this year!). President Bush was almost going to kiss the guy a la Francais, all in an attempt to convince him to pump more oil.

Look at Qatar. The tiny country hosts and finances a channel managed and influenced by people who are known to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Jazeera used to receive orders and money from Uday Saddam Hussein and that could mean that it does have ties to the current terrorists in Iraq. Qatar itself pays Al Qaeda and offers its media outlet to the terror network in return for a pledge that it won’t get attacked. Why didn’t the US put tremendous pressure on Qatar, a country that prides itself with having excellent relations with Washington? Well, the US has a huge military base not very far from Al Jazeera or from Sheikh Qaradawi’s multimillion dollar palace.

If Mubarak wants to feel comfortable and ease the pressure on his regime, then I guess he has to start praying for General Motors to invent SUVs that can work on tomato juice produced from Egyptian tomatoes, and only Egyptian tomatoes.

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