Where Egypt’s foreign affairs are concerned:
As President Mohamed Mursi’s aide for foreign affairs, the prominent Muslim Brotherhood figure Essam al-Haddad has stirred up plenty of controversy. His role and his impact appear to overshadow those of Egypt’s Foreign Minister Kamel Amr, a situation uncommon in the Egyptian executive authority and which has led to serious questions about who holds the upper hand where the country’s foreign policy is concerned. Many political analysts see this as yet another step on the road to the full Ikhwanisation (Ikhwan is Arabic for Brothers, denoting the Muslim Brotherhood or MB) of the State, and question the coordination between the role of president’s aide and that of the Foreign Minister. The question holds special significance in this particular phase when Egypt works to redefine its role and impact in the region and in the world to be a pivotal political player.
A Muslim Brother as Foreign Minister?
A source from the Foreign Ministry, who preferred to remain unnamed, told Watani that Dr Haddad was inexperienced as a diplomat, and stood to ruin Egyptian diplomacy. What better proof, he said, than the manner in which Dr Haddad tackled the crisis of the 11 Egyptians detained in the United Arab Emirates on charges of belonging to an MB cell that aimed to overthrow the regime? Instead of allowing the Foreign Ministry to deal with the crisis drawing on its time-honoured diplomatic expertise, Dr Haddad himself headed to the Emirates together with the chief of intelligence. Predictably, they failed to solve the crisis, since the move denoted that the detainees were all too important to the MB-affiliated leadership in Egypt.
The source says that there was talk at the Ministry’s backdoor that the Egyptian Ambassador in Doha and the Minister himself will soon be replaced by MB figures. He says Egypt’s diplomats have no qualms about working with any minister regardless of his political affiliation, provided he is qualified and has sufficient experience in foreign affairs. Regrettably, he says, President Mursi appears to be appointing to high-ranking posts persons whose only qualification is that they belong to the MB, meaning that we may expect disastrous consequences.
There are strong rumours, the Foreign Ministry source says, that the MB demanded the appointment of four ambassadors; two in Turkey (an ambassador in Ankara and a consul-general in Istanbul), one in Qatar and one in the UAE. It is said that Essam al-Erian, the vice head of the MB’s Freedom and Justice Party, is the one nominated for Egypt’s ambassador to Turkey.
Egypt just a piece
The group that leads the MB today belongs to a faction that believes Egypt is a Wilayah (State) in the Islamic Caliphate. As such, Egypt will ultimately lose its national and regional distinction and will ultimately be just a single piece of a much larger, widely integrated entity. The Foreign Ministry source points out that Qatar, for instance, which has huge petroleum resources is willing to pay USD30 billion for the right to start the Qatari-US ‘economic regional project’ to be supposedly established on the banks of the Suez Canal.
In this respect, he says, the most critical problem that promises to face Egypt is that the US has proposed that the Suez Canal region, in which the project is to be implemented, should not be subject to Egyptian law. The MB, he says, is said to have accepted.
Not a good idea
Ambassador Maasoum Marzouq of the Foreign Ministry said that there must be coordination between the President’s advisor on foreign affairs and the Foreign Ministry, given that the current Constitution places foreign policy as the responsibility of the President. However, the ministry has extensive expertise in managing Egypt’s foreign affairs and, as such, should be beyond interference in its affairs.
Selecting a minister from outside the ministry, Mr Maasoum says, will in all likelihood lead to major problems, especially in light of the political instability in the country. Yet, he adds, the possibility is not so far-fetched in the future because the post is a political one. For the moment, however, it would not be a good idea to put someone not sufficiently experienced or competent at the head of such a vital apparatus.
Normal and simple
Ambassador Mohamed Shaker, who has earned the title of the ‘dean of Egyptian diplomats’, says that the entire issue is overblown. It is normal, he says, that the President should have political advisors for foreign affairs. Former President Mubarak used to send his political advisor Osama al-Baz on missions abroad and this was never seen as interference in the work of the Foreign Ministry. Dr Haddad has gained the trust of President Mursi and it is normal that the President should create several channels of communication with foreign countries. However, the Foreign Ministry still plays its role in Egypt’s foreign policy.
As to the possibility of choosing a minister from outside the ministry, Mr Shaker says the post is a political one and, even though during Egypt’s monarchial times before July 1952 there used to be a minister from outside the official diplomatic corps, it was later proved that the ministry personnel played that role better than any outsider.
An Islamic State in the Islamic Caliphate
When Watani took the issue to the journalist and activist Soliman Shafiq, his idea was that the problem was not in the appointment of foreign affairs advisors or aides to the President. President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who ruled Egypt from 1954 to 1970, had Khaled Mohyeddin as advisor, and the former President Mubarak had Osama al-Baz and Mohamed Abdullah.
The problem today, Mr Shafiq says, is that Egypt is ruled by an illegitimate group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which sees Egypt as a smaller State in the wider, all-encompassing Islamic Caliphate, the bigger State. This is termed the Ittihad al-Gumhouriyaat al-Islamiya (The Union of Islamic States) and its capital is al-Quds (Jerusalem). All this is no secret, Mr Shafiq says; it was on President Mohamed Mursi’s electoral programme.
Essam al-Haddad, according to Mr Shafiq, represents the international organisation of the Islamic Caliphate that considers Egypt the smaller State in the bigger Islamic Caliphate. The Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, represents independent Egypt.
With all this in mind, Mr Shafiq says, Dr Haddad does not work for Egypt as such, but represents and works for the interest of the MB. There is thus a major conflict of interest; in other words Dr Haddad is the advisor of the Islamic State, not the Egyptian State.
24 February 2013