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"The Kikhia case is a moment of truth for the Clinton Administration..."

                                Jim Haogland
                                Washington Post - 10/2/97

MER - Washington - 10/19/97:

Four years ago Ambassador Mansour Kikhia was attending a human rights conference in Cairo when he disappeared.  President Clinton immediately appealed to President Mubarak for help.  But the Egyptians
have always insisted they weren't involved and didn't know what happened.  From the start the Libyans were suspected, as Kikhia had been Libya's prominent U.N. Ambassador until his resignation and
defection a few years earlier.

By most accounts Kikhia was an honorable and committed man.  He would soon have gained U.S. citizenship, and his American wife still lives in the U.S.  Just a few weeks ago -- before all the attention to the attempted Mossad hit of a Hamas leader in Amman -- the lead story on page 1 of the Sunday WASHINGTON POST was how the Americans now have conclusive evidence that the regime of Hosni Mubarak helped the Libyans kidnap Kikhia.  He was quickly spirited across the Egyptian-Libyan border and a few months latter executed in Tripoli, according to the CIA.
The Libyan story has yet to been told.  There is the possibility they considered Kikhia either a traitor or possibly even someone who had turned to the CIA after he resigned as Libya's U.N. Ambassador.  One
of the big problems for the U.S. these days is that anytime something happens to someone like Kikhia, and especially if the U.S. tries to help, there is an undertow of suspicion that the person might have
been working for or with the Americans in one way or another.  That does not appear to be the case in regard to Kikhia; but what the Libyans thought remains to be seen.
The part of the story that hasn't been told is the secret visit by Osama El-Baz, top aide to Hosni Mubarak, to the Washington Post in the immediate days before they printed the big story -- one which may still
impact in a significant way on Egyptian-U.S. relations.
El-Baz's mission totally failed.  Indeed, most of the things El-Baz has been involved in, going back to Camp David and the years before, have failed.
Rather than resign, as did Foreign Ministers Ismail Fahmy and Mohamed Ibrahim Kamel whom he served, El-Baz has stayed on.  But he has done so in the opinion of many insiders as the result of political prostitution, though others consider him more akin to a political chameleon.  There are also rumors, at a high and serious level, that he has taken what amounts to as bribes from everyone from the Zionists, to the Saudis, to the Libyans.  His relationship to American intelligence remains more mysterious, though certainly possible; and indeed visiting the Post could have even been a cover for other dealings he might have had while in Washington.
When it comes to the Kikhia case, the near-panic reaction shown by the Egyptians in dispatching their most senior trouble-shooter to try to talk the Post out of printing the story may well have convinced the
paper to play it up even bigger than it had originally intended to do.
The one thing the Post did agree to it seems is to keep the El-Baz mission secret.  Furthermore, the Post rarely if ever turns its attention to the political corruption issues in Egypt these days -- including the strong suspicion that the highest ranking persons, El-Baz among them, have themselves been on-the-take from various interests, including Libya.
What will the U.S. do now regarding Egypt and this "moment of truth"?  Other than behind-the-scenes "expressions" of concern, probably not much.
The Mubarak regime has grown more corrupt, more repressive, and more full of itself year by year.  Nevertheless the Americans and the Israelis desperately need the Egyptians to stay on their team; and the
Mubarak regime desperately needs the Americans to stay in power.  USAID and CIA have become vital for Mubarak; and he knows it very well.  Moreover, members of the Mubarak family, along with close friends and political allies, have substantial business interests ranging from Libya to Saudi Arabia as well as with Israelis and Jewish supporters worldwide.  And though this state of affairs isn't that well known
publicly because of the censorship and police-state restrictions in Egypt, it certainly is among the power brokers.

The Congress might raise a bit of a theatrical fuss, especially if urged on by the Israeli/Jewish lobby which always likes to throw its weight around and show everyone who's in control.  But in the end Egypt will get its yearly billions, the duplicitous "peace process" will proceed one way or another, and the American hegemonic role in the region will continue for now.
And because he knows where all the bones are buried and has proved so easy to manipulate and twist, the failed Osama El-Baz will continue representing Mubarak, pursuing his personal benefit, looking away as
corruption and repression escalate still further, and always selling Egypt itself very short. (c) MER


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