Cablegate: Al-Ghad Party Public Meltdown Continues: Egyptian

Published: Tue 27 Sep 2005 07:46 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Summary: Public infighting among members of opposition
Al-Ghad Party continued, with two members engaged in a
shouting match on a popular satellite TV program on
September 20. The same day, Al-Ghad Party leader Ayman
Nour appeared on another TV program to accuse the
government of trying to "destroy" the party and threaten
the government with "retaliation." Commentators continued
to discuss the fate of Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni
(reftel) and President Mubarak's refusal to accept his
resignation. A number of Egyptian commentators returned to
the topic of U.S. policy in Iraq, with all condemning it.
A columnist in the country's leading economic daily wrote
on September 21 that U.S. involvement in Iraq was "a cover
for a plan to colonize the region." Commentators had
little to say about Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the
ensuing confusion at the Rafah border crossing, though
comments by A/S Welch to the House International Relations
Committee were widely reported on in the pro-government
media. End summary.
Al-Ghad Party infighting continues in public
2. The public infighting at Opposition Al-Ghad Party
continued (reftel). Orbit TV's Al-Safwa channel broadcast
a live interview with Ayman Nour on September 20, during
which he threatened the Egyptian government with
unspecified "retaliation" for trying to "destroy" his party
before November's parliamentary elections. "I prefer
resorting to calm, but when some reckless people inside the
regime play games, I say to them: We will retaliate," Nour
stated. "We will not retaliate against their puppets, but
against those for whom they work -- and they will suffer
from what we will do to them." Two Al-Ghad party members
appeared on satellite channel Dream TV's popular program
"10 p.m.," also on September 20, to discuss the party's
recent infighting. The two guests shouted insults at each
other repeatedly during the interview, accusing each other
of trying to ruin the party. (Note: After the two guests
were finished, "10 p.m." announced the program was
terminated "due to technical problems." End note.) On
September 23 ardently pro-government Al-Gomhouriya
(circulation: 200,000) reported that Nour's supporters
attacked the "reformist elements" within the party, with
several injuries resulting from the scuffle. All major
newspapers' crime pages reported that an investigation of
the (physical) infighting was underway. On September 24,
pro-government weekly Akhbar Al-Youm (circulation:
1,000,000) columnist and former board chairman, Ibrahim
Saada, criticized the Egyptian media for highlighting "the
conflicts inside political parties" and urged the NDP to
"stop these reports, because they refute what we say about
political movement in Egypt toward pluralism, and destroy
Egypt's reputation."
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Minister of Culture's resignation refused; "We are all
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3. Commentaries criticizing the Minister of Culture Farouq
Hosni continued in the media (reftel), as did conspiracy
theories about why he resigned among PA contacts -- e.g.,
to protect another Ministry official or simply to give the
public the appearance of responsibility when the Minister
knew all along that Mubarak would not accept his
resignation. However, some commentators saw something more
in the Minister's resignation than conspiracy theories.
The editor-in-chief of opposition daily Al-Wafd
(circulation: 50,000), Abbas Al-Tarabily, wrote on
September 20, "Although the minister was morally
responsible, we are all responsible with him. We preoccupy
ourselves with the big issues and neglect minor details,
such as fire extinguishers." A commentator in pro-
government daily Al-Akhbar (circulation: 800,000) on
September 21 -- referring to writer Naguib Mahfouz's public
comment that Minister Farouq Hosni's resignation recalled
the "good old days of democracy in Egypt" -- encouraged a
"managerial revolution in all ministries and government
agencies" in which "officials acknowledged responsibility
for their shortcomings." Dream TV's "10 P.M." hosted
family members of the Beni Suef fire victims on September
19, during which the family members criticized a local
hospital and government security forces for their "grave
carelessness" which led to the deaths of or additional harm
to the injured.
Iraq violence blamed on America (again)
4. With presidential elections over and the Gaza
withdrawal completed, commentators and news reports began
to focus again on Iraq and to blame the U.S. for the
country's violence. On September 23, an unsigned editorial
in Al-Gomhouriya characterized U.S. policy in Iraq as "a
failure even before the invasion -- and it continues to be
a failure." A September 24 unsigned editorial in leading
pro-government daily Al-Ahram (circulation: 750,000)
claimed the situation in Iraq was "completely dangerous"
and demanded that the U.S. set "a timetable for the
occupation's withdrawal." Both editorials predicted a
civil war in Iraq. The country's leading economic daily,
the independent Al-Alam Al-Youm (circulation: 25,000), also
published several commentaries critical of U.S. policy in
Iraq, with one commentator opining on September 21, "The
American adventure in Iraq has failed because it was a
cover for a plan to colonize the region."
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Gaza withdrawal Praise for Egypt
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5. On September 22, all government-controlled newspapers'
front pages and TV newscasts reported on A/S Welch and
General Ward's testimonies before the House International
Relations Committee on September 21. Al-Ahram's September
22 banner headline read "Washington: Egypt's Role Vital in
Successful Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza," with the ensuing
article quoting General Ward as thanking Egypt for helping
to assist Palestinian security forces. The same article
also quoted A/S Welch as saying that Israeli settlement
expansion in the West Bank "must stop." Commentary on the
withdrawal and ensuing confusion at the Rafah border
crossing was largely absent in the Egyptian media, with
many commentators instead condemning Israeli PM Sharon's
address to the UN (reftel). One columnist in Al-Akhbar on
September 20 wrote that Israel's withdrawal "has turned
Gaza into an enormous prison for Palestinians." The
columnist continued, "This is how the Arab and Muslim world
is accustomed to doing things -- making big concessions for
practically nothing in return."
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