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Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.
DANYA NADAR (VOICEOVER), TRNN: Hours before the start of the "March of a Million" scheduled for Feburary 1, Egyptian military spokesmen announced on Egyptian TV that the armed forces will guarantee the rights of Egyptians to demonstrate freely and peacefully, and will not resort to the use of force against them.UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We will not use force against civilians.NADAR: As reported by Al Jazeera, he stated that "Your armed forces, who are aware of the legitimacy of your demands and are keen to assume their responsibility in protecting the nation and the citizens, affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody." Also on January 31, Omar Suleiman, Egypt's newly appointed vice president, stated that Mubarak had tasked him with beginning an immediate dialog with the opposition regarding all of the issues concerning constitutional and legislative reforms. He also stated that the Egyptian government was in the process of appealing the results of certain constituencies from last November's parliamentary election. If negotiations begin taking place, they would likely involve Mohamed ElBaradei, who on Sunday, January 30, was nominated as the lead negotiator on behalf of the Egyptian opposition movement.MOHAMED ELBARADEI, REPRESENTATIVE, EGYPTIAN OPPOSITION MOVEMENT: --a smooth transition of a national unity government, to be followed by all the measures set in place for a free and fair election and democratic constitution. Egypt needs to catch up with the rest of the world. We need to be free, democratic, and a society where people have the right to live in freedom and dignity. That's what you get after 30 years, Fareed, of utter, brutal dictatorship supported by everybody in the name of pseudo-stability. Your policy right now--and this is an honest advice, Fareed--is absolutely--has no credibility here in Egypt. You know. That is coming from a friend of the US, somebody who lived 15 years in the US and worked for--throughout my life in the US. I would like to see a democratic Egypt continued, a democratic Egypt that is able to have a friendly relationship with the US, who have always a lot of common interests. And there is no reason to believe that a democracy here will not lead to a better relationship with the US based on respect and equity.NADAR: While millions of Egyptians are demanding for Mubarak's ouster, on January 31, Israel broke its silence by publicly urging the US and European allies to sustain their support for President Hosni Mubarak to ensure stability in the region. Benjamin Netanyahu stated at a press conference, "Our concern is that when there are rapid changes, without all aspects of a modern democracy in place ... will be the rise of an oppressive regime of radical Islam." "Such a regime will crush human rights and will not allow democracy or freedom, and will constitute a threat to peace." All reports indicate that the current uprising was not inspired by Islamist forces. But the US and Israel may have reasons to be concerned about a popular democratic movement with ElBaradei playing a prominent role.GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: So who is Mohamed ElBaradei? Well, he is a very interesting character, having been the head of IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] for this crucial period of its history where they dealt with both Iraq and Iran. And he tangled with the Bush administration not just on Iran, but also on Iraq, and of course that's really where he first got into big trouble with the United States, in early 2003, when he went to the United Nations and made a presentation showing in great detail that the Nigergate document, which had been cited by the president to justify going to war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein, was a fraud. That, obviously, did not sit well with the--particularly the neoconservatives in the Bush administration. And so, after that, they never trusted him at all. They clearly were out--were gunning for him, and they were hoping to discredit him and to get him replaced as director general of the IAEA. And so, to do that, the Bush administration actually tapped his telephone, had US intelligence tap his telephone, hoping to get some damaging inside information from a telephone call that would show that he was consorting with the Iranians, you know, against the interests of the free world. And unfortunately for them, they never found anything that they could use against him. Nevertheless, they did try to unseat ElBaradei in early 2005, tried to get their allies and friends in the governing board of the IAEA. But this was an indication that ElBaradei was playing--really trying to play a very cautious diplomatic role. He was certainly not pro-Iranian; he was not supporting their viewpoint on their nuclear program; he was quite critical of them. But on the other hand, he was clearly opposed to the use of force against Iran, and even, really, talking about the use of force. He said that it's just not a practical policy alternative. Israel was not happy with ElBaradei at all, though the Bush administration policy toward ElBaradei and the IAEA was very strongly influenced by the Israelis. And so the Israelis, more than anybody else, were extremely unhappy with ElBaradei's role with regard to Iran, because he did in fact oppose the military option. They actually tried to undermine ElBaradei and to put pressure on ElBaradei in 2009. The Israeli government was masterminding an effort, a diplomatic political effort within the IAEA, to get some of the key members of the governing board, particularly the French, the British, and the Germans, to put very strong diplomatic pressure on ElBaradei to publish a report that had been prepared by the Safeguards Department of the IAEA, which alleged that Iran had been in fact--that there was evidence that the Iranians had been working on nuclear weapons, a nuclear weapons program. ElBaradei never agreed to publish that report, because he clearly felt that it did not meet minimum standards of evidence, that it simply was not convincing evidence, and that he believed that it should not be published. So at that point, when he absolutely refused to publish it after being pressured, the Europeans then began to leak details, or at least the outline of this report, to the news media. And so there were a series of damaging news reports claiming that ElBaradei had been hiding, putting in his drawer, this very damaging evidence against the Iranians, in terms of their alleged having worked on an alleged nuclear weapons program. In the present situation, the Israelis are extremely unhappy with the possibility of ElBaradei coming to power in some fashion. They see no good option in store for them because of ElBaradei's role. It is so critical that the United States position itself in some fashion that is not going to be on the losing side, if you will. I mean, if they say that ElBaradei's not acceptable as a figure within the Egyptian government, it seems to me that really leaves them even in worse shape and puts the United States in a very bad light in terms of international opinion, and particularly in the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood, you know, certainly they have--they follow policies which the United States doesn't like. They support Hamas. They are willing to get along with, you know, some of the other players in the Middle East that the United States opposes. Nevertheless, I think that there are those who probably will be suggesting that under the circumstances, we might be better off to be willing to talk to these people, rather than to just say "no, no, no" under circumstances where it's very possible, if not likely, that they will indeed be the single-most influential faction within the next government in Egypt. But, nevertheless, I would say the national security elite, certainly the people in the Pentagon, CIA, the hardliners within the White House, within the National Security Council, all these people who have been supporting the Israeli position uncritically, they are not going to accept the Muslim Brotherhood. And that's where I think that US policy is in for a very, very tough ride for the coming days and weeks.
End of Transcript
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