I attended this lecture
at the Swedish Institute of Foreign Affairs this morning. It´s interesting that Stephen Brown is focusing on domestic politics in his article, while Dr Usama al Baz focused mainly on different theater´s of conflict in the middle east. He started out telling us that he attended the 10th anniversary of the murder on the late prime minister Rabin in Tel Aviv. He said that the Israeli political scene had changed totally , and that everybody, both Israeli politicians and their palestian counterparts was optimistic in the short term. al Baz himself was extremly optimistic in terms of a peace agreement. He stated that in two years time we will have peace.
Then he spoke about Iraq, also in very optimistic words. But it was clear that the Egyptian govenment have a strong ambivalence towards the shiíte religious political groups, and in particular the Iranian influence in this regard. Egypt is not alone in this respect. King Abdullah of Jordan for instance, has spoken of a Shiíte crescent in the region.
Syrian-lebanesse relations was also touched upon. Dr al Baz claimed that the relationship between Syria and Lebanon was very close, and that a few Syrian elements may had oversteped their limits in the Hariri case. A soundbite worth mentionining is ¨France is like Mecca for the Lebanesse¨
Then he spoke about Iran, praising the former Iranian President Khatami as a philosopher and truly enlighgtened man, al Baz was making a comparison to Spain(Andalus) in regard to Khatami. Contrasting the words on Khatami was the sentence about the newly elected president Ahmedinejad ,who in Dr Usamas eloquent way of putting it, was ¨a man from the masses, he will give al Baradei and his team in Vienna a hard time¨.
He was not particularly fond of the neocons, especially not vice-president Richard Cheney who he claimed ¨is running the show¨ answering a question from the chairman of the seminar, Mr Anders Hellner, if the USA´s aim in Iraq was regime change, and indeed regime change in a number of countries to introduce democracy? Dr al Baz answered that ¨the arab people didn´t want democracy from outside¨
And that we are(Egyptian goverment) ¨more responsive to our people, more democratization¨ The next sententence was interesting. ¨Egypt was not a dictatorship(before) , but a strong bureaucracy and then he actually made a reference to the famous statue of the scribe at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
On the ongoing parliamentary elections ¨The government can not rigg the elections, because of the jugdes¨ and ¨Some people of the Muslim Brotherhood won seats¨(i love the way he used ¨some¨)
We don´t want to mix religion with politics(Wintage Sadat) because of the special situation in Egypt, with 9 million christians(I never heard any official in Egypt claiming such a high figure).
One of the interesting comments was that the Muslim Brotherhood will never be ¨The Muslim Brotherhood party, because the constitution do not permit parties to be created and based on religion, while this is the standard response of every government official , it is the opposite of what Dr Issam al Iryan has stated during the elections, that if the MB gets more than 70 seats, they will apply for a party licence . To my knowledge the Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef has not commited himself to this idea as of yet, but if this will be the official policy of the MB, then there is bound to be more trouble down the road ,between the Ikhwan and the state.
This is just a little bit of what Dr Usamah al Baz talked about, read the reuters article, it´s focused more on domestic politis, than his lecture was. Which in my view was disappointing.