Hamdeen Sabbahi: A man obsessed with both the experience and the personality of the former Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser, and tries to clone it.
The hardest are the interviews done with diplomats, since every word implies hundreds of meanings, and political considerations that respect interests and the international relations balance.
Abdullah Al-Ashaal, one of the most distinguished diplomats, academics, politicians, and men of law in Cairo, had run for Egyptian presidential elections in 2011, and worked as an ambassador to his country and assistant for the Foreign Minister during the previous era. He is the Professor of International Law in the American University, an Islamic intellectual, and one of the well-known strategic experts specialized in the Palestinian Cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Considerations are present in Al-Ashaal’s stances, some of which are related to the diplomacy he’s specialized in. Others are controlled by certain considerations that weren’t away from his ambitions until recently since that the former presidential candidate confesses that he will run again for President in any upcoming round.
The academic who has five PhDs in Law and Politics, boasts of not being among those who joined the revolution by its end, he rather preceded it by his opposition to the former regime. He goes further to talk about how the Brotherhood reached presidency in Egypt, focusing on what is being triggered about cancelling or modifying the so-called peace agreement between Egyptians and Zionists, known also as “Camp David Agreement”. He details the Egyptian-Iranian relations; exactly as he clarifies the American stance from Brotherhood’s taking power in the country. In the interview, he didn’t forget the events in Syria. As for the Bahraini crisis, Al-Ashaal deals with it in a way that reminds his interviewer that he is a diplomat first and foremost.
In a special interview with Al-Manar website, Dr. Abdullah Al-Ashaal dwells upon the arrival of Mohammad Mursi, Freedom and Justice Party’s candidate, and adherent to Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, to the Egyptian presidency. He explains the percentage of his competitors’ representation in Egypt, asserting that any of the candidates did present an electoral program, rather flooding voters with money, as well as some other factors, contributed to transferring votes for the sake of the candidates.
Hamdeen Sabbahi: A man obsessed with both the experience and the personality of the former Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser, and tries to clone it. This is how Al-Ashaal briefly describes the candidate who occupied the third level according to the election results. Sabbahi presents himself as a nationalist, something that drove nationalists to vote for him. He also succeeded in gaining the votes of the Liberals and those opposing Islamists’ taking to power.
Ahmad Shafiq: The Military Council’s candidate. Saudi Arabia funded his electoral campaign, exactly as it did, along with other sides, in the campaigns of the other candidates. The Egyptian diplomat says that the Military Council tried its best to bring Shafiq to presidency in an attempt to abort the revolution.
Mohammad Mursi: The most well-known figure not only for being the President, but also for being the candidate of a group that enjoys a large popularity in the Egyptian milieu. Dr. Al-Ashaal confesses that the electoral campaign of the Muslim Brotherhood was mainly funded by the State of Qatar. This annoyed Saudi Arabia that was beforehand uneasy about the Brotherhood’s rising in the region. In spite of that, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia provided Mursi’s campaign with financial aid.
“The Islamist stream coming to power doesn’t mean that the Islamists will have the reins,” Al-Ashaal said, noting that the Egyptian arena is controlled by political partition and a state of animosity between its streams.
“The Islamist stream is undergoing its first test in this domain,” which means lacking experience, he said. According to him, if the Egyptian exemplar succeeded, other models will succeed. Yet if it failed, the region will go back to the ancient ages. Al-Ashaal confessed that there are major sophistications and challenges on both the inner and the outer levels.
As he calls for linger in judging the Brotherhood, he considers that “Mursi is not acting in the national sense – until the moment- but in the sense of a Brotherhood Leader,” and that the project in Egypt mustn’t be Islamist, but national in order to confront the inner challenges and make achievements on this level.
Camp David… Between Modification and Cancellation
Concerning what is rumored about the “Peace Agreement” between Egypt and “Israel”, Al-Ashaal has his own point of view.
The Egyptian politician asserts that the “popular temper in Egypt is hostile to Israel… and people hated it more after Mubarak’s reign and his total official bowing to it. People rejects any relation with Israel.” As for the Brotherhood, he recalls that it fought the Zionist gangs in 1948, and that Captain Ahmad Abdul Aziz of the Egyptian army, affiliated with the Brotherhood, trained and equipped Palestinian commandos.
Al-Ashaal talks about the existential contradiction between Egyptians and Zionists, noting that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt doesn’t declare its true stances concerning the relations with the Zionist entity due to the intense pressures they are suffering from, as well as for not being able to strengthen their rule till the moment.
With respect to the items of the Agreement, he considers that it has some advantages for Egypt, and what must be modified, according to Al-Ashaal, are the items related to the security level, in addition to some of the attached appendixes.
He says that Zionists are also demanding the Agreement modification to obtain President Mohammad Mursi’s signature on an agreement modified by the two sides. In his opinion, Israelis consider Mursi’s signature on such agreement a gain itself, something Mursi, who’s working on practically modifying some items, refuses. Al-Ashaal noted that Egyptian tanks entering Sinai following the recent events doesn’t go with the Agreement.
Toppling the Symbols of the Military Council: “A Compatibility of Wills”
Dr. Abdullah Al-Ashaal refuses describing the dismissal of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Anan as a deal between the Brotherhood and the USA, rather he agrees on describing it as an American consent regarding this step, and considers what happened as a compatibility of wills between Mursi and the Americans not to face the desires of the Brotherhood and seeking its pleasure with respect to its popular influence.
“The White Revolution” served the Egyptian public interests. Al-Ashaal explains that the Military Council wasn’t but an American card of power in Egypt, and was closely related to the Israeli Mossad. For this reason, it was one of the red lines unless circumstances would change. It wasn’t possible for the members of the armed forces to reach the centers of control in the council since it was exclusive for certain figures.
According to Al-Ashaal, the Military Council did its best to abort the revolution, until the Sinai events took place that contributed in toppling its symbols after slackness became clear, so this didn’t produce echoes.
As for justifying the American consent, the Egyptian diplomat links the reason to the American awareness of its disability to confront the Brotherhood with their popular base, so that the USA decided to take it to power. “America wants the Islamists to reach the power to be expelled by the people themselves because the Islamists will be unable to face the challenges and find solutions and exits for the inner crises, not to mention the obstacles America will put in their way.”
How does Al-Ashaal view the events in Syria? What about Mursi’s stands from the Syrian regime? How does he approach the Bahraini crisis? And why does he consider assaulting the American Embassy in Cairo, and running up the Al-Qaeda flags, to condemn the movie that insulted Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), a film made in the USA?
Expect Dr. Abdullah Al-Ashaal’s answers on those questions in Part II of this interview.
Translated by: Zeinab Abdallah
To read the Arabic version of this article click here.