Levent Basturk - World Bulletin
After President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader from the Muslim Brotherhood movement and its political wing Freedom and Justice Party, was ousted after barely a year in power, Mohamed ElBaradei’s name started to circulate for the premiership. The objection of the Salafist Nour Party, which was part of the anti-Mursi coalition, prevented him from being prime minister; but interim President Adly Mansour appointed him as interim Vice President. ElBaradei had played a key role as the coordinator of the main alliance of liberal and left-wing parties and youth groups, the National Salvation Front, in organizing the opposition against President Morsi. As a speaker for the broad spectrum of oppositional forces, he had been in direct talks with General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi before and after the July 3 coup d’etat. Such a key role has essentially made him one of the favourite names to lead the second phase of the post-Mubarak transitional period.
In 2012, ElBaradei had intended to run as a liberal, secular candidate in the presidential elections, but withdrew his bid in January of that year with the excuse that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which was ruling the country after former president Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign as a result of the 18 days popular uprising in early 2011, would not allow free and fair elections. ElBaradei had demanded a new constitution to be made from scratch before any elections took place. He had severely criticized SCAF’s approach to writing a new constitution.
Even though he quit competing in the presidential race, ElBaradei aimed at gaining power in 2016 after forming a new political party in April 2012. He believed that he must have his input in shaping the post-Mubarak transitional era.
Why was he so convinced that he must have a role in designing Egypt’s future? Answering this question will require us to look at his life’s story to see his rise as a member of the global power elite.
Family and educational background
ElBaradei was born on June 17, 1942 in Cairo. His attorney father was the head of the bar association. Due to his position, he sometimes experienced some difficulties with the president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who came to power as a result of a military intervention in 1952 led by the Free Officers Movement. Following in his father's footsteps, ElBaradei studied law at the University of Cairo and graduated in 1962. He started his career in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1964. He later worked in Egypt's permanent mission to the UN both in New York and in Geneva. He holds a doctorate in international law from New York University. Mr ElBaradei is married to Aida Elkachef, a teacher, with whom he has two children.
The rise of ElBaradei to prominence
ElBaradei served on the negotiating team as a special assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister during the historic Camp David peace talks which led to Egypt's peace treaty on September 17, 1978 and diplomatic relations with Israel.
In 1980 he became a senior fellow in charge of the International Law Programme at the UN's Institute for Training and Research. He joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1984. He became Director General of the Agency in 1997. After taking over as the head of IAEA after Swedish diplomat Hans Blix in 1997, he used diplomacy to deal with nuclear issues with North Korea and Iran. He persistently pursued the method of negotiation in order to have any progress, even in the most difficult situations.
Mr. ElBaradei had his disagreements with the Bush administration on a number of key nuclear-related issues. He was not shy to address his concerns vis-a-vis the administration. He was particularly critical about the double standards on the part of countries that have nuclear weapons yet try to prevent others from developing them. He constantly criticized the notion that it is morally wrong for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security, and to continue to improve their capacities and formulate plans for their use.
While Mr. ElBaradei earned political credibility in the Middle East when he questioned the claims about weapons of mass destruction which were being used to justify the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, his relations with the Bush administration became sour. When the US claimed that Iraq was buying uranium in Africa, ElBaradei dismissed the evidence before the UN Security Council as fake. Though he angered Washington by challenging the claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding a secret nuclear programme, he was proven right when no nuclear weapons were found after the 2003 US invasion. His approach to Iran was perceived as not tough enough by the Bush administration and its allies in the European Union.
Despite the dissatisfaction with him in the U.S. and E.U., Mr. ElBaradei won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation. Being widely respected in Egypt, he also received the country's highest honour, the Nile Shas, in 2006.
ElBaradei warming up in Egyptian politics
When he left the IAEA in November 2009, hundreds of Egyptians met him at Cairo Airport at the expense of repeated warnings from Egyptian security forces not to welcome him home in 2010. Interestingly, the April 6 Movement 1, after training with CANVAS2, would return to Egypt in 2010, the very same day as former IAEA Chief Mohammed ElBaradei. April 6 members were arrested because of waiting for ElBaradei’s arrival. ElBaradei, as early as 2010, began to express his intentions of running for president in the 2011 elections. Together with April 6, Wael Ghonim of Google, and a coalition of other opposition parties, ElBaradei assembled his “National Front for Change”. Ghonim had lived abroad in Dubai. His Facebook page was created following Mohamed ElBaradei's arrival in Egypt during February 2010. Ghonim also created ElBaradei's official campaign website. Ghonim and ElBaradei began to work together to create a grassroots movement as a campaign strategy before the November 2010 Egyptian general election and to build up an opposition network in support of ElBaradei. This network included the April 6 Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the independent labor unions which constituted the bulk of the protests during the 18 days rebellion against Mubarak’s rule. ElBaradei decided later on to boycott the November 2010 elections, known to be the most fraudulent elections in Egypt’s history.
ElBaradei: A prominent member of the global power elite
As the Economist suggests, ElBaradei may not be liked in the U.S. by a certain power elite because of his work in the IAEA regarding Iran. On the other hand, he works with some of the most prominent American geopolitical strategists who work, or frequently consult, with America's political establishment via forums like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group. ElBaradei is a former member of the Board of Trustees of the International Crisis Group (ICG)3, which George Soros— the thirty-fifth richest person in the world— helped create and finance, and has close connections and works with the global power elite. Among the long standing members of the ICG, we see current Israeli President Shimon Peres, current Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, and former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami. The ICG also includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Armitage, Samuel Berger, and Wesley Clark. Former Democratic U.S. Congressman Stephen Solarz, who helped start the group, was once called “the Israel lobby’s chief legislative tactician on Capitol Hill.” In 1998, he led a group of neoconservatives who urged President Clinton to overthrow Saddam Hussein of Iraq. He was also a strong advocate of the 1991 Gulf War staged against Iraq.
Ironically, at times in the past Western media outlets insisted ElBaradei was both anti-American and strongly anti-Israeli due to his views conflicting with some of the practices of the U.S. and Israeli administrations. However, this is not more than a mere difference in opinion in some matters. As can be observed in many occasions, the U.S. and other global power elites don’t share identical views in all matters. What ElBaradei means for the U.S. is possibly well illustrated in the Council on Foreign Relations’ journal, Foreign Affairs’ article “Is ElBaradei Egypt’s Hero?” in 2010:
“Further, Egypt’s close relationship with the United States has become a critical and negative factor in Egyptian politics. The opposition has used these ties to delegitimize the regime, while the government has engaged in its own displays of anti-Americanism to insulate itself from such charges. If ElBaradei actually has a reasonable chance of fostering political reform in Egypt, then U.S. policymakers would best serve his cause by not acting strongly. Somewhat paradoxically, ElBaradei’s chilly relationship with the United States as IAEA chief only advances U.S. interests now. ”
As late as 2011, the Israeli officials called ElBaradei an Iranian agent because, according to them, the former IAEA chairman covered up for the Islamic Republic during his term, allowing Iranians to move ahead with the nuclear program while playing for time. Considering how aggressive Israeli politicians are vis-a-vis President Obama despite his being very supportive of Israel, there is no reason to take seriously these charges by –especially right wing- Israeli officials against ElBaradei.
AlBaradei in post-Mubarak Egyptian politics
For some Egyptians, Mr. ElBaradei's appeal lies in the fact that he is a civilian. Egypt had been ruled by the military since the monarchy was overthrown in 1952. Since he had not lived in Egypt for a long time, he is untainted by corruption allegations. But many critics, prior to the June 30 demonstrations, suggested he was out of touch with the reality of Egypt and lacking in political experience.
Many analysts said Mr. ElBaradei had also commented that it would have been unlikely for him to win the presidential elections in 2012 even if he had run. Although he played a prominent role in the Egyptian uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime and remained a vocal critic of the SCAF's policies, the impact of his left-leaning politics have been diminished by the discourse of the leading Islamist parties.
Two years ago he was tasked by several opposition movements including the Muslim Brotherhood to negotiate with the Hosni Mubarak government. He nevertheless recently took a confrontational oppositional position against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. He claimed that Morsi has "failed" in leading the nation towards a proper democratic path after the 2011 uprising.
In April 2012, Mr. ElBaradei founded a new political party, the Constitution Party (CP), which he stated would be a unifying force above all ideological positions in Egypt. Mr. ElBaradei said that the party’s goal was to take power in 2016, with Egyptians united behind democracy. He openly criticised the transition of power to the new government and a new president in June 2012. His main argument was that without having a new constitution and the required legal foundations, Egypt would have a president with imperial powers which would combine legislative and executive powers in his hand. According to him, the new president would theoretically have more power than Mr. Mubarak.
AlBaradei: the coupmaker
On November 24, the CP formed the National Salvation Front (NSF) together with secularist parties. The opposition to President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood brought about a coalition of the primary opposition parties under the NSF. On December 5, 2012, ElBaradei became its coordinator.
Mohamed ElBaradei was one of the leading figures involved in the coup d'état that toppled democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi through his role in forming and organizing the opposition and in coordinating efforts with the military. ElBaradei was one of the opposition figures who met with Defence Minister Abdul Fatah al-Sisi in the days before the coup. He was the negotiator on behalf of the political opposition in the meetings held between the opposition and the military. ElBaradei strongly supported the military's plan to oust Morsi and proposing a "political road map" for Egypt, including the installation of Supreme Constitutional Court Chief Justice Adly Mansour as interim president of Egypt.
He had also worked hard to convince Western powers of “the necessity of forcibly ousting” President Mohamed Morsi because, according to him, Mr. Morsi had clumsily mismanaged the country’s transition to an inclusive democracy.
In an interview with the New York Times, Mr. ElBaradei did not hesitate to defend the widening arrests of Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood allies and the shutdown of Islamist television networks that followed the removal of Mr. Morsi on June 3 by Egypt’s generals.
He was among those who were present when General Sisi announced the temporary suspension of the constitution and the removal of Morsi from power. In the political transition following Morsi's toppling from the presidency, ElBaradei’s name immediately began circulating as a candidate for interim prime minister. The objections by the Nour Party on July 7 prevented AlBaradei from being the head of the next cabinet. President Mansour appointed him Vice President. He was sworn in on 9 July.
1_ The Shabab April 6 Movement, which was at the inaugural summit of the Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) in November 2008 in New York City, led to the creation of Movements.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying, connecting, and supporting digital activists. The founders of Movements.org include Jared Cohen, former advisor to both Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton and a director at Google. As is mentioned in a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks and cited this week in The Nation, Newsweek, the New York Post and ABC News, April 6 was able to connect with other grassroots activists - who they remain connected to - at this event. The US State Department’s Michael Posner stated that the “US government has budgeted $50 million in the last two years to develop new technologies to help activists protect themselves from arrest and prosecution by authoritarian governments.” The report went on to explain that the US “organized training sessions for 5,000 activists in different parts of the world. A session held in the Middle East about six weeks ago gathered activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon who returned to their countries with the aim of training their colleagues there.” Posner would add, “They went back and there’s a ripple effect.” Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James K. Glassman, th State Department said on November 24, 2008: “And as a result of those conversations and the work that Jared has done, between December 3rd and December 5th , ..., a conference is being held in New York City at the Columbia University Law School that will bring together 17 organizations around the world…. Also, a foundation will be created called the Alliance of Youth Movements. And a hub, an electronic hub, again, anyone will have access to it around the world. ... We are – we at the State Department are one partner. In fact, we take a back seat to what the private sector is doing, which is just fabulous. But we’re happy to have gotten this thing started, at any rate.”
2_ Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Stretegies, an organization run by young Serbians who have played a role in the late 1990s student uprising against Slobodan Milosevic. After ousting him, they embarked on the ambitious project of figuring out how to translate their success to other countries. They have worked with “democracy advocates” from more than 50 countries. They have advised a group of young people on how to take on their governments, which they consider authoritarian or not sufficiently democratic. The courses include the strategies of nonviolent revolution, methods of organizing people on the streets, training newcomers, etc. CANVAS is mostly funded by the Freedom House and wealthy people affiliated with it.
3_ The International Crisis Group describes itself as “an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.”Last Mod: 10 Temmuz 2013, 15:17