October 30, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 2096

Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, Egyptian MP and Editor of Government Newspaper: Syria is a Vassal of Iran and Qatar

October 30, 2008
Egypt, Iran, Qatar, Syria, The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 2096

On October 13, 2008, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai published a statement by Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji 'Utri harshly critical of Egypt. [1] In response, 'Ali Ibrahim, Egyptian MP and editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Gomhouriyya, published an article against 'Utri, in which he depicted Syria as a vassal of Iran and Qatar and blamed it for the current situation in Lebanon. Ibrahim went on to accuse Syria of sowing strife among the Palestinians and of helping to spread the Shi'a in Sunni countries.

The following are excerpts from 'Ibrahim's article:

Syria's Foreign Policy is Duplicitous

"From time to time, I am astonished by statements made by senior Syrian officials. [These statements] reflect Syria's duplicitous foreign policy, with one face turned towards domestic and Arab needs and the other towards [objectives motivated by] egoism and [aspirations for] domination. [Below] I will present some examples in order to prove to the brothers in Syria that the rift... created by the Ba'th party in the Arab [nation] will not be forgotten by history, nor erased by time.

"Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji 'Utri made his statements at a press conference held in Damascus, in front of Arab and foreign journalists who came to cover the Seventh Silk Road festival. It is before these media men that 'Utri whetted his appetite for public speaking. From what I understand, there were no political or military correspondents present, since not one of the participants undertook to correct the information on the many issues addressed by 'Utri, which we will now address systematically.”

Egypt-U.S. Relations Are Based on Equality - They Are Not Lord-Vassal Relations Like Those Between Syria and Iran

"The Syrian prime minister condemned Egypt for no longer fulfilling a role as the leader of the Arab nation. I would like to respond to 'Utri's specious arguments by telling him that neither he nor anyone else is going to determine Egypt's status. Egypt's status [rests on] the independence of its decisions and [on the extent to which it safeguards] the interests of its people and the Arab nation...

"Mr. 'Utri... when Egypt signed the peace treaty with Israel, it did so in broad daylight and in view of the entire world, without resorting either to mediation or to a third party; neither was it assisted by Turkey. Egypt made a courageous decision and displayed the peace treaty before the entire world. Some accepted it, while others objected to it - but either way, Egypt did not become a faithful follower of the U.S., as you claim.

"Cairo has rejected many U.S. requests [because] they contravened our policy, interests, and principles. Thus, when in 2003 the U.S. invaded Iraq, or any time after that, [Egypt refused] to send its troops there. Egypt [likewise] insisted on refusing to allow Americans [to establish military] bases in Egypt, or to grant them a passage [through its territory] either by land or by water.

"Egypt-U.S. relations U.S. are based on equality; they are not lord-vassal relations, like those between you [Syria] and Tehran or Doha. [For your information,] dear Mr. 'Utri, Egypt is not a follower of the U.S.; it has its own independent position on every issue. Egypt has a clear policy that does not hide behind any religious group or militia that is outside the boundaries of the lawful regime - as you are doing with Hamas and Hizbullah in Lebanon..."

Syria Is Responsible for the Civil War in Lebanon

"Mr. 'Utri, [you should realize that] Egypt has never taken over an Arab country, wreaking destruction right and left. How can you speak of stability in Lebanon when it is you who have drawn it into the present situation?! The entire world knows how you used to arrange clashes, tap the phones of senior politicians and clerics, and buy up armed militias.

"Isn't the civil war in Lebanon your doing - the result of your policy? Wasn't it you who delayed the Taif agreement, from 1989 to 2005? Hasn't opening an embassy in Lebanon become a pressing matter because of French President [Nicolas] Sarkozy's request, [after] Assad met with him twice?

"Mr. 'Utri, do not [presume] to speak of anyone's retreat, since it was you who reneged long ago, [enabling] Tehran and Doha 'to ride on your back.' While Egypt promoted the Palestinian issue in both the international and Arab arenas, you were busy sowing strife [among the Palestinians] by subsidizing one side and hosting the other. [By so doing,] you [thwarted the creation of] an independent [Palestinian] state and became an intermediary, [2] working for Iran and receiving instructions and funds from it.

"So why don't you get money from Qatar as well, and upgrade your income? Mr. 'Utri, we all know how the Doha accord was brought about, and what it cost. We all know what threats Qatar used to induce Damascus to persuade its allies in Lebanon to sign this agreement. We also know all too well the reason for the sudden increase in Qatari investments in your [country].

"Let me also mention that I was not surprised to hear you deny that the Shi'a is going all out to infiltrate and spread within Sunni countries, because I know that preachers and imams in the Damascus mosques receive their monthly salary from Iran - U.S.$200 for 'ulama, and U.S.$80 for preachers. This [is] part of a plan to eliminate Sunni countries from the Arab world.

"You support Shi'ization, for in your [country], positions of authority are held by Alawites, [even though] they are a minority among the Sunni majority. This is why you do not oppose the Shi'ization of the Arab world, and this is why the Umayyad Mosque, one of the bastions of the Sunna, is gradually becoming Iranian territory..." [3]

[1] 'Utri stated that relations between the Syrian and Egyptian peoples had always been marked by love and esteem on both sides, and that the two had a lot in common, particularly their role in the October 1973 war with Israel. At the same time, 'Utri said that Egypt had turned away from Syria, and that its attitude towards Syria had changed. He said that there were currently two camps in the region - one, which included Egypt, was helping the U.S. to promote its interests, while the other, which included Syria, was resisting U.S. dictates in all things related to regional affairs. Al-Rai (Kuwait), October 13, 2008.

[2] The Arabic word simsar, intermediary, can also mean "pimp."

[3] Al-Gomhouriyya (Egypt), October 18, 2008.

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