April 14, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 368

Editors of Egyptian Government Newspapers: Egypt Will Not be Dragged into War Against Israel by Syria's 'Boy President'

April 14, 2002
Syria, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 368

Several of Egypt's government newspapers have in recent days suggested to Syria, Lebanon, and other Arab states that have adopted an extremist line, that Egypt will not be dragged into a war against Israel. The following are excerpts from such articles:

Syria is Notoriously Always Crying for Egypt's Help
Samir Ragab, editor-in-chief of the government daily Al-Gumhuriya, who is considered close to President Mubarak, wrote in his daily column: "In 1967, 'The year of the painful and severe defeat,' one of the Arab states [i.e. Syria] cried for help. It called on Egypt to confront hostile forces that, it was claimed, were massed on the border of that country. Every day the cries increased, shifting from calls of distress to calls for urgent help! The late president Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser had no choice but to go to war, motivated by purely emotional motives. Then, what happened, happened!" "The catastrophe nearly recurred in 1973, when that same state again issued similar calls for help. Had it not been for the quality of the [intelligence] analyses of the [Egyptian] political and military leadership at that time, the October victory would have gone all to hell, and it would not have been possible later to liberate the land of Sinai to the last inch!" "Amazingly, in 1997 – that is, only five years ago – Egypt received urgent phone calls and urgent messages from that same state [Syria]… which claimed that Israel was massing forces on the Egyptian border! Obviously, the Egyptian leadership swung immediately into action and instructed all the relevant apparatuses to track the massing of those troops. Surprisingly, not a single foreign [i.e. Israeli] soldier was found. In this instance too, had it not been for the wisdom of the [Egyptian] political leadership, a great disaster would have occurred!" "For this reason, I have poured over the statements given to a certain Arab paper by one of Lebanon's leaders [i.e. Parliament Chairman Nabih Berri] who is 'very' close to that state [Syria], and fully obeys its orders. He defended that state and its stance against the Israeli enemy, its support of the Lebanese resistance, and so on and so forth." "But what upset me was that when that Lebanese leader was asked a specific question - why that Arab state [Syria] does not open a front [the Golan Heights] allowing passage for fighters - he answered: Ask me first about the Israeli flags flying in some Arab capitals [i.e. Cairo]!…" "Why did he refuse to clarify whether that state was willing to open its own front or not! I am convinced he remembers nothing about this matter, for two reasons:" "First, he is well aware of the resources of that state and knows the extent to which it ensures that others fight in its stead. Second, he is used to always being that state's 'yes-man'…"

Egypt's Interests are Always Above Any Other Consideration
"We say to whom it may concern, in that state [Syria] or other states, that we know our path very well, and no one will impose his will on us – because the interests of the Egyptian people are always above any other consideration. We set our policy and make our decisions in accordance with that interest."[1] The next day, Ragab reiterated his message in stronger terms: "…To those who want to entangle Egypt, we say: Gentlemen, Egypt was the pioneer, the leader; it had the supreme thought, the wise, objective, and pure policy; and it will continue to do so, whether you like it or not. Therefore, we stress that the Egyptian army has not and will not work for anyone, because it is a 100% national army that knows what its missions are." "Anyone who wants to be condescending towards us by [citing] the so-called Joint Arab Defense Agreement has limited knowledge and experience [implying Syrian President Bashar Assad], and their hearts are filled with evil towards the Egyptian people. They can rejoice only when it [the Egyptian people] suffers economic and social crises. We reiterate to them, so that they will understand, that the 'official' name of the Joint Defense Agreement is 'Joint Defense and Economic Cooperation Among Arab States.'" "Do you get it, gentlemen?! The agreement includes two fundamental clauses that are inseparable. No battles, no warfare, and no war without tremendous economic support to cover the outlay. Who of those people is minimally willing to pay even a single dollar?!…"

The Egyptian Army Only Defends Egypt
"President Mubarak has repeatedly declared, and we stand behind him, that the Egyptian army is for defending Egypt's territory, and that it can confront anyone wishing to attack even one grain of its land… Those who try to push us into an unwise battle have in the past described us in the ugliest of terms, and illegitimately accused us, while forgetting, or disregarding, our dire economic straits which were caused by the five successive wars we have undergone on their behalf. This, while they have gone on 'sleeping,' and enjoying the finest of delicacies, beverages, and… women!" "Nevertheless, anyone who wants to fight is welcome to prove his cunning to us. Let he who is enthusiastic 'in theory' about the Joint Defense Agreement start on his own… On what basis do you demand that Egypt act while others do not even hint that they are willing to participate in or support [a war]?" "In sum, we reiterate that the Egyptian army is an able army, a strong army, whose officers and troops have the finest combat capabilities. But it has never been a 'tool' in the hands of propagandists who falsify the facts, traffic in clever slogans, and fight with microphones, television screens, and megaphones." "Yes, we will exert our best political and diplomatic efforts to arrive at a solution to rescue the Palestinians from their situation. Anyone who wants to declare war is welcome to do so, instead of spending his life in outcries, shouts, lies, and hypocrisy."[2] The following day, Ragab discussed this issue again: "When we say that the 1967 disaster will not be repeated, this means… that we will not give anyone the chance to entangle us [in a war] in order to defend him while he stands on the sidelines watching us or playing with our emotions. The era of emotional wars has ended…"[3]

Egypt Will Not be Dragged into War by Syria's 'Boy President'
Ibrahim Nafi', editor-in-chief of the government daily Al-Ahram, also wrote on the issue: "… The decision to go to war is the most difficult and costly decision a nation can make. No one can be condescending towards Egypt on this matter. For [Egypt] sacrificed the finest of its sons between 1967 and 1973. Egypt re-equipped its military, which was lost by the adventurers… and at the right moment [1973] it delivered the victorious blow… Then, Egypt completed the move with a peace offensive… and regained the Sinai, in its entirety… Egypt will not hesitate to enter a war - if someday war will be inevitable to defend its interests, its honor, its land, or its sons." "But there is a huge difference between responsible decisions and a war of microphones and condescensions…"[4]

Attack on the 'Boy President' (Bashar Assad) and 'The Sergeant' (Ali Abdallah Saleh, President of Yemen)
A few days earlier, the editor-in-chief of the government weekly Akhbar Al-Yaum, Ibrahim Sa'deh, strongly attacked Syrian President Bashar Assad, writing: "…Egypt, which is favored with a patriotic and courageous president like Hosni Mubarak - does not need to be dragged after the shawish ['Sergeant,' referring to Yemeni President 'Ali Abdallah Saleh] who, in a moment of inattention, was given the presidency of his country and who now, despite his great simplicity, seeks a role by means of which he will be able to compete with great leaders, past, present, and future!" "Great Egypt must not also be dragged along by a boy-president [i.e. Bashar Assad] attempting to prove his abilities in the office he received by a stroke of fate [that is, his father's death], suddenly finding himself president of a deeply-rooted people that can do nothing about it." "How we hoped this boy-president would follow the path of the heroic Lebanese people, and find the time to liberate its land from the claws of the Israeli occupation residing there for a quarter of a century… But unfortunately the boy-president has not made this a priority, casting it instead to the bottom of his list!…" "We were surprised at his incitement against Egypt, the greatest and most powerful of the Arab states. He [Assad] invited this shawish, so as to exploit his simplicity like a cat's claws to scratch Egypt, revile its political positions, and accuse it of helplessness in aiding the Palestinian people…" "When this shawish [Yemen's president] accuses us [of] false accusations, it's a real farce. I would have liked to expose this shawish's ignorance, deficiency of thought, and opportunism, but I don't think he is worth listening to, or even paying attention to. The disasters that lie in wait for the Palestinian people are a million times more important than tarrying even a few moments to expose this shawish…" [5]Editor-in-chief of the Al-Akhbar government daily Galal Dwidar also attacked the Yemeni president in two consecutive articles last week.

[1] Al-Gumhuriya (Egypt), April 10, 2002.

[2] Al-Gumhuriya (Egypt), April 11, 2002.

[3] Al-Gumhuriya (Egypt), April 12, 2002.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 12, 2002.

[5] Akhbar Al-Yaum (Egypt), April 6, 2002.

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