Sunday, April 09, 2006

President Mubarak Sours Egypt's Relations with Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Iran

President Hosni Mubarak in a televised interview with the Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV said yesterday Iraq is in the middle of a civil war that threatened the Middle East and that Iraq's and Arab Shiites' allegiance is to Iran, hinting to Iran's influence in Arab countries.

Mubarak said there are Shiites in all these countries (of the region), significant percentages, and Shiites are mostly always loyal to Iran and not the countries where they live."

In Iraq, Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, flanked by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and Adnan al-Pachachi, a Sunni and the parliament's acting speaker said the comments have upset Iraqi people who come from different religious and ethnic backgrounds and has astonished and discontented the Iraqi government.

The statement read by Jaafari said Sunday "We are astonished that Egypt identifies Iraq's security problems as a civil war. Our people are still far away from any sectarian conflict or a civil war."

Expressing his anguish at Mubarak's statements, Talabani said these "accusations against our Shiite brothers are baseless and we have asked our foreign minister to talk to Egypt about this."

Around 90 percent of Iran's nearly 70 million people are Shiites who make frequent pilgrimage to Iraq which is burial place of six of 12 revered Shiite Imams (religious leaders).

There are also significant Shiite populations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

In Kuwait, Shiite MPs and clerics have demanded an official apology from President Mubarak over his controversial comments about their loyalty to Iran..

MP Hassan Jowhar told a press conference in parliament attended Sunday by three of five Kuwaiti Shiite MPs "We are not begging for certificates of loyalty to our countries from Mubarak or others. These are irresponsible statements... and only serve to incite sectarian rifts. Nothing can satisfy Shiites except a clear official apology from President Mubarak..."

Almost one-third of Kuwait's native population of one million are Shiite. The leader of the Congregation of Muslim Shiite Scholars in Kuwait, Sayed Mohammad Baqer al-Mahri, said Shiites living in the Gulf were loyal to their countries.

In Iran, Tehran on Sunday insisted it was using its influence to stabilise Iraq after President Mubarak expressed alarm about Shiite Iran's sway in the Arab world.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters "It is evident that the Islamic Republic of Iran is only interested in seeking security and stability in Iraq, and the region."

Blogging Mubarak:
Mubarakism, Mubarak: majority of Shia Muslims more loyal to Iran than their own states


At 3:53 PM, Blogger Yaakov Kirschen said...

Super posting.
I'll link to it from my blog to let folks know what is happening.
peace, shalom, salaam,
Dry Bones
Israel's Political Comic Strip Since 1973

At 4:37 PM, Blogger MHG/PhD said...

I think Mubarak is getting way past it. He is 78 years old, a President-For-Life, in essence a modern Pharoah. Now he has antagonized 65% of Iraqis, not to mention many others in the Persian Gulf region and Lebanon.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Whynotwhywhynot said...

Only if he follows the advice given to him so many years ago. This is not his first time. I know of two books only analysing his talks.
Mr. President for God sake don't speak your mind (there is not much there). Only read what your advisers write for you.

At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this type of rhetoric really surprising from Mubarak?

The only people who he has shown reverence and admiration to during his tenure as Egyptian President are two members of the Mid-East Peace Troika (US & EU) and of course the peace partner Israel.

Mubarak represents a certain political Egyptian chauvenism that believes that 'Egypt knows best', 'Egypt is more civilised than the bedouin Gulf States', 'Egypt is the foremost spokesperson and respresentative of *pan Arab* (whatever that means) interests'.

Amr Moussa has been accused of representing the same type of antagonistic chauvenism vis-a-vis other member States of the Arab League.

Egypt is accused of this same type of chauvenism by Nile Basin states (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi amongst others) when Egypt's politicians assert Egypt's superior right to a shared resource whose source is not even in territory controlled by Egypt!

Let's not forget that it was Mubarak who ordered the military annexation of disputed territory in the Halaib triangle and Shalateen, from Sudan, under which the territories had been administrated for more than half a century.

Mubarak's rationale probably disregarded the wishes of the inhabitants of the disputed territories - the Abaabda and Bishairiyeen - whose ethnic homeland is Sudan...

And now he has offended a few more millions...

At 9:05 PM, Blogger El3en Elsehrya said...

What Mubarak said is a fact that nobody wants to say.
This does not mean that I agree to his stateent, I just do not think that we are in the position to bear the consequences of such a statement.

At 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 4:40 AM, Anonymous Adrian from Denmark said...

Seen from a diplomatic point of view it was not so smart what he said, but.... was it factual wrong what he said ?

At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrian from Denmark:

Questioning, nay sullying the patriotic credentials of a particular million strong religious denomination...

Is that wrong?

Yes and ignorant and absolutely uncivilised!

At 6:25 AM, Blogger Freedom for Egyptians said...

I saw the entire interview on TV. Not only I was shocked by the incorrect political statements the president gave but the language used is derogatory and lack the common sense of the ordinary Egyptians.

The President does not only damage Egypt's relations with other neighbouring countries but with the peoples of the Middle East, the future generations' partners. When he is gone, he will leave us a legacy of bitterness and sour relations. Also, let's imagine how many Egyptians are working and living or having businesses in these countries. He has no consideration for the interests of the Egyptian people.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is not solely this President's fault, but, as regards sour relations with neighbourly countries, AbdAlNasser (Yemen, Saudi Arabia) & Sadat (Arab League, Ethiopia, Iran) also have much to account for.

As for Egypt's bad relations in Africa, they start with Muhammad Ali.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger TheFalafelDiaries said...

Oh give me a break !!
Arabs always get into fights because of rhetoric and language. They get mad because someone called it 'Civil War' ? Oh too bad ! Why don't you wake up and smell the havoc ? If you really want to get mad at something, get mad at yourselves for allowing such a mess to happen.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Freedom for Egyptians said...

Excuse me but there is a difference between regimes and peoples, especially in the Middle East and we all know why.

If Saturday's interview was an assault exchange as those happen in Arab Leagues Summits, I do not really care and there is no need to listen.

But the mistake done on Saturday was an insult to the peoples not governments or regimes. The president questioned the Arab and Iraqi Shiites loyalities to their countries.

It is easy in Egypt to say about any citizen who does not go along with the official line that he/she is working for foreign entities, a traiter, an agent...etc. But hello give me a break, why would the President export and project the sick security culture on other peoples.

As for the civil war issue, well if the Iraqis and Iraq's government "officially" declare Iraq as a civil war zone, then any other country can have a say after the people and the country of interest have their say.

Following the Arab and Iraqi media, I find that only Arabs are promoting the idea of the civil war and not the Iraqis.

My stance is clear. I want DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM for Iraq. This is very important for the entire region. Building on the positives that happen in Iraq is very important and not promoting a civil war or working on it to happen.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Making stereotypified, ignorant comments about members of a religious denomination is worth getting offended over.

It's called good manners and civility.

At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is some honesty in what Mubarak said whether you like to admit it or not. Shi'ites in Arab nations do possess a strong sense of loyalty to Iran in addition to any loyalty they may possess to their own countries. This has been my experience with plenty of shi'ites.

At 8:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ last anonymous,

Having family ties to shias - I'm sunni myself, I can say that Mubarak's stereotype on the 20 million plus shias in the Gulf and elsewhere is false.

The Arab shias who are loyal to Iran are most probably those who are very religious and those who are from a poor socio-economic background who are infatuated by the 'revolution'.

Iran was only the first shia republic.
The source of shia theology and the shia homeland is 'Iraq'.
Iran's Ayatollahs all studied in Iraq and Sistani who is considered to be the ultimate shia authority is an Iraqi Arab who is based in Najaf Iraq, not Qom Iraq.

Arab shias are fiercely proud of their Arab heritage.

What ties Gulf shias have have with Iran are similar to the ties they have to Pakistan and India where there are sizeable shia populations.

Bahraini shias are proud to be Bahraini, Saudi shias are proud to come from the peninsula, Lebanese shias are proud to be Lebanese and so forth...

For the Head of State of a country (Egypt's Mubarak) to make such a sweeping generalisation about a million strong religious denomination reflects very poor socio-political analysis, not to mention bad taste.

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Top Shiite Cleric Raps Mubarak for Remarks By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 31 minutes ago

One of Shiite Islam's top clerics accused Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday of fueling sectarian tensions in the Middle East by saying Arab Shiites in Iraq and elsewhere are more loyal to Iran than to their home countries.

Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, in an interview with The Associated Press, said "some in the Muslim world" fear Shiite empowerment in any country.

Fadlallah was one of the highest-level Shiite figures in the region to speak out so far against Mubarak. The president's comments over the weekend angered Shiites and raised fears of a Sunni-Shiite rift across the Middle East at a time of increased sectarian violence in Iraq.

Fadlallah is the highest-ranking Shiite cleric in Lebanon and was believed to be the spiritual leader of the Hezbollah guerrilla group in the 1980s. He has followers in Iraq, the Gulf region and among Shiite communities in Pakistan and India. He is closely linked to Iraq's top Shiite politicians and top clerics.

On Wednesday, Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Iraq — possibly the world's most influential Shiite cleric — also sent a letter to Mubarak through the Egyptian embassy in Beirut regarding his statements about the Shiites, according to Hamed al-Khafaf, al-Sistani's representative in Lebanon.

Al-Khafaf declined to provide details about the letter's contents.

Mubarak's made his remarks in an interview aired Saturday on the Al-Arabiya news channel.

"Definitely Iran has influence for Shiites," Mubarak told the Dubai-based station. "Shiites are 65 percent of the Iraqis. ... Most of the Shiites are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living in."

He also said Iraq was on the brink of civil war.

Fadlallah said such talk only fuels prejudice against Shiites.

"We believe that obscuring the stance of Shiites ... can create a rift between Shiites and Sunnis," Fadlallah, 70, told the AP at his office in the southern Beirut Haret Horeik neighborhood.

"The loyalty of Shiites to their countries is not less than that of others. Such talk has no basis in reality. What is meant by it is to create a climate of agitation that amounts to telling the Sunnis 'Beware of the Shiite threat!'

"I think there are some in the Muslim world who are uncomfortable with the empowerment of the Shiites in any nation, and that's because of sectarian extremism or political anxieties," said Fadlallah, whose moderate views have, over the years, earned him the animosity of militant clerics in Iran as well as Iraq.

The empowerment of Iraq's majority Shiites after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led regime was the catalyst for reviving the centuries-old, but latent, Sunni-Shiite divide. It has alarmed Arab nations with sizable Shiite communities across the Gulf from Iran.

Beside Iraq, the only other Arab nation with a Shiite majority is Bahrain, a Gulf island kingdom ruled by a Sunni family. Arab nations with significant Shiite minorities include Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Syria.

A Sunni-Shiite rift would be potentially ruinous in a region already saddled by the Iraq conflict, the enduring Arab-Israeli conflict and an array of other chronic problems.

King Abdullah of Jordan spoke in the same vein in a newspaper interview published 16 months ago when he accused Shiite, but non-Arab, Iran of seeking to create a "Shiite crescent" in the Middle East that would include Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

In response to Mubarak's interview, Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government boycotted a Wednesday meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo to discuss Iraq and called on Mubarak to "reconsider" his position.

Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Iraqi Shiite leader, blasted Mubarak's remarks Wednesday, saying in a statement that they "serve only the enemy, and try to ignite civil and sectarian war."

Mubarak's comments could not have come at a worse time.

Iraq, wracked by a Sunni-dominated insurgency since shortly after Saddam's ouster three years ago, has seen a dramatic surge of sectarian violence since a key Shiite shrine was bombed in February by suspected Sunni militants. The violence, together with the failure to form a unity government four months after elections were held, threaten to plunge the country into a Sunni-Shiite civil war.

Mubarak's charges also are likely to feed suspicions in Lebanon that Shiite leaders are too close to Iran. Tensions among the country's various groups already are heightened since last year's assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni.


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