History, Egypt Under Mubarak
Copts, Iraqis, assassination attempt, Sadat, Arab League
Vice President Hosni Mubarak succeeded Sadat as president. Mubarak promised to stress continuity in foreign policy and betterment of economic conditions in Egypt. One of his first acts was to release the politicians whom Sadat had jailed. While maintaining Egyptís close ties with the United States, Mubarak also pursued closer ties with other Arab countries and kept his distance from Israel. By 1987 most Arab states had restored their diplomatic ties with Egypt. Egypt was readmitted to the Arab League in 1989 and the league's headquarters was moved back to Cairo.
Within Egypt, the government continued to move away from state-controlled enterprises but also curbed some of the excesses of businessmen and speculators who had taken advantage of Sadatís infitah policy. Corruption, even among members of Sadatís family, was exposed and halted. Mubarak allowed new political parties to form and eased some curbs on press freedom, but he maintained the state of emergency that Sadat had imposed in 1981 to prevent the Islamist groups from gaining power. Yet the government seemed less able than the Islamists, who maintained a traditional Islamic social services network, to deliver medical, educational, and social benefits to poor people. Continued inequities between a rich and powerful minority and the impoverished masses appalled most Egyptians.
In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait, and Mubarak supported the U.S.-led allied coalition that was formed to reverse the occupation. Egyptís intellectuals widely criticized his support of the coalition, and many Egyptians sympathized with the Iraqis. Throughout the 1990s, radical Islamist groups engaged in violent action to overthrow the government. Members of these groups murdered secular-minded politicians, a leading secularist writer, Copts, and foreign tourists. Mubarak himself barely escaped an assassination attempt in 1995. The government responded by imprisoning or executing numerous radicals. Economic reforms in the later 1990s promoted economic development and raised Egyptís per capita income, but the peace policy with Israel and Egyptís close ties to the United States remained widely unpopular.
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