Are we crossing the line, or are we burying our noses in something that does not matter: whether or not Egypt and the United States have consulted us about matters that affect us? These questions arose when I read news of the meeting between the team of Lt. Gen. David Goldfein from the U.S. Central Command and a delegation of American military officials with the Egyptian chief of staff and vice president of the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. Sami Annan and several members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. At this meeting, they discussed issues of mutual concern, according to al-Sharq al-Awsat, Monday, Sept. 19.
I am not one to be skeptical of U.S. officials’ visits to Cairo or their efforts to woo the Egyptians, especially after the revolution, but suspicion grows here when it is between militaries. I have a number of reasons to be suspicious now, including that I consider the lack of innocence to be a basic principle of American politicians. If they are soldiers, the paucity of innocence grows, and they become haunted by fear and anxiety. It is enough that those politicians or soldiers are friends of our enemies and have served them, and if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, as the saying goes, then his friend is my enemy (his “beloved,” to be more accurate). That is certainly not the case. Thus, each kiss they send us must be harmful or poisonous.
The second reason to be fearful is that the revolution was against a regime allied with the United States. If its president was considered of strategic value to “Israel,” then he must have been more than that for the United States, and American politicians must have had a share in the rumbling anger that brought down Mubarak and his regime. If our youth have expressed their feelings about Israeli policy clearly to everyone, then no one should assume that their feelings about the United States are much better. While the outrage before the Israeli Embassy had erupted after the killing of five Egyptian soldiers, we do not know when the outrage will erupt in the face of American politicians, but we do not doubt that it exists.
As far as that is concerned, it remains surprisingly elusive, but that does not affect a thing regarding Egypt’s relations with the United States after the revolution.
The positive relations that existed before Jan. 25 have been restored, so we would not need to feel any cooling off or tension between the countries. It is as if Mubarak had not fallen, his men were still in their offices, and his foreign policy had not changed. This supports what some argued — that the regime truly fell, but his body has not stopped, and graduates of his school seem to be advancing nevertheless.
I have not yet found an explanation for how relations between Cairo and Washington can be “thick as honey” before Jan. 25 and remain so after that date. I am not calling for a clash with the United States or to sever relations with them, but I am calling for a distinct distance to convince us that Egyptian policy has become more independent since the revolution, that the U.S. administration gets the message that change is happening — no matter what happens in Egypt — and that what Cairo tolerated in the past may no longer be tolerable after Jan. 25, when the people rose to defend their dignity and the dignity of their country.
If the meeting between the Egyptian chief of staff and the U.S. military commander had happened under different circumstances, we would have said that the meeting was to discuss military affairs without having to go into detail. Although we do not know the scope of the meetings or understand the rationale, the point is that Mr. Annan is not only the chief of staff, but also vice chairman of the ruling military. He has played a role in the upper echelons of political decision-making, and his actions have been in constant contact with the emerging political order in this country, especially with those involved with steps to turn over power to civilians. He is not only listening closely: He has personal views regarding the political future, of which some are agreeable and some are not.
In the second part of the dialogue published Sept. 20 by al-Ahram, Mohammad Hasanayn Heikal said that we do not know what will be satisfactory for fundamental issues related to the future, including relations with the United States and the related consequences. He also said that the situation in Egypt has been much more constrained than people think. He warned that conditions in Egypt are like an iceberg: Most of it is hidden beneath the surface of the water.
It is an accident of fate that the special issue of al-Ahram published news of the meeting between Annan’s team and the U.S. military commander on its first page while publishing Mr. Heikal’s words on the inside pages. This made me wonder if the meeting reflects the visible or submerged half of the aforementioned iceberg. The people want to understand this in order to ensure the strength of the revolution.