A symposium was held by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) under the title: “The Murder of the Egyptian Ambassador in Iraq between the Right to Resistance and Terrorism”. The symposium was moderated by Magdy Al-Naeem, CIHRS executive director, who pointed out at the beginning of the symposium that the reason it was held was the state of anger and shock felt by all Egyptians and Arabs towards the murder of a diplomat and, primarily, a civilian, who was not a part of any action that would make any group of the Iraqi people angry. He clarified that Dr. Ihab Al-Sharif, the assassinated Egyptian ambassador to Iraq, seemed unlucky more than once when he was abducted and assassinated without negotiation. And also when other events occurred that overshadowed his murder on one level or another, when there were other abductions of Algerian diplomats. The most tragic event, though, was the bombings in Sharm-el-Sheikh that killed a large number of civilians forming the largest number of victims of terrorist attacks in Egypt.
The conversation then turned to Dr. Wahid Abd-El-Megeed, the assistant director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. He pointed out that the issue of the Egyptian ambassador’s murder raises a lot of questions concerning the level our cultural status has reached, as well as the way we look at events and the standards with which we evaluate them. He noted that some of the reactions concerning the murder turned simply to vindicating the assassins and blaming the people who sent the head of the Egyptian diplomatic delegation to Baghdad, so the murderer-who publicly and shamelessly announced responsibility for the murder-innocent, and the accused-in their minds-is the assassinated and the people who send him to that place.
Dr. Wahid also pointed out that this is a logic-defying way of viewing things and that it makes the terrorists the standard in how people should live, and therefore everyone should arrange their schedules and agendas according to the terrorists’ will.
Abd-El-Megeed wondered, was it necessary for Arab countries to send diplomats to Iraq under the occupation or not? Answering that it has never happened in history that anyone, including occupied countries, prevented sending diplomatic delegations to a legally independent country, even if there were occupying troops present in that country. He proved this by saying that Egypt has been sending and receiving many diplomatic delegations to many countries since it got its legal independence in 1922. Abd-El-Megeed also said that it has never occurred in our national history, even from the most rigorous national action directions that such delegations were denied reception. In fact, everyone considered it a part the national action’s job and an actual and realistic corroboration of the received and sought independence.
Abd-El-Megeed wondered whether the presence of an Arab diplomat in Iraq was important. He said that the answer depends of the role played by the diplomat’s presence, pointing out that there was, and still is, and ambiguity in the Egyptian attitude towards Iraq, and that in the absence of a specific role for the diplomats in aiding Iraq, their presence would be useless. Dr. Abd-El-Megeed also said that the role that is supposed to be played by Egypt and any country aiming at the unity of Iraq, saving it from a civil war and its Arabism is to seek intermediacy between the current rulers and the powers alienated from the political arena, whether they were self-alienated or through incorrect procedures.
Abd-El-Megeed also pointed to the contradiction in the Egyptian officials’ statements about the Egyptian role in Iraq, in addition to fact that the weakness of the official stance on the crisis allowed everyone to hold Egypt responsible and consider the presence of Egyptian diplomats in Iraq a total mistake, saying that unless there was a role to be done then it must be clear and explained adequately. It should also be continued since the way Iraq is entering into its fate now will only lead to civil war, which Iraq has already started the first phase of, and that won’t end until the country’s division, and the return of parts of it to the middle ages and the total Iranian control on others. He also empathized that the people who will bear responsibility for all that are those who were afraid to fulfill their national duty in Iraq and didn’t seek the Iraqi national welfare.
Abd-El-Megeed said that the main issue here is not whether to send diplomats to Iraq or not, but rather the nature of the role that these diplomats must perform, and especially in terms of seeking an Iraqi national conciliation, as well as transferring Iraq to a different situation from its present status and preparing the situation for the withdrawal of the foreign troops. This role has to be performed and completed in spite of the type of terrorism practiced by terrorist groups in Iraq and the terrorism practiced by other supporters of these groups here or in any other Arab country.
Submitting to Extortion
The Iraqi writer and journalist Salah Nasrawy also spoke at the convention, pointing out first to the conversation and discussion that went on in Egypt around the murder of the Egyptian ambassador Dr. Ihab Al-Sharif and the crisis that accompanied the incident. He drew attention to the fact that the discussions have reached a low level of retribution and political extortion from anti-national groups, to which the country submitted and presented concessions involving backing up from forming complete diplomatic relations with Iraq as well as retracting the diplomats from there. He said that this raises discussion about how the country handles the political and cultural elite and how the country submits to extortion.
He also pointed out that the case does not only revolve around diplomatic relations or the current political process in Iraq, but mainly involves the future of the region and the effects on Egypt specifically among the area’s countries, assuming that the case is handled without the lightness raised by many voices in television and in the press.
Nasrawy pointed out that the statements issued by some Iraqi officials about the incident resulted from lack of experience and should not be taken with any other attitude. However, he said that there must be an Iraqi perspective about the topics of terrorism and the Iraqi-Arab and Iraqi–Egyptian relationships especially and said that the Iraqis are definitely victims of terrorism and therefore have a strong feeling of unity with other victims of terrorism all around the world. The Iraqis, he said, therefore have a feeling of shock and frustration at the brutal murder of the Egyptian ambassador, pointing out at the same time that this incident raised a question among Iraqis: why don’t Arabs sympathize with us?!
He said that in the past two years, there has been a sort of welcome and applause and, in fact, validation for all the terrorism Iraqis have been subjected to, and that the Arab press – especially the Egyptian press – referred to the heroic Iraqi resistance without anyone wondering where this resistance was coming from or who was behind it, or how it could kill innocent people and what murdering children, imams and even the police had to do with resistance?! He also said that glorifying the resistance in such incidents meant the Iraqis a kind of neglect to the Iraqi victims of such acts and not learning the lesson of the danger of glorifying terrorism in any area.
Nasrawy considered this to have been a type of duplicity and hypocrisy in dealing with terrorism which has destroyed tens of thousands of victims in Iraq while the Iraqis were demanding that the Arabs not take terrorism lightly as it would reach them one day. He assured that terrorism is one and the same and that it should be distinguished from resistance one way or another.
Nasrawy also said that some of the Egyptian people, even within the Egyptian parliament and during its sessions, assured that there were mistakes in the Egyptian policy towards Iraq that resulted in terrorism turning towards Egypt and the killing of its ambassador. He said that these people also pointed out that it was a mistake to send Al-Sharif specifically to Iraq after he used in the Egyptian embassy in Israel. Nasrawy considered these people inconsiderate to the real use of the relationship between Egypt and Iraq, which require the presence of an embassy for both nations and a diplomatic delegation to care for and protect these interests.
Dr. Samir Ghattas also spoke at the symposium, saying that Dr. Ihab Al-Sharif presented a totally different form that the two from dominating the political, cultural and managerial life in Egypt and a lot of Arab countries. He classified the two types as the bureaucratic type that was concerned with employment and promotions, and, more dangerously, the militaristic type which was produced by many regimes such as the July regime, where the military took over vital civil sites such as diplomatic sites as well as the militocracy produced by many groups, militias and military movements under the mask of resistance which can, in turn, take over civilian an political life under the claim that it aided the resistance.
Ghattas assured that it is no person’s right to create any type of domination over the society, under the cover of the resistance, with which to seize the civil and citizen’s rights and others. He said that these groups eventually produce two types of people, either the “mullah Omar” type or, in Palestine, groups formed by Hamas to monitor public manners and to dominate and take custody over the people. He also assured that the Arab political mindset is demanded to answer questions about the resistance project, which demands that no bullet shot anywhere is to be received except with questions about the project.
Ghattas also said that the theory presented about the assassination of Ihab Al-Sharif being related to him working in the Egyptian embassy in Israel previously doesn’t need a lot of controversy to answer it since the Algerian and Bahraini diplomats who were killed or injured had never worked in Israel. Ghattas expressed his regret at this point at the similarity between the reaction between Egyptian intellectuals and the Salaf movement in Algeria, which published a statement supporting Zarkawi’s role in kidnapping the Algerian diplomats and demanding that he not release them and kill them, saying that some Egyptian intellectuals unfortunately also presented reason’s for the ambassador’s murder.
Ghattas also assured that the organizations involved in terrorism have no relationship with the Arab-Israeli conflict, adding that most Islamic movements – if not all – that raise the banner of resistance had no real relationship with the Arab-Israeli conflict to begin with.
Ghattas supported this opinion by referring to General Zaify in which he said that Israel is not on Bin-Laden’s agenda and that no mention was made of Israel even in Al-Qaeda’s September 11th data or strategy.
Ghattas also noticed that the Arab, especially the Egyptian, political speech makes two mistakes, the first of which is that there is a crime ready to be blamed on the Mossad, even if it is just “a man having personal problems with his wife”, the Mossad can be easily blamed for it. He assured that he was not being unfair to the Egyptian intellectuals, noting that blaming Israel automatically pleases Israel, especially the president of the Mossad, since this gives a legendary image about the Mossad in spite of the number of times it has failed over the past few years.
Ghattas added that the other mistake was leaning on the presumption that these groups execute their attacks in answer to what Israel does against the Palestinians in the captured lands. He pointed out that this too was incorrect since, according to statements by the groups themselves, the groups’ agendas included Jews, Christians, as well Muslims and society at large.
He assured that Al-Sharif died as an instrument used by the role that Egypt must play in Iraq, which is called the Egyptian regional role, noting that there is an Egyptian consensus on the importance of Egypt playing a vital regional role for many reasons, and that this consensus is met from different directions, with some claiming that we should play a role towards what is called the Arab nation, moved by a national vision. Others say that we must play a role in the Muslim region, since the link is not a national link but rather an Islamic link, while still others see that we must play a Euro-Mediterranean role.
He pointed out that neither the Egyptian nation, nor the intellectuals, nor the parties produced political documentations addressing mainly the Egyptian regional role, which reflects a dire disability, or rather an extreme lack of conversation about the theory of the Egyptian national security which is only handled by the military.
Ghattas also said that, as a result of the disability and the absence of real visualizations about the Egyptian regional role, Egypt has volunteered itself to conflicting, even impossible roles, after the Camp David agreement. These roles are summed up in that Egypt, has tried to continue its role in the Arab world as if it hasn’t signed the Camp David agreement despite the fact that it has. Amr Moussa expressed this issue crudely during his term as the Egyptian Foreign Minister by criticizing what he called running to Israel, saying that Egypt has been trying to play an impossible role of preventing others from getting near Israel. He also expressed his belief that the opportunity was still available for Egypt to play a vital regional role in two parts, the first being to lead the process of restoration and renovation in the Arab world, and the second is to present a serious formula for the regional order that surpasses the old traditional vision of the one Arab nation and Arab unity. He pointed out that any country’s regional role doesn’t come out of nothing, but comes in the frame of laying international balances, and that it is impossible for any country to perform a regional role that conflicts with or ignore the regional or international balances.
Ghattas pointed out that the Egyptian ambassador was one of the Egyptian tools to play what is called a regional role, since Iraq is one of the cornerstones of the area and there is a genuine Egyptian interest in an Egyptian presence there. He also said that Al-Sharif was a victim to his vague role as well as to his lack of knowledge of the political map. He pointed that, in spite of the direct reason of Al-Sharif’s murder, the groups that murdered him an others are trying to rid the Iraqi system of its Arab and international legitimacy and to prevent Arabs from being in Iraq and playing a basic role in keeping Iraq’s Arab identity and unity, to make its experience a success, and to support the Iraqi people.
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