Sunday, August 11, 2013

The New Nasser?

"The two men can be seen together all over central Cairo, on banners, flags and on posters on sale to tourists and locals... The first man is the pan-Arab nationalist former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, hammer of the Muslim Brotherhood, who died in 1970. The second is General Abdel Fatah as-Sisi, head of Egypt's armed forces and, since the July coup that ousted the Brotherhood-backed president, Mohamed Morsi, the supreme power in the country. In the coffee shops of Cairo, where political discussions have bounced off peeling walls since Nasser's death, a vigorous debate is taking place over whether Sisi has deliberately risen in the former's likeness - and what parallels between the two men's careers may mean for post-revolutionary Egypt. While Sisi has pledged stability as a central plank of the military-led government he will shepherd towards elections in 9 month's time, he has also tapped into themes that Nasser used to enshrine his legacy as one of modern Egypt's most celebrated figures... In his public appearances since the 3 July coup, Sisi has mirrored Nasser's key messages of nationalism, scepticism of Western intentions, Arab dignity and strong leadership." (Egypt wonders if army chief is another Nasser, Martin Chulov, The Guardian, 8/8/13)

"Yet, considering the society from which [Nasser] emerged, the obstacles which he overcame, the personnel available to him, one is compelled to give a fairly high rating to the man of the Suez and Aswan, of the Sinai, of Yemen, and of Abu-Zaabal (his concentration camp). In the words of a CIA agent who had dealings with him between 1952 and 1954 (quoted by Joachim Joesten): 'The problem with Nasser is that he has no vices. We can neither buy nor blackmail him. We hate this guy's guts, but we can't touch him: he's too clean...'" (Nasser, Jean Lacouture, 1973, pp 375-376)

So how just how 'clean' is Sisi? 

"In August 2012, the newspaper at-Tahrir... reported that Gen. Sisi had 'strong ties with US officials on both diplomatic and military levels.' He had studied in Washington, attended several military conferences there, and engaged in 'co-operation with regard to war games and intelligence operations in recent years,' it said." (Profile: Egypt armed forces chief Abdul Fattah as-Sisi,, 3/7/13)

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke by telephone to his Egyptian counterpart Gen. Abdel Fattah as-Sisi on Friday morning, according to Arabic-language news agency Al-Hayat. According to the report, al-Sisi affirmed Egypt's commitment to maintaining the 1979 Camp David peace treaty with Israel in the phone call, ahead of a meeting with Mohamed Morsy." ('Egypt affirms commitment to Israel peace treaty', The Jerusalem Post, 24/8/12)

Go figure.

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