Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dispatched his intelligence chief to Syria's capital on Wednesday to meet with President Bashar Assad in an attempt to defuse tension in Lebanon and discuss American and European pressure on Syria.
Presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad told reporters that Mubarak believes the ``tense situation in Lebanon and the escalation of pressure on Syria through the U.S.-European summit needed a swift and vigorous move to contain the situation there.''
Mubarak, at least, is getting the message. He desperately needs to prove that he is personally important to American interests in the Middle East. Hence his new willingness to pressure the Palestinians, to play the host to Ariel Sharon, and to drop the hammer on Bashar Assad. Of course, if Syria does withdraw from Lebanon, the world's media and chattering classes will say that it was despite Bush, rather than because of him. Mubarak, though, knows the truth. He just isn't talking.
There's also the little matter of better than $2 billion a year in U.S. aid. What gives Bush, as opposed to any other president you can think of, leverage in this case is that Mubarak believes him capable of putting his wallet away.
Indeed, but we've been forking over that kind of aid to Egypt since the Carter administration, and Egypt has not always been so obviously interested in doing things our way. I think there is more at work than money.