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US National Intelligence Council: Egypt Lost its Leadership Role in Region

A recent U.S. National Intelligence Council report suggests Egypt has lost its leading role in the region in the last five years and that leadership in the Middle East is passing to Saudi Arabia.

The study, "Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan: Policies on Regional Issues and Support for U.S. Goals in the Middle East," said: "Mubarak is getting older and no longer has the energy to provide the leadership he once did.

No one in the government, including his son or Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egyptian Intelligence Service, has replaced him in regional relations."

U.S.-Egyptian relations remain strong, it says, but officials in Cairo have begun to doubt how these ties benefit Egypt. The report authors do not expect either of Mubarak's potential successors to effect a significant change in relations with Washington, but they believe the leader's son Gamal may embark on a process of internal political liberalization.

Egypt does not enjoy the comparative advantage it once did, as other states in the region have massive revenues from oil, and other regional economies have improved faster than Egypt's. Egypt no longer has an attractive political or economic model to offer the rest of the region.

With regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the report highlighted an Egyptian growing interest to maintain stability in the Gaza Strip, especially on its borders. In addition, Egypt is insisting on keeping the peace treaty with Israel as a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict because it gives it a number of security advantages.

In spite of the Egyptian efforts to control the borders and hold talks with Hamas, the Egyptian administration is not brave enough to restructure the regional relations with Israel or even to get the support of public opinion on this issue. Moreover, Egypt took limited actions towards what is going on in Gaza because it does not want to be responsible for this troubled area, the report said.

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