August 21, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 413

Another Crisis in Egypt-U.S. Relations As Reflected in the Egyptian Media

August 21, 2002
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 413

Egypt-U.S. relations have had their ups and downs in recent years. In what has become routine every few months, the Egyptian government press and opposition assail the American administration for its policies in the region. Since September 11, 2001, the crisis has intensified on a number of issues: U.S. activity in Afghanistan, the U.S. war on terrorism, the reforms the Americans want to bring about in the Arab world, the agreement the Americans brokered in the Sudan, American policy towards Iraq, dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and others.

In recent days, the wave of anti-Americanism in the Egyptian government press has increased, following the American administration's statement that it has no intention of increasing aid to Egypt because of the imprisonment of Egyptian-American sociologist and human rights activist Dr. Sa'ad Al-Din Ibrahim. To date, previous administrations have refrained from placing conditions on aid to Egypt, thus, the Egyptian government press's reaction have been extremely harsh.

The escalation in the Egyptian press attacks on the U.S. in fact, began prior to the American statement regarding Dr. Ibrahim. It came as a result of the increased Egyptian sense that a U.S. attack on Iraq was imminent. As early as August 14, the Pro-Iraqi London daily 'Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that President Mubarak's political advisor Dr. Osma Al-Baz, told an Egyptian opposition weekly, Al-Geel, exclusively that: "Egypt will not allow American Ships to pass through the Suez Canal in order to strike Iraq." He also "warned of the danger a U.S. military action against Iraq would pose for the entire region." [1]

The following are excerpts from the Egyptian media:

Kamal Abd Al-Raouf, a columnist for the government weekly Akhbar Al-Yaum, wrote: "Rumsfeld is a new Hitler in America," and then hastened to reassure his readers that "ultimately, Rumsfeld will meet his fate, like the other crazies relegated to the dustbin of history."[2]

Following the American statement on aid to Egypt, the editor of the government daily Al-Akhbar Galal Duweidar, wrote:

"How I had hoped that the bout of human rights defense that afflicts the U.S. - to the point of undermining the rulings of the glorious Egyptian legal system - would be characterized by justice and balance, not based on double standards and a constant attempt to politicize the American positions in a way that suits the interests of its agents…"

"I ask: 'Where is the rage at the human rights [violations] of the innocent Palestinian, who is killed everyday, imprisoned, banished, and besieged by the Israeli occupation forces on the occupied Palestinian land?… I mention also the last Human Rights Watch report regarding the U.S. actions and its many violations of human rights through arrests and violations of the law and legal proceedings…'"[3]

Al-Akhbar columnist Sa'id Sunbul wrote: "… It is no secret that a broad echelon of Egyptian intellectuals expressed concern because of the verdict in Sa'ad Al-Din Ibrahim's trial… If there was an intention to release Ibrahim because of his health and in response to the Egyptian intellectuals' [concerns] - I think this would not happen - at least not now, so that the release would not be interpreted as surrender to American pressure and threats. So, the American authorities have made it worse for Dr. Ibrahim and have not served him with their inconsiderate and provocative behavior… Egypt will not agree to any pressure on the part of the U.S., and the American authorities must realize this…"[4]

Al-Akhbar wrote in an editorial: "If America gives annual monetary aid to Egypt, Egypt has given the West and American policy a large measure of stability in the region, and has taken known stands both in defending the oil reserves in 1990 during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and in security cooperation following the events of September 11… The Egyptian role in the region cannot be marginalized and cannot be relinquished - but Egypt will not agree to pressure or intervention in its domestic affairs."[5]

Some articles claimed that the American aid funds to Egypt are, in effect, Arab money deposited in American banks. In another editorial, Al-Akhbar wrote: "The American administration's statement was completely lacking in good manners and was uncivilized… America is proving that it does not want friends but agents, which is unacceptable [to Egypt]… What the American administration knows but is not publicly telling is that the great Egypt did not ask for this aid. It was America that declared … [that it would] give economic aid … to Egypt..."

"This statement comes at the same time as the damage suits by the families of the victims of September 11, against Saudi Arabia for a billion dollars [sic], because these families claim that some Saudi princes are involved in the incident of the explosion of the World Trade Center in New York. We, for our part, ask: 'Has America conducted investigations? Why does it not present the results? Will it convict those who were involved with Osama bin Laden?'"

"…Don't some Arab oil states have the right to demand [money] from America for the revenues from depositing $850 billion in its banks at the lowest possible interest? Because of these funds, America receives some $150 billion annually, designated for economic aid for poor countries, and for paying America's share of the budget of the UN and its agencies such as UNESCO and UNICEF… However, it should be known that America does not pay its share…"[6]

The editor of the government daily Al-Gumhuriya, Samir Ragab, also had something to say about the Ibrahim affair: "… What is the American connection to a trial conducted on Egyptian soil, whether the accused has American citizenship or not? Does Washington realize that international law states that a country has sovereignty over what takes place under its skies? Therefore, if a man has carried out a crime in a particular place, it is the legal system of the country to which the place belongs that has the authority in the matter, and no one else… and no other party must offer interpretations, oppose, or criticize - otherwise it kills the law…"

"America is completely mistaken if it thinks it can protect its interests by applying pressure, arm-twisting, hinting at imposing sanctions, or implementing material and moral terrorism."[7]

The government daily Al-Masaa adopted a threatening tone in an editorial: "In light of the official and media madness [in America], we say to all concerned: 'Play [your games] far away from Egypt. Egypt is something else, something you do not know and [you] are incapable of withstanding the ramifications of this dangerous game with it.'"[8]

The government daily Al-Ahram took a calmer style: "Conducting relations between countries on a basis of mutual respect obligates the U.S. to forget about the idea of using economic pressure, because it creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and popular sentiment, which are not good for developing relations in favor of the interests of both peoples."

"Egypt is a regional power that plays a central role in making peace in the region... It is also one of the most important countries in the Third World, with the most ancient and most important cultural heritage… Can anyone imagine that it is possible to twist the arm of a country like this, or of its government? If the U.S. gives Egypt economic aid, then Egypt gives the U.S. aid in other areas. Even with regard to economic aid, the conditions of this aid opens horizons for American companies and American exports to Egypt..."[9]

Meanwhile, the opposition weekly Al-Usbu', which has in recent years served as an instrument for incitement against Ibrahim, devoted several articles to the American statement. For example, in an article titled "Boos to America!" columnist Amru Nasif wrote: "The country [i.e. the U.S.] founded by the deported and criminals of Europe on the blood and flesh of an entire people [i.e. Native Americans] looks like someone who has adapted herself to her history [i.e. becoming criminal again]… Egypt is much too great to descend to the base and inferior American level - even at the price of the humiliating American aid… I address President Mubarak and ask him to respond violently to the "Black House" [i.e. White House] and those who reside therein - not only for [their] effrontery and rudeness, but also for America's suspect role in the Palestinian, Iraqi, and Saudi issues, and its suspect positions towards Egypt. Let America go to hell together with its aid."[10]

In the same issue of Al-Usbu', Ahmad 'Iz Al-Din wrote: "The weapon of political hatred is brandished: Either Egypt lets the American Shylock cut its knife into the flesh of the role it plays … to feed it to the wild wolves of its avaricious aspirations in the region, or the most dastardly scenario in history will develop: the economic starvation of a people and the strategic strangulation of a nation…"[11]

[1] 'Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 14, 2002.

[2] Akhbar Al-Yaum (Egypt), August 17, 2002, as cited in 'Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 19, 2002.

[3] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), August 18, 2002.

[4] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), August 18, 2002.

[5] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), August 18, 2002.

[6] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), August 19, 2002.

[7] Al-Gumhuriya (Egypt), August 18, 2002.

[8] Al-Masaa (Egypt), as cited in 'Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August, 19, 2002.

[9] Al-Ahram (Egypt), August 19, 2002.

[10] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), August 19, 2002.

[11] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), August 19, 2002.

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