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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora