Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt, a brief background !

A little background on the Egyptian situation is probably appropriate for those not familiar with the ancient nations' recent history. Egypt went to war with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973. Egypt, being the Arab worlds largest nation was Israel's most feared enemy. However in 1978 the President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat entered into negotiations with the Jewish state to formally end hostilities. In 1979 Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David accords, brokered by former US President Jimmy Carter. For making peace with Israel, Egypt was expelled from the Arab League for what was seen as treachery of the highest order. The Camp David Accords are still seen as a betrayal by many in the Arab world, not least because it was seen as freeing up the Israeli Defence Forces allowing them to launch a war against Lebanon in 1982. If the Muslim Brotherhood were to come to power in Egypt in the next few months, you can be guaranteed they will tear up the accords. Sadat himself would pay the ultimate price for the Peace Treaty. He was killed in one of the most high profile and dramatic assassinations of the 20th century. On the 6th of October 1981 he was gunned down during the annual victory parade held in Cairo to celebrate Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. His assassins were members of Islamic Jihad, an associate group of the Muslim Brotherhood who had infiltrated the army upon which they shot him dead, along with eleven others as they paraded past the bandstand where Sadat and many other dignitaries were present.

The dramatic and bloody scene, moments after members of Islamic Jihad broke formation during the military parade, approached the podium and assassinated Anwar Sadat.

One of whom present on the band stand was Vice President and former Air Force General Hosni Mubarak who barely escaped with his life. He has ruled Egypt ever since. Incidentally, another man present was James Tully, the Irish Minister for Defence. Tully, a Labour man who was part of the short lived Fine Gael Labour coalition of 1981/82 was wounded in the face with shrapnel. Murbarak maintained the peace treaty with Israel and over the decades he strengthened the relationship with both America and Israel while ruthlessly cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition movements. It would appear that Mubarak's refusal to reform or democratise over his 30 years in power will be his undoing as I believe it is increasingly obvious, he is in the last weeks of his dictatorial rule. Good riddance !


thesystemworks said...

I don't think Mubarak particularly strengthened ties with Israel over the decades. He has only paid a single official visit to Israel, which was for Rabin's funeral in 1995. I suppose a lot of wilderness separates Tel Aviv and Cairo and the divorce of 1979 was pretty final. It was hardly a genuine reconciliation, as Mubarak presided over and fostered a culture of extreme anti-Semitism in Egypt.

While Al Jazeera and extremely biased British journalists like Robert Fisk can have attacked him for being too co-operative with Israel, Mubarak himself has said:

''Against us stood the most intelligent people on earth - a people that controls the international press, the world economy and world finances. We succeeded in compelling the Jews to do what we wanted; we received all our land back up to the last grain of sand! We have outwitted them, and what have we given them in return? A piece of paper!... We were shrewder than the shrewdest people on earth! We managed to hamper their steps in every direction. We have established sophisticated machinery to control and limit to the minimum contacts with the Jews. We have proven that making peace with Israel does not entail Jewish domination and that there is no obligation to develop relations with Israel beyond those we desire''.

Its a telling glimpse into the mindset of Arab nationalism. But of course, its Israel and Zionism that are chauvinistic and to be feared, so the academics and media tell us.

Ted Leddy said...


Fair point

I should have said he consolidated the Peace Treaty rather that strengthened relations with Israel. Mubarak's rant you quoted was undoubtedly for domestic consumption. Any Egyptian I have ever met is under the impression that Egypt trounced Israel during Yom Kippur and that they won back the Sinai through force. Mubarak therefor claims that he is the only Arab leader to have ever gotten his way with Israel. I think he is the type of dictator that only cares about survival. His relationship with Israel is only about carefully navigating a balance between demonising Israel for street cred, and cooperating for international gain.

Anonymous said...

Ted i don't know a lot about Egypt, but from what youre saying, Mubarak's regime, dictatorial as it is, was not such a bad regime after all. Ok, he's a dictator, who refuses to bow to democratic ways. These are his obvious bad points. But as you say, he seems to be a man of peace at the same time??? What with the camp david accord, strengthening relations with the US and Isreal, and facilitating world trade by keeping the Suez canal open for business. These attributes seem to be positively progressive. So am I to take it, that all round, this fella is not such a bad character after all?


Anonymous said...

Sorry I should have read the very informative posts above, before I crafted my comment, and not after.


Ted Leddy said...


There are two types of dictators in this world. Authoritarian ones whose primary objective is to stay in power. Then there are totalitarian dictators that have an agenda outside their own country, whether its starting wars or spreading ideology. Mubarak falls into the former category. His support for the peace treaty and his opposition to religious extremism makes him a reliable ally of the west. It is hypocritical no doubt. He is a bad guy, but the US or Europe can't take on every bad guy. There are 200 countries in the world. Only about 110 are democratic.