News / Middle East

Former Egyptian Diplomat ElBaradei Becomes Face of Mubarak Opposition

Egyptian Nobel Peace laureate and democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei addresses the crowd at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Jan 30, 2011
Egyptian Nobel Peace laureate and democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei addresses the crowd at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Jan 30, 2011

Multimedia

Former Egyptian diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei has emerged as a prominent voice of the opposition to President Hosni Mubarak.

Mohamed ElBaradei is best known as having been chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, a position he held from 1997 to 2009.

Fawaz Gerges, from the London School of Economics, says there was a great deal of tension between American officials and ElBaradei during that period, especially over Iran's presumed nuclear weapons program.

"American officials believed that he [ElBaradei] was reluctant to basically accept certain premises about the Iranian nuclear project, that he basically was quite very tolerant towards some of the Iranian statements and public assertions and he was not as forthcoming as his predecessor [Hans Blix of Sweden]," said Gerges.  "So the relationship between ElBaradei and American foreign policy was very tense and the Americans, in fact, tried to undermine his candidacy."

Related video report by Carolyn Presutti

Eventually the United States backed him for a third term.  And in 2005, ElBaradei and the IAEA were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation.

Now ElBaradei has emerged as a leading voice of the opposition to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

But as Emad Shahin, from the University of Notre Dame says, some Egyptians consider the former diplomat an outsider, someone who has spent 30 years away from Egypt and has just recently returned to his homeland.

"This has deprived him of deep roots in the Egyptian society, a power base, if you wish - like attachments, affiliations say with institutions, political parties, popular organizations and so forth," noted Shahin.  "Of course if you are abroad for 30 years, you lose your roots. It also subjects him to criticism that he is very elitist; he spent most of his life in New York and Vienna; he does not belong to the poor, deprived masses of the Egyptian population."

On the other hand, Shahin says, spending so much time abroad has its positive side.

"The good side is that he's coming from outside the system, he has not been tainted by this corrupt system, he hasn't participated in any official [Egyptian] position for the past 30 years and he is independent with a high profile as a diplomat, as an executive of one of the important international organizations," added Shahin.  "So that also gives him credibility - a lot of credibility."

Credibility, say analysts, that has been bolstered by his independent stance as IAEA director vis-à-vis the United States.

Shahin says ElBaradei also has a populist appeal.  

"You can easily associate with him," said Shahin.  "He's not really charismatic; he's not eloquent; he is not very articulate, but I think the impression that he gives - one has to be very fair about this - is that he's genuine."

Analysts say ElBaradei, seen as a moderate politically, has become a spokesman for an opposition front made up of various groups including nationalists, centrists, left-leaning parties and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's oldest and largest Islamist organization.

"Mohamed ElBaradei has gone out of his way to co-opt the Muslim Brotherhood," explained Gerges.  "He visited their headquarters. He promised to work with the Brotherhood in order to legalize the party. As you know, the Muslim Brotherhood is a banned political and social movement in Egypt. And ElBaradei has made some very positive statements about trying to integrate the Muslim Brotherhood into the social fabric of Egypt."

Gerges says ElBaradei is the most important public face of the opposition.

"He is a unifying figure," added Gerges.  "There is no other unifying figure within the opposition. Unlike the Islamic revolution in Iran in the late 1970s, there is no Ayatollah Khomeini, no cleric or mullah who has the same, you might say, status and prominence in Egypt as Mohamed ElBaradei does."

But while ElBaradei is currently the face of the opposition to Hosni Mubarak, some analysts - including Aaron David Miller from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars - urge prudence.

"No-one right now should bank on any single individual becoming a permanent fixture in Egyptian politics," said Miller.  "At best, people should argue these are transitional figures, because we simply don't know enough. We don't know enough to predict with any level of certainty who or what will emerge in Egypt""

In Miller's words:  "I would urge caution before we try to identify the new guy on the white horse."

 

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs