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October 18, 1991

The Chancellor's [Helmut Kohl's] Meeting with Egypt’s President Mubarak on Thursday, 17 October 1991, 11:00 – 14:00 hours

Kohl and Mubarak discuss the overall situation in the Midle East after the Gulf War. Mubarak shares his insights examining the positions and competing interests of Israel, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

November 4, 2020

Interview with Nabil Fahmy

Nabil Fahmy is a former Egyptian Foreign Minister and diplomat. He served as the head of the Egyptian delegation to ACRS as well as the head of Egypt’s delegation to most of the Steering committee meetings

November 4, 2020

Interview with Aly Erfan

Aly Erfan is a former Egyptian diplomat. He served as a member of the Egyptian delegation to ACRS. 


Fu’ad Mursi, 'The Economic Opening' (Excerpts)

Fu’ad Mursi (1925-1990), the author of the text printed here (an English excerpt translated from an Arabic-language monograph), was an Egyptian economist trained in Alexandria and the Sorbonne. While in Paris, he joined the French Communist Party. Back in Egypt, he in 1949 co-founded al-Hizb al-shuiu‘i al-misri, or the Egyptian Communist Party (ECP).

Born 27 years after a communist party had first been opened in the country, the ECP, also known as Rayat al-sha‘ab (The People’s Banner) after the title of its organ, was the smallest, most clandestine, and most intellectual communist group then operating in Egypt. It favored a two-state-solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, was opposed to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970), and in 1958 initiated the merger of Egypt’s communist parties (under the condition that Jews would be excluded), a story told e.g. in Joel Beinin’s Was the Red Flag Flying There? Marxist Politics and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Egypt and Israel, 1948-1965 (1990). Nasser’s regime, which from the start had a difficult relationship with domestic communists, turned to open repression in 1959, locking up many party members in brutal desert prisons until 1964. The next year the party dissolved itself under pressure from the regime, which, however, also co-opted some individuals. Mursi was one of them.

Moreover, after Nasser’s death, Mursi early on continued a government career under the new president Anwar Sadat (1918-1981). In 1971, he became director of the state Industrial Bank and member of the Central Bank board, and in 1972 Minister of Supply and Domestic Commerce. The following year he resigned, however. Still a Marxist, he disagreed with Sadat’s policy of economic opening, infitah. While prepared from 1971, this policy became official in 1974—a story whose classic treatment is John Waterbury’s The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat: The Political Economy of Two Regimes (1983) and whose social dimension is told by Relli Shechter’s The Rise of the Egyptian Middle Class: Socio-Economic Mobility and Public Discontent from Nasser to Sadat (2019).

The text printed here reflects a key component in Mursi’s analysis of the infitah. He diagnoses a cooperation between private Egyptian capitalists—who were now on the rise again after the decline of Nasserite state capitalism (aka socialism)—and foreign capitalist colonialism that, while not any more occupying Egypt, again wishes to exploit the country


Juan José Hernández-Arregui, 'What is the National Being?' (Excerpts)

Juan José Hernández-Arregui (1913-1974), the Argentinian author of the Spanish book published originally in 1963 in Buenos Aires from which the excerpt here has been translated into English, was a journalist from a very young age, an intellectual, and an official. Having received his PhD in 1944, he from 1945 worked principally as a history and economics professor, and had a cultural program in the State Radio.

At the time, in 1946, a career army officer, Juan Perón (1895-1974), who in 1943-1945 had served as secretary of labor and social security and as minister of war in a military-led government, became Argentine’s president. He and his wife Eva were very popular especially among the poor for his social policies and approach to the working classes, and he worked closely inter alia with the General Confederation of Labor to promote economic independence. In 1955, a military coup forced him into exile, first in Venezuela and finally in Spain. (He would serve as president again from 1973 until his death in 1974). Although he was in exile and his party was outlawed, his broad brand of nationalism—leftist-statist with strong right-wing populist elements—remained deeply influential in Argentina.

Hernández-Arregui was a case in point. Though fired from academic posts after the coup, he remained the director of the Instituto de Historia de la Universidad Nacional de la Plata, retained his radio program—and was able to militate for Perón. In well-read newspaper texts, he soon called for Perón’s return. And his books—at that time most importantly Imperialismo y cultura (1957) and La formación de la conciencia nacional (1960) besides ¿Qué es el ser nacional? [What is the National Being?] (1963) which is excerpted text gere—made him a leading protagonist of el peronismo revolucionario, revolutionary (i.e. leftist) Peronism. Peronism defined itself and was seen as a very much Argentinian ideology, not unlike earlier nationalisms in South America’s second-largest country.

At the same time, as other nationalist ideologies since the 19th century, it and related nationalisms developed within global context. In the event, a key context was the rising tide of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, as Michael Goebel’s “Von der hispanidad zum Panarabismus: globale Verflechtungen in Argentiniens Nationalismen” (2011) has shown. Sure, the Cuban revolution exerted a considerable pull especially on leftist Peronists as it did on other in Latin America and beyond. But the Algerian War of Independence greatly interested Argentines, too. And perhaps most influential as a model to think with was the anti-imperialist leftist-statist nationalist Egypt under President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970; r. from 1954), as the text here shows.

February 2, 1958

The Speech of President Gamal Abdel Nasser to the Afro-Asian Youth Conference, Monday, 2 February [Fibrair Shbat] 1958 / 24 Rajab 1378

This is an English translation of a speech originally given in Arabic in 1958 by Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) and then reprinted in a book published in Cairo.

An officer by training and profession and a participant in the 1952 coup that ended Egypt’s country’s monarchy, Nasser in 1954 became president of Egypt and as such the president of the United Arab Republic (UAR), which was formed with Syria in 1958 and which continued to exist for a decade after Syria left the union in 1961. Having met India’s president Jawahrlal Nehru already in 1954, Nasser began playing an important political role also beyond the Middle East in the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. His star rose precipitously in 1956, when he nationalized the Suez Canal and when France and Britain had to withdraw their forces from the canal after occupying its northern part in November 1956. Given Egypt’s position in the Middle East and internationally, the US administration was concerned this aggression would play into the hands of its Cold War rival, the Sovet Union. The US forced its NATO allies (and their Israeli colluders) to withdraw—a defeat that Egyptians celebrated as their own anti-imperialist success and that deepened Nasser’s popularity among many Arabs and other decolonizing and postcolonial people.

It was against that background that the Egyptian government further upped its international profile. This now occurred also vis-à-vis Asia and not “only” vis-à-vis Africa, which had been an important arena for the republican regime’s foreign policy from before Bandung. Thus, in 1957 Nasser’s government organized the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Conference that, analyzed in Reem Abou-el-Fadl’s “Building Egypt’s Afro-Asian Hub” (2019), led to Cairo housing the secretariat of the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation. And in early 1958, it held the Afro-Asian Youth Conference. By this time and in the 1960s, Cairo became a key transnational hub for decolonization movements especially from Africa, as Eric Burton has shown in "Hubs of Decolonization. African Liberation Movements and Eastern Connections in Cairo, Accra and Dar es Salaam" (2019).

The text printed here is Nasser's address to the Afro-Asian Youth Conference, which happened to take place a mere day after the Syrian-Egyptian UAR was formally announced.

December 3, 1956

Middle East (Situation): Debated in the Commons Chamber, Monday, 3 December 1956

In July 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) nationalized the Suez Canal Company, surprising the world. The government of France, in whose capital of Paris the company was headquartered, and the British government, the company’s plurality shareholder, sought to reverse nationalization in court, but failed—even though they clad their case in the language not of imperial self-interest but, rather, of international public interest. The time in which such language was somewhat acceptable, even at home, was passing, and the Suez Crisis played a big part in this final act.

At the same time, the two governments early on after the canal nationalization decided to remove Nasser by force, for re-compensation was not their central concern. France believed Nasser was enabling the FLN, which in 1954 had started Algeria’s War for Independence, and Britain wanted some say in the canal, which had for decades been its worldwide empire’s “swing-door,” as a member of parliament, Anthony Eden (1897-1977), called it in 1929. In August 1956 France began discussing a joint operation with Israel, which wanted Nasser gone, too, and the Red Sea opened for Israel-bound ships. In early October the two were joined by Britain. On the 29th, Israel invaded the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. On the 30th, France and Britain gave Israel and Egypt a 12-hour ultimatum to cease hostilities, or they would intervene—and Anglo-French forces bombed Egyptian forces from the 31st and on November 5-6 occupied the canal’s northern tip. Although a power play, “Operation Musketeer,” like the court case, could not be an open imperial move anymore, then, and did not present itself to the world as such. No matter: especially in colonies and postcolonial countries, people were outraged.

More problematically for France and Britain, Washington was incredulous. This Middle Eastern affair triggered the worst crisis of the 1950s between America’s rising international empire and Europe’s descending empires, and indeed clarified and accelerated that descent. President Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) fumed that Prime Ministers Anthony Eden and Guy Mollet (1905-1977) had disregarded his administration’s opposition to military action. Worse, they had deceived him about their intentions. And worst, their attack on Egypt undermined the supreme US tenet: Soviet containment. The Americans were by association tainted by their NATO allies’ imperialist move while the Soviets looked good—on November 5 they offered Egypt troops and threatened to nuke London, Paris, and Tel Aviv—and that although they had just repressed an uprising in Hungary.

On the very day of the ultimatum, October 30, Eisenhower washed his hands of that move on live US television, and the US mission at the UN organized a cease-fire resolution vote in the Security Council. France and Britain vetoed it. Although sharing its European allies’ emotions about Nasser, the US administration withheld critical oil and monetary supplies from them to bring them to heel and withdraw from Egypt—after which, it promised, they would be warmly welcomed back. It ceased most bilateral communications and froze almost all everyday social interactions with its two allies, even cancelling a scheduled visit by Eden. And it badgered its allies at the UN, supporting an Afro-Asian resolution that on November 24 called Israel, Britain, and France to withdraw forthwith. On December 3, the British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd took the floor in the House of Commons.

July 26, 1956

Speech by President Nasser, Alexandria, July 26 [1956] (Extract)

Eighty-seven years after the Suez Canal’s completion in 1869 and less than two months after the last British troops had left it in June 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) on July 26, 1956, nationalized the Suez Canal Company.

Nasser announced the step in the text printed here: a speech that would become a classic in the annals of twentieth-century decolonization worldwide. The English translation used here is included in a documentary publication printed in 1956 by the US State Department in Washington, DC, titled The Suez Canal Problem; it is an excerpt of the whole speech.

Nasser pronounced the speech in the Egyptian Mediterranean city of Alexandria in front of a crowd of tens of thousands, during which he also uttered the code word signaling his security forces to occupy the company’s assets and offices in Egypt. Nasser’s step took the world by surprise. The French government, the Suez Canal Company’s Paris headquarters and its many French shareholders, and the British government that was the company’s largest shareholder and that on July 23, following Washington’s lead, had retracted a 1955 offer to back a World Bank loan to Egypt: all they were outraged. (France and Britain would fail to reverse nationalization in court; the outcome, in Britain, of the ensuing Franco-British-Israeli attack is the focus of another document dated 1956 in this collection). Diametrically opposed was the dominant reaction among Egyptians, other Arabs, and people in newly independent and still colonialized countries. They were ecstatic. The reason was not so much that Nasser nationalized the canal in order to find a new way to finance a dam at Aswan, on the Nile, although that project was a linchpin of Egypt’s modernization, a history analyzed in Guy Laron’s Origins of the Suez Crisis (2013). The reason was more existential. Nasser’s act turned himself, Egypt, and by proxy the entire non-white world from a passive object of history into an active subject. “Die of your fury,” Nasser told the Americans, and by extension Europe’s descending imperial powers. And by calling the shots—“Today, citizens, the Suez Canal Company has been nationalized. This order has been published in the Official Journal. It has become a matter of fact”—he symbolically subjugated Britain and France, humiliating those once so powerful empires as only a non-white ex-colonial subject could. Even a cut as historic as India’s independence, in 1947, had not hurt Britain this much. Technically speaking Britain had co-initiated that final act of the British Raj, and it was a loss of a limb, however crucial. Nasser, by contrast, had stabbed the empire in its very heart—a story classically narrated in Keith Kyle’s Suez (1991).

July 9, 1954

Cairo Radio’s External Broadcasts: Broadcasts in Swahili

Already in the interwar decades, radio broadcasting became an important tool for seeking to shape public opinion at home and abroad. Thus, in the late 1930s, an Arabic-language “radio war” pitched Italy against France and Britain, both sides attacking the other for imperialist policies and intentions in the Middle East. With the onset of decolonization in Africa and Asia after World War II, also leading postcolonial countries began to use radio as a tool.

A case in point is the text printed here, from 1954. It is an English translation, reprinted in the British Broadcast Company’s (BBC) compendium Summary of World Broadcasts, of Radio Cairo’s announcement that it would start broadcasts in Swahili. While in the mid-1950s the early post-monarchic Egyptian government led by President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) kept scoring successes vis-à-vis the country’s earlier British rulers in Egypt itself, it sought to engage and keep busy Britain (less so other late European imperial powers) abroad, too. The most important foreign arena was Africa. Breaking Britain’s radio monopoly the Egyptian government in July 1953 launched the radio station Sawt al-‘Arab, The Voice of the Arabs, which from the start broadcast in Arabic also into East Africa where a few British colonial subjects understood Arabic. Moreover, in 1954 Sawt al-‘Arab started Swahili broadcasts.

As Tareq Ismael’s classic The U.A.R. in Africa: Egypt’s Policy under Nasser (1971) and James Brennan’s “Radio Cairo and the Decolonization of East Africa, 1953-64” (2010) show, these broadcasts attacked British rule and framed Egypt as decolonizing Africa’s leader, a move that became ever more important as Egypt’s international profile grew after the successes of 1956. (See the respective entries in this collection). At the same time, Egypt-based Arabic-language writers were keen to introduce decolonizing and early postcolonial countries to the Arabic-speaking public; they often framed political developments there in ways that were related to Egypt and/or claimed a certain lead role, in decolonization, for Egypt. While some books were written on Asia and Latin America, most concerned Africa, underscoring Egypt’s location and leadership claims there.


Sayed Kotb [Sayyid Qutb], 'The World is an Undutiful Boy!'

After World War II, the political, military, and economic power of the United States’ rising international empire—one working with and through other nation-states—was accompanied by “soft power,” to use a term coined later. Victorious in a global war, Americans embraced “nationalist globalism,” as John Fousek put it in To Lead the Free World: American Nationalism and the Cultural Roots of the Cold War (2000). They wished the postwar world to follow their way of life rather than that of their Cold War Soviet rivals. Vice versa, people around the world paid more attention to them. Very few swallowed Americans’ self-view hook, line, and sinker. But a good number came, adopted what seemed of use—and often did (and could) openly oppose what they disliked, as Matthew Shannon discusses in Losing Hearts and Minds: American-Iranian Relations and International Education during the Cold War (2017).

An Egyptian visitor was Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), a Cairene inspector of public schools. Egypt’s Ministry of Education chose him to analyze US education from November 1948 to August 1950. He studied at the Wilson Teacher’s College in Washington, DC, and the Colorado State College of Education, in Greeley. He visited New York, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and San Diego. Qutb wrote about this experience—for by the mid-1940s he had become a rising author and cultural critic in Egypt. There, as Giedre Sabaseviciute has shown in “Sayyid Qutb and the crisis of culture in late 1940s Egypt” (2018), Qutb, like others of his generation, accused the cultural establishment of selling out to Western imperialism culturally and hence politically; at the time, Britain still controlled the Suez Canal, and would withdraw its last troops only in June 1956. Some young nationalist critics were leftists; others, like Qutb, had a more religious bent. (In the early 1950s Qutb would officially join the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and later texts like Ma‘alim fi al-Tariq [Milestones (1964)] would make him the intellectual father of contemporary Islamic radicalism; Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime imprisoned him after an MB coup attempt in 1954, until 1964, and again from 1965 to 1966, when he was executed.)

As for Qutb’s texts on America, they were much more critical than texts by earlier Arabs who had visited and studied in Western imperial countries. Thus, Rifa‘a Rafi‘ al-Tahtawi’s (1801-1873) or Taha Husayn’s (1889-1973) reflections on sojourns in France, while critical, also identified commonalities and affirmed that Egypt could use some European traits to catch up with Western imperial powers. Not so Qutb, as John Calvert’s “‘The World Is an Undutiful Boy!’: Sayyid Qutb’s American Experience” (2000) shows. In letters home and in a three-part Arabic article titled “The America That I Have Seen,” published after Qutb’s return, he described Americans as a shallow, soulless people driven by status and money: Egypt’s opposite. This was the external inter-civilizational front of a conflict whose domestic cultural front countered those who presumably served Western imperialism. Qutb’s thinking was complex, then. This was the case doubly as it embraced Islam, whose spirituality imbued Egypt’s, and as he called Egypt a civilization—nay the civilization, the world’s first. In the late 1940s, in sum, Qutb was an anti-imperialist civilizational nationalist with a religious bent, or, perhaps, an Eastern civilizationalist of Egyptian nationality and Muslim faith. This showed also in the text here: Qutb’s first one in English, printed in the Greeley College literary society magazine in 1949.