March 18, 2005 Special Dispatch No. 881

Growing Egyptian-U.S. Tensions: Egyptian Press Attacks President Bush

March 18, 2005
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 881

Reports in the Arab press have recently discussed tension between Egypt and the U.S. The Arabic-language London daily Al-Hayat reported that Egyptian diplomatic sources said that Egypt had expressed concerns about the "frivolous discussion in the [American] media" of Egypt's domestic affairs, which, according to them, is not appropriate in relations between two allied nations.

The sources claimed Egypt used diplomatic channels to express its dissatisfaction with the "negative atmosphere" created by leaks to the American media from various circles within the U.S. administration. The latest of which quoted American intelligence sources suggesting Egypt had been a partner in the development of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons program.

The sources also claim that Egypt postponed the G8-Arab League Summit, scheduled to take place on March 3, 2005, as a response to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's statements about the arrest of Egyptian parliament member Ayman Nour. The postponement of Rice's visit to Egypt was mentioned as another source of tension between the two countries.[1]

Another Arabic-language London daily, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote that Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Suleiman 'Awwad stated President Hosni Mubarak would not hold his annual visit to the U.S. this year.[2]The following are excerpts from the press reports in addition to cartoons devoted to the same subject:

Anti-American Cartoons

In light of Egyptian-U.S. tensions, Egyptian government newspapers published a number of anti-American cartoons in recent days. The daily Al-Akhbar published a cartoon on March 14, 2005, in which Bush looks in a mirror and sees the image of Adolph Hitler.[3]

On March 15, 2005, Al-Akhbar published a cartoon showing a tidal wave patterned like the American flag. The caption read: "This is a black day: the American tsunami:"[4]

On March 16, 2005, Al-Akhbar published a cartoon showing President Bush as a gun-toting cowboy standing on top of a pile of bodies, with the caption: "Allah knows that I want to liberate human beings in this world from their errors, to reform the recesses of their souls and the stupidity of their minds and to give them eternal rest from their unruly thoughts..."[5]

The weekly Akhbar Al-Yawm published a cartoon on March 12, 2005, in which President Bush is portrayed as an angel, but with cloven hooves and a pointy tail:.[6]

Egyptian Displeasure with Condoleezza Rice's Statements About Ayman Nour's Arrest

One of the main causes of the Egyptian-U.S. tension was the statements by Condoleezza Rice about the arrest of Egyptian MP Ayman Nour. The MP, arrested on January 30, 2005, and released on bail on March 12, 2005, is suspected of forging signatures in order to establish his political party Al-Ghad ["Tomorrow"], but some believe his arrest to be politically motivated, following his calls for reform in Egypt.

At a press conference held during Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Ghait's mid-February visit to Washington, Secretary Rice expressed concern about Nour's arrest and called for a rapid solution to the problem.

Egyptian diplomatic sources told Al-Hayat that during his visit Abu Al-Ghait felt an "uncomfortable atmosphere", especially because of Rice's public criticism of the arrest.

The sources also reported that Egypt was astonished by Congressman Adam Schiff's proposal for a congressional resolution to condemn Egypt for the arrest and to call upon it to release Ayman Nour.[7]

Also, there was sharp criticism in the Egyptian government press about Rice's statements, which were perceived as blatant interference in Egypt's internal affairs, casting a cloud over relations between the two countries.

Government Daily: U.S. Actions Worse than Hitler's Nazis

Columnist 'Adli Barsoum wrote in the government daily Al-Gumhuriyya: "Egypt staunchly rejected American attempts to interfere in the MP Ayman Nour affair. America does not have any right to impose upon us its false role of defense of human rights, democracy, and free speech, when it has [both] an early and recent history of human rights violations in forms unknown to [even] Hitler's Nazis.

"The Ayman Nour affair is an internal Egyptian matter, whether a criminal affair, a political affair, or anything else. The Egyptian judiciary are the only ones who may express an opinion on this matter, and the Egyptian people are the only ones who may express criticism about it."[8]

In a similar vein, government daily Al-Akhbar Editor Galal Dweidar wrote: "American Foreign Minister Condoleezza Rice's statements concerning the judicial investigations into the charges against the head of the Al-Ghad party, Ayman Nour, are unacceptable by any standard, since this is an internal affair and [outside interference] damages the transparency and independence of the Egyptian judicial system." According to Dweidar, Rice's statements "completely contradict the good relations woven between Egypt and the U.S."

Dweidar added: "Condoleezza needs to understand that her crude intervention in Egyptian judicial matters has the opposite effect on the Ayman Nour affair [than intended]... If [in the past] Washington found pretexts for expressing its opinion on the accusations against Sa'd Al-Din Ibrahim – since he has American citizenship, despite being originally from Egypt – [in this case] there is no justification for this interference... Interference in anything pertaining to Ayman Nour, who is accused of criminal forgery, is unacceptable."[9]

Egyptian Weekly to Bush: Egypt's Media is Not the Government's Mouthpiece

Akhbar Al-Yawm Editor Ibrahim Sa'dah published an article titled "A Direct Appeal to President George Bush," dealing with the Egyptian-U.S. tension: "We have many reservations about the new [developments] in bilateral relations between the U.S. and us.

"For a number of reasons known to us and a few unknown to us, the U.S. media – especially the most popular and influential newspapers – have been publishing many lies and fabrications about Egypt, its positions, policy and reforms.

"It is astounding that many Congress members 'fish' for such fabrications in order to... present them to Congress and issue communiqués, recommendations, or decisions that at the very least are detrimental to the strong ties that existed and still exist between the two friendly countries.

"It is no secret that a well-known body in Washington translates what the Egyptian media publishes. It chooses fragmented and unintelligible lines from here and there so that they will constitute proof that the Egyptian media is out to harm the U.S. It publishes only what is harmful to Egypt, its administration and president. This body – which hopes to cause tension between the two countries – is distributing the [material] it chose to translate from the Egyptian media, in which it found things damaging to the U.S., to all Congress members and senior U.S. administration officials. This is [done] in order to present a distorted picture of what is being said and written in the Egyptian media.

"The most dangerous thing is that most top American officials believe that the Egyptian media is not free and that the Egyptian government compels columnists to write the things they write and publish...

"The problem with those around you, Honorable President, is that they think that the Egyptian press is subject to government supervision and does not publish any word that is not according to [the government's] directions, instructions and positions. It is as if the American press is the only press that enjoys freedom of expression, while the Egyptian press does not. [These people believe that] when there is legitimate and objective criticism of U.S. policy [in the Egyptian media], it has necessarily been imposed by government orders from above..."[10]

[1]Al-Hayat (London), March 15, 2005.

[2]Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 15, 2005. The article cites a report from United Press International.



[5]Al-Akhbar (Egypt), March 16, 2005.


[7]Al-Hayat (London), March 15, 2005.

[8]Al-Gumhuriyya (Egypt), February 22, 2005.

[9]Al-Akhbar (Egypt), February 20, 2005.

[10]Akhbar Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 12, 2005.

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