In a lecture at the Law School in New York University, Mohamed El-Baradei conveyed a message that the situation in Egypt is deteriorating on all levels. He told the attendees that Egyptians are confused and that the current regime is authoritarian, seeking to curtail political freedom. He then concluded that “Egypt is drowning”. Actually, El-Baradei could have enjoyed prominent international prestige in terms of his former post and the financial rewards he received. In fact, during the time he was heading the International Atomic Energy Agency, he was a disciplined employee who knew precisely the limits of his authority and what was required of him by major world powers, particularly Washington.
El-Baradei was a bureaucratic and ordinary employee who gained his legal and diplomatic expertise during his work in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affaris. But he acquired his international post not because he has special skills but pursuant to the principle of taking turns filling certain posts, especially those that require implementing US policies in particular areas. The US policy then was focused on the Iranian nuclear programme and Iraq’s weapons. That is why no one was better to handle these issue the way Washington wanted than a Muslim Arab. This does not mean that the man is a traitor, but more so that the post was offered to him because of some US policy considerations.
Throughout Mubarak’s era, the government adopted a policy of eliminating or controlling all political figures who offered alternatives to those in important positions in state institutions. Egypt was emptied of its vital talents and no one was left in the political scene except Mubarak’s old entourage and the Brotherhood’s devotees. Both parties played politics like the cartoon ‘Tom and Jerry’; sometimes they fought and other times they made up, but each side was always plotting against the other.
El-Baradei had a political vendetta against Mubarak’s regime for personal reasons related to Dr. Mohamed Shaker being chosen instead of himself to assume a prominent international post. For that reason he would criticise the regime every now and then, especially after the “Kifaya” movement emerged in the political scene, marking an escalation of protests against Mubarak.
When the 25 January revolution broke out, El-Baradei came to Egypt and was surrounded by many dervish-like people belonging to different intellectual and ideological trends. The Brotherhood was also not so far from El-Baradei. I was not personally convinced of the man as a politician or a statesman. A man who takes a long time to decide which door of Cairo airport to go out of while his supporters are waiting impatiently for him cannot be a politician. And I did not respond to any invitation extended by his devoted supporters to meet him in his villa. Those invitations were offered with a wide smile that meant “we are fulfilling your dream of meeting the symbol of the revolution and the future president of Egypt”.
The man has neither charisma nor political vigour and lacks other qualifications necessary of a statesman. He was just pushed in the middle of the sequence of events and believed to have the abilities to handle them. He despises Egyptians, and he expressed this to his brother in a phone call in which he criticised the regime, the opposition and the people themselves. He was the vice president after the 30 June revolution and some of his devotees were offered important posts. He participated in dialogues called for by the former president Adli Mansour where he was usually silent and indulging in daydreams, but only God knows what went on inside his head. He took the chance to place pressure on the government by inviting international officials to Egypt in order to promote the reconciliation process, but after the dispersal of Rabaa and Nahda, he resigned and left Egypt.
After escaping from Egypt, El-Baradei went to his house in the Austrian capital of Vienna. He has been frequently travelling around attempting to give a bad name to the 30 June revolution. Egyptians have had to put up with a lot of trouble, and thus drafted a new constitution that is far better than the one approved in 1971. The great majority of Egyptians voted in favour of the constitution, elected a president and broke the American and Western siege. Egypt started to take the first steps towards stability which is a fact that was immediately perceived by the US administration, which is why a meeting between Al-Sisi and Obama took place. The country is gradually taking on its normal role despite grave problems and heavy responsibility.
However, all of a sudden, El-Baradei popped up and said that “Egypt is drowning”. Actually, Egypt was in danger of drowning that is why you abandoned the ship, but the strong will of the people has wrecked all your prospects.
Emad Gad is vice president of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.