The new shift in emphasis became manifest at the first 'Forum for the Future' conference held in Moroccan capital Rabat Dec.. 10 and 11, where outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented Washington's new take on democratization in his diplomatic swan song....
On the first day of the event civil society representatives reportedly went so far as to boycott meetings after complaining they had been denied the chance to express their views....
Some observers speculate, particularly since the Rabat meeting, that a new quid pro quo has been struck between Washington and U.S.-friendly regimes in the region. These regimes, no matter how autocratic, would be left alone as long as they play ball on two other fronts: improved relations with Israel, and cooperation in Washington's global 'war on terror'.
"It appears that there is some kind of hidden agenda between the governments of the region and Washington, and that the United States, along with the G8, aren't into pushing for real steps towards political reform," said Abu Seada.
Such suspicions have been bolstered further by recent perceived Egyptian concessions to Israel including a recently signed trade deal between the two countries, Cairo's release of convicted Israeli spy Azaam Azzam, and Egyptian government silence regarding the allegedly accidental death of three Egyptian frontier guards in cross-border Israeli fire. "If we flatter Israel as the Americans want," suggested Said, "we're off the hook."
While the new dynamic can be seen most visibly in Egypt's recent political maneuverings, the pattern appears to apply to the entire region. At Rabat Powell cited Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Algeria as some of the countries which the United States perceived to be "moving forward on political, educational and economic reform initiatives."
This surprisingly upbeat assessment came at a time when the Arab world continues to suffer to varying degrees under a permanent state of martial law.
Economic liberalization before political reform - we've heard this tune before. This quote from Mubarak speaks to the success of this agenda in the past, since there was never anything more to the GME Initiative than a public relations fig leaf and this "shift" in policy is merely the abandonment of a public relations fig leaf and the continuation of decade's old failed policy.
President Hosni Mubarak did not say, "Look at the past 20 years of my service, and how prosperous I have made Egypt in that time."