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What Presidents Mubarak and Obama Didn’t Say

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What Presidents Mubarak and Obama Didn’t Say

Posted by Laura Heaton on August 18, 2009

We’ve been monitoring the State Department and White House news feeds in hopes of learning more about the details of what President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and visiting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may have discussed today in regards to the mutual goal of stabilizing Sudan. This is all we’ve come up with, buried in President Mubarak’s overview of the meeting:

“We have discussed an array of issues from our bilateral relations to the issues of the Middle East, the region, to the Palestinian issue, to the issue of Iran, Somalia, and the Africa Horn.”

Perhaps we’ll hear more in the subsequent White House and State Department press briefings as journalists probe for more details on the substance of their discussion, but as an initial readout, this passing mention is disappointing.

As we’ve noted in previous posts today, the presidential meeting at the White House presented an opportunity for the United States and Egypt to parlay their close relationship into a genuine partnership focused on the common goal of establishing a peaceful and stable Sudan. Cairo is acutely aware of the effect Khartoum’s reckless behavior and increasing international intransigence could have on Egypt’s national security. Egyptian diplomats express concern over two increasingly likely scenarios: 1) Should the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum lose its grip on power, Egypt is concerned that Sudan would descend into anarchic fighting that would rival Somalia’s, posing a great risk to neighboring Egypt. 2) The division of Sudan into two separate states could jeopardize Egypt’s access to the Nile River, posing a potentially existential risk to Egypt that is rarely discussed.

The Obama administration must leverage Egypt’s increasingly fragile position as Sudan’s northern neighbor on the Nile to compel President Mubarak to become a key partner working toward a comprehensive approach that centers on a renewed Darfur peace process and a roadmap for CPA implementation with consequences for actors who fail to meet commitments. Of course, the two leaders certainly had plenty of regional concerns to discuss to fill up their meeting today. But given the far-reaching effects that Sudan’s instability could have over the next year and a half and beyond, let’s hope Presidents Mubarak and Obama spent more time talking about these common concerns than their public remarks suggest.