Egypt, Iran, and the Islambulis

The news that Egypt has arrested the brother of Sadat's assassin as he arrived at Cairo Airport is interesting:

Mohamed Shawqi el-Islambuli, brother of Khalid el-Islambuli who killed former President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981, was sentenced to death in absentia in 1992 for plotting from abroad to overthrow the state.

He was sentenced again in 1999 in a landmark trial of more than 100 suspected members of the Gama'a al-Islamiya movement blamed for a massacre of tourists in the southern city of Luxor, an embassy bombing in Pakistan and a series of killings and assassination attempts including one against Sadat's successor Hosni Mubarak.

[. . .]

Islambuli returned after Iran's government told him he must leave the country and could travel either to Egypt or Pakistan. After failed attempts to enter Pakistan and Turkey, he boarded a plane to return to Egypt, said [his lawyer Nizar] Ghorab.

Aside from geopolitical differences, the biggest obstacle to the resumption of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Iran has been that Tehran has hosted Islambuli and named a street after his brother. The question here is why did Iran decide to kick out Islambuli, and why was he left no choice but to return to Egypt where his arrest was certain? Could this be a prelude to the resumption of diplomatic ties (which would be perfectly normal, Egypt is one of very few countries — Israel, the US — which do not have diplomatic relations with Iran)? And does Iran feel compelled to do something it failed to do for years not just because Mubarak is gone, but rather because the regional setup is changing so quickly, with Syria falling apart, Hamas perhaps on its way to deserting Damascus and Tehran and Hizbullah post-Assad perhaps being more Lebanon-centered?

Links for 08.08.09 to 08.09.09

Middle East Report Online: Rachel Corrie in Palestine…and in San Francisco | Joel Beinin on the hysterical reaction to the screening of French-Israeli filmmaker Simone Bitton's film on Rachel Corrie at the San Francisco Film Festival. Israeli agents to screen judges before appointment - Middle East, World - The Independent | Israel - just another Middle Eastern autocracy: "Israel's internal security service has been given a de facto veto over the appointment of judges in an unprecedented decision that has the country's embattled liberals up in arms. The move by the Judges Selection Committee on Friday is likely to make it harder for members of Israel's Arab minority and others with views that are not mainstream to become judges, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Acri)." Obama's letter to Assad .... | FLC: "According to the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar, President Obama heeded a "french advice" and transferred the Lebanon-Syria file (s) to the White House, away from the tractions and the oversight of such officials as Jeffrey Feltman... Moreover, and always according to Al Akhbar, a senior Arab diplomat in Beirut said that President Obama sent a "three pages letter" to President Assad asking him to "turn a new page in the bilateral relations between the US and Syria" ... and outlining ways to move forward. " Typhoid outbreak in Egypt | In Qaloubiya governorate, due to water sanitation issues. There are increasing water sanitation and distribution problems in Egypt, a sign that the government is not sufficiently investing in infrastructure. Central Bank: Egypt's remittances drop 26 percent (AP via Yahoo! Finance) | The crisis hits. Al-Ahram Weekly | Living | Obituary: Fayza Hassan, 1938-2009: Life interrupted | Very sad to hear about the death of this wonderful writer. Egypt's National Security Threatened By Sorcery: Psychiatrist | Mountain = molehill. EGYPT: Anwar Sadat's daughter sues information minister over Hollywood movie | Babylon & Beyond | Los Angeles Times | Because of the film "I love you, man." Which isn't very good anyway (and the dog does not resemble Sadat). Reptile wreaks havoc on Cairo-bound flight | Funny: "A “small crocodile” running up and down the aisle of a Cairo-bound flight recently sent passengers into a frenzy. No one claimed ownership of the creature, which turned out to be a lizard." Israeli settlement freeze 'not enough for Saudis' (AFP) | I almost hate to praise Saudi Arabia, but they have this right.
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Obama 2009 | Nixon 1974

As Obama meets with Mubarak and participates in a festival of pageantry, let's remember another, much more historic and important, visit by a US to Egypt. In 1975 1974 the disgraced President Richard Nixon, still reeling from the Watergate scandal, arrived in Egypt to consecrate the Egyptian-American alliance that emerged after Sadat expelled Soviet advisors. Take a look at some of the pictures below and you will see that he traveled through Cairo as millions of Egyptians cheered (see Two million Egyptians greet Nixon in Cairo). That was the beginning of Egypt's special relationship with Washington, and people were optimistic that it might mean be a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Sadat had just carried out the 1973 war, an heroic Egyptian attempt to retake Sinai that may have failed militarily but that he was able to translate into a political process leading to Camp David. I'm no Sadat fan, but just contrast with the present situation with Mubarak. Of course it was not all adulation. From that visit we've also had one of the best songs of the Ahmed Fouad Negm - Sheikh Imam duo, Sharaft ya Baba Nixon, which savages Sadat for preparing such an elaborate reception. Sharaft ya Nixon Baba Here's one translation (not entirely accurate though) I found:
You came Father Nixon Mr. Watergate They gave you so many honors These exploiters of the people. They festooned the widest path From Ras-El-Tine to Mecca So that from there you could go to Accra And that it could be said he made the pilgrimage. It was a real traveling circus, Your benediction Parents of the Prophet. The day of your arrival your agents prepared for you A beautiful exorcism ritual Where the whores strutted their stuff Homos and lowlifes And where Chamhourèche in person Made love to the priestess, there were many processions. A whole retinue of blood suckers followed Groveling by order of importance, Of course. Those who invited you said to you Come eat some candies and sweets. And since you are a little naive, You thought us easy prey. You were in ruins; They wanted to help prop you up. Undesirable partner, I spit in your face, Disguised as a blessing. Listen and remember, Even though you won't be around much longer, I won't bid you welcome or to go away. I won't tell you come, or get lost. But they say, Egyptian flesh is corrosive there, Where it's wasting away. For a real traveling circus, Your benediction, Parents of the Prophet.
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But what about Hosni, ya Jehan?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Jehan Sadat
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Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat's widow, Jehan Sadat, was on the Daily Show the other night plugging her new book out on the occasion of 30 years of Egyptian-Israeli piece. It wasn't quite as weird as her recent NYT interview (evidence #2312325345 it's not a very good newspaper) but this has a great moment when Jon Stewart asks her whether there are any Arab leaders capable of pushing for peace at the moment and she says there are non. Check in at 3:00 of the video.
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