Return to Transcripts main page


Egyptian Official Defends Government Actions; Shifting Sands: Power in the Middle East; "The Guardian": Journalists in Danger; Twilight of the Generals

Aired August 20, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


HALA GORANI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Hala Gorani, filling in for Christiane Amanpour.

Ever since the Egyptian military ousted President Mohammed Morsy from power last month, members of Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood have gone from kingmakers to targets.

And today Egyptians woke up to learn the group's most significant member, its spiritual leader, was arrested and charged with inciting murder, as images of Mohamed Badie in custody appeared on television.

Three of the Brotherhood's top leaders are now locked up, along with Mohammed Morsy himself, whose detention was just extended for another two weeks. It all appears to be a concerted government effort to decapitate the group.

Egypt has seen more violence this past week than ever in recent history. Nearly 1,000 are dead after security forces cracked down on Morsy supporters and some observers say it is reminiscent of the Mubarak days, except possibly even worse.

Meanwhile, Mubarak himself may soon see freedom. His lawyer says he could be released by the end of this week. But a main adviser to the new Egyptian presidency, ElMostafa Hegazy, tells me that the road to democracy is still on course and that the world simply doesn't have the full picture of what's really going on. He joined me earlier from Cairo.


GORANI: All right, Mr. Mostafa (sic) Hegazy, thanks for being with us . The news today is the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie (ph). Do you consider this a victory for the interim leaders?

ELMOSTAFA HEGAZY, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think in any country in the world, if you find the ones behind the instigations that they came to the point that they are now in custody for the proper, I would say, trials, I think this would be -- I wouldn't say just a victory from a vindictive standpoint, but it's from the standpoint that we're restoring law and order in a country which has its own sovereign rights.

GORANI: Just a few weeks ago, a Muslim Brotherhood backed president was in power. The first democratically elected leader for the country. And now you have an interim leadership, parading Muslim Brotherhood leaders on TVs, arrested.

How is this good for reconciliation?

And was there no other way to go about this?

HEGAZY: I think we have to always, again, to see the bigger picture, we have to see the context of things because if you look at what you just mentioned as to be a democratically elected government or a democratically elected regime, you have to get back in time to the 21st of November 2012 ,when the ousted president and his group and his militias has been terrorizing Egyptian ,I would say at least emotionally by just having a constitutional declaration that he kind of confiscated the judicial system in Egypt. Maybe it's a bit of creative democracy that hasn't been seen.

But because we didn't have a (inaudible) impeaching the president through a parliament, we had to do it the way that we've done it.

GORANI: But does this creative democracy involve the beating of protesters; you had over the weekend 36, I believe, prisoners in a transfer killed. One of them was Shafif Sayam (ph). He was featured in a story by my colleague, Nick Paton Walsh.

We saw activist video of him getting kicked in the face by police as he was being detained.

Is this the new Egypt? Or is this the old Egypt of Mubarak days that we're seeing once again?

HEGAZY: The whole context of what you're referring to as peaceful protesters, I can't have this definition referred to in the Gandhi time or Martin Luther King kind of non-violent protests.

But if you had in the streets of Cairo, you have barricades in the middle of the streets of Cairo and you have spots, the so-called raba ennada (ph), having people going out of that of the two spots, having I would say random machine gun killing for Egyptians in the heart of Cairo, going out and beating people up, I would say that before any kind of dispersal of the two so-called sit-ins, killing and stabbing --


GORANI: (Inaudible) I apologize for jumping in --

HEGAZY: -- (inaudible) Cairo --

GORANI: -- I need to jump in because we are -- we saw more than 1,000 deaths. Some of my colleagues in Cairo have had their cameras confiscated, have been forced to delete some of the material in their cameras.


GORANI: It just feels a lot like (inaudible) --

HEGAZY: (Inaudible) many other stories --

GORANI: -- that's all I'm saying.

HEGAZY: -- no, not at all. Not at all. That's what I'm referring to you because this is -- there's many issuing stories that Egyptians are having a kind of astonishment that probably CNN and maybe other media coverages are not seeing.

We haven't seen enough media coverage for maybe burning the churches. We haven't been seeing anything about the killing and mutilation of our men in uniform.


GORANI: In we have reported --

HEGAZY: (Inaudible) a very clear investigation (inaudible).

Let me finish. Let me finish, please, Hala. Let me finish, please.

I mean, as much as you just mentioned the 36 prisoners that we're having investigation with a public prosecutor taking care of it, you haven't seen -- or you haven't just mentioned 27 of our soldiers that has been, I would say, killed in cold blood, handcuffed in one of the worst war crimes that I think humanity would have ever seen.

There is a huge link of terrorist attacks that we're having in Sinai. And if you ask the definition of what's happening in Sinai in the U.S., in the U.S. (inaudible) the U.S. government circles, you would have the proper definition that I'm getting, which are acts of terror.

We're having a war of terrorism against the Egyptian people and the Egyptian state. If this context is not clear, I think most of other conclusions drawn would be way misleading. And I think let's first come to that I would say level of having proper and common definitions.

Common definitions of violent and violence and non-violence, of peaceful protesters, of peaceful marches and protests that has been having machine gunners amidst them, sniping people randomly of the top of one of bridges in the heart of Cairo last Friday.

GORANI: I get your point, Mr. Hegazy, on (inaudible) --

HEGAZY: (Inaudible) haven't seen on CNN as well.

GORANI: No, no, it has been on CNN. We actually have a whole story today about injured and wounded police officers. But I want to ask you about one other thing.

You promised the Egyptian people that the state of emergency will last only one month and that there will be elections in the coming months --


HEGAZY: Yes, I can confirm to you -- I can confirm to you one thing: we're having a presidential statement today which we are confirming that the first stage of our road map to the future has been completed. And we're having a constitution in, I would say, 60 days or maybe a bit less or a bit more from today.

The moment that we have our constitution and the referendum is cleared, we will calling for parliamentary elections in less than 15 days from that day. Once we have a parliament in about two months from that date we'll be calling for presidential elections.

GORANI: Thank you very much, Mr. Mustafa (sic) Hegazy, the adviser to Egypt's interim presidency and government. Thank you for joining us on CNN today. Really appreciate your time.

HEGAZY: Thank you, Hala. Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot. Thank you.


GORANI: As the battle between the military government and Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt continues, let's talk about the region, the major players are taking sides publicly in what's effectively a proxy battle for influence in the country. Take a look at the map behind me.

The countries in yellow support the military government that deposed Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsy. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, also Israel. The countries in red oppose the military takeover and stand behind Muslim Brotherhood supporters, Turkey, Qatar, also Iran condemned the removal of Mohammed Morsy.

Meanwhile is Western and Russian influence in the region declining to discuss this Michelle Dunn who was formerly at the State Department and is now director of the Atlantic Council's (Inaudible) Careery (ph) Center for the Middle East and Dimitri Simes is an expert on Russian foreign policy and the CEO for the Center for National Interests, a think tank here in the United States.

Thanks very much for joining us. I want to first ask you about the United States. It's not just outside Egypt, but inside Egypt as well that there's this perception that what the U.S. wants if it only has the will, it can achieve.

But are those days gone? I'm going to start with you, Dimitri. Is that something that perhaps is a bit naive, the U.S. doesn't have the influence that it once did?

DIMITRI SIMES, RUSSIAN POLICY ANALYST: Well, it's clear it doesn't have the some influence. But also it's not just a decline in American power.

It's also serious problem with the Obama administration foreign policy. It doesn't seem to have a road map; it doesn't seem to have a criteria where supporting rebels in Syria because they are fighting apparently a government which would not allow them major protests, but were find out some participation (ph) when we have to deal with the Egyptian military, which essentially is doing the same as President Assad, still on a relatively small scale.

But it looks pretty serious. And I think that what is required is a major foreign policy review, U.S. policy towards the region and to what extent we can aggressively pursue democracy as a foreign policy objective, which often comes at the expense of U.S. strategic interests.

GORANI: And, Michele, do you agree with that? Is this because the U.S. doesn't want to necessarily involve itself as much as in the region or really doesn't have the power or the influence it once had with big players like Saudi and Qatar trying to call the shots?

MICHELE DUNNE, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, first of all, I think, it was probably a myth that the United States ever could call the shots in the region.

While I agree with Dimitri that a review of U.S. policy is in order, I probably would disagree with him on what direction it should go. I think part of the reason the United States is facing the crisis it is with Egypt right now is that the United States hasn't stood clearly by the principles that President Obama himself articulated, has not really vigorously supported that. It didn't really marshal a lot of economic aid for Egypt as it was trying to make this transition.

The Obama administration failed to criticize President Morsy when he took undemocratic actions and now after the military carried out a coup, the United States failed to observe its own law, which would have called for a suspension of assistance until Egypt got back to a democratic situation.

And so we are seeing a kind of waffling in U.S. policy that I think is not helpful here and it leads, for example, the current Egyptian government not to believe that the United States will exert any leverage because they haven't seen the administration doing so.

GORANI: And Dimitri, what about Russia? It's supporting for instance the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Its allied -- it's arming the regime. What is its position? What does it want out of the Middle East, Russia?

SIMES: Well, first, Russia is not unfortunately in play in Egypt since the overthrow now by President Sadat back in the '70s. They really lost influence in Egypt and it's good that the (inaudible) United States doesn't have to worry about Russia as a play in Egypt.

What they do want clearly is for the United States to look at the situation in Egypt, to do whatever it takes to promote stability in Egypt, if for no other reason that they have between 40,000-50,000 Russian tourists in Egypt. And also the Russians are very concerned about Islamic threat inside their own country.

So certainly they have no love lost for the Muslim Brotherhood. But let me make one more general point.

The United States now has to deal with a government in Egypt, which we pretty much already had. And President Obama helped to throw President Mubarak under the bus, told the Egyptian military not to use force at that time. And you have to see where we are, and we have very difficult choices.

I agree with Michele that we have to suspend military aid because we have a requirement under the law, and we should take them seriously.

GORANI: And Dimitri, I just want to just jump in and ask Michele that question. I mean, we're -- you both agree that military aid should be suspended. But if you look at the region, I find it interesting that it's -- this proxy battle that we're describing inside Egypt that you could also apply to other conflict zones such as Syria.

It's going to be that tug-of-war, isn't it, Michele, between some of these countries in the Gulf and other parts of the region? Who ends up winning out? Who has the most influence?

DUNNE: Well, first of all, I don't think there's any player on the outside right now who can dictate to the Egyptian military what they're going to do. So that's not really what's the question here. I think that's unrealistic. This has turned into a very hot fight unnecessarily I believe. But at this point, they're in this hot fight and no one's going to get them to stop it immediately.

However, it really becomes a question over the longer term, can the United States continue to associate itself with a government that's doing this, that is carrying out killing on this kind of a scale? And it's a question for Egypt, really, also what kind of a question it wants to be.

You hear a lot of talk about the Gulf assistance and how the $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid can easily be made up for, for example, by aid from Saudi Arabia.

But these are two completely different things. Egypt, up till now, has been a country that has had a close security relationship with the United States, close trade and diplomatic links with Europe, all of that is at stake right now.

And the billions that the Gulf can pour in while they can help the budget of the Egyptian government, they cannot replace the kind of security relationships, trade relationships, et cetera, that Egypt has had now with the West for decades.

GORANI: All right. There was a piece this week on how Egypt doesn't matter. I disagree; I think Egypt matters actually a lot. What happens there is going to determine many things in the region.

Thanks very much, Michele Dunne and Dimitri Simes for joining us both on this important topic.

And it isn't just the Muslim Brotherhood that's been targeted by Egypt's interim government. Freedom of the press, as we discuss there with the advisers, increasingly under attack. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, several reporters have been detained and threatened with expulsion.

Still others have been attacked by angry mobs, egged on by state media. And after a break, we will look at another story we're detaining a journalist poses some serious questions about press freedom, not in Egypt but in a British airport. That's when we come back.



GORANI: Welcome back, I'm Hala Gorani sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

The British government is waging a campaign against journalism. That's according to "The Guardian" newspaper. In a stunning article on Monday, the publication's editor-in-chief said British officials went as far as to threaten legal action over materials related to Glenn Greenwald's reporting on the United States secret surveillance program.

British officials even came to the paper's office to oversee the destruction of hard drives, he claims.

These revelations come after news that Green Greenwald's significant other was detained and questioned at London's Heathrow Airport for nine hours this weekend.

Here now with me is Brooke Gladstone, the host and managing editor of "On the Media," a popular program on National Public Radio here in the United States.

Thanks for being with us. So when you heard about the detention of the partner of Glenn Greenwald at Heathrow Airport for the maximum allotted time of nine hours under a particular paragraph of the Terrorism Act, what went through your mind, attack on the media or justified detention?

BROOKE GLADSTONE, NPR HOST: Well, initially, what I thought it was simply a case of bullying, that somebody really wanted to go after Glenn Greenwald just as the American government had gone after Laura Poitras, who was Glenn Greenwald's partner in reporting a lot of these Snowden leaks.

And was the person that his partner was seeing -- that Miranda was seeing after -- just before he got detained at the airport.

GORANI: But then you have others who say, look, here's a man traveling with a briefcase full of what the intelligence community -- because it's their job; they probably were surveilling him -- know were probably top secret documents.

is it not in their right to then detain him and ask him questions and keep that material?

GLADSTONE: That's when the indignation of black and white comes a murky shade of gray. I mean, Miranda was coming from Laura Poitras. It was known; he said it himself, that he was ferrying information back and forth.

Whether or not he knew what it was, of course the procedures under which he was detained ,the fact that he didn't get a lawyer until the eighth hour of this nine-hour detention is all something that bears an enormous amount of scrutiny.

GORANI: And it's hard to argue that this has anything to do with terrorism and the way it's commonly understood. I mean, this is a partner of a journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who is very high-profile right now because his reporting revealed so many secrets from the United States and Britain.

And now Glenn Greenwald is saying you wait; I have a lot more, coming up. You wait.

GLADSTONE: And it was -- he says that he told "The Huffington Post" later, I wasn't threatening anybody; but actually he was threatening them. He said, "I'm going to put my focus on the British government now." I'm going to start revealing all this stuff. I know about England and so on and so forth.

For the fact is that whether or not he himself had anything to do with terrorism, Miranda -- and I think it's quite natural for us to assume he had nothing to do with it, that material may arguably damage national security. I don't think it does. I think there's way overclassification.

But it is reasonable for authorities to assume -- coming from a different perspective -- that this stuff does pose a national security threat in the wrong hands. That doesn't mean he was a terrorist. This act doesn't detain people because they're terrorists.

GORANI: Right and they're (inaudible) in any official way when there's detention takes place for nine hours and can be renewed, by the way. So it's nine hours where you are in a situation where you don't know exactly what's going to happen to you from that standpoint.

But he -- Miranda's not a journalist. Let's be clear. So does that change anything?

GLADSTONE: I don't know. I mean, does it change the rhetoric about this being an attack on journalism? I don't think so actually, because he was helping Greenwald; Greenwald said, it, "The Guardian" said it; Miranda has said it.

So he was helping the dissemination of material that is arguably of public interest through journalism institutions. Or even if they were just doing it through a blog, it would still be about the material, not about the man.

GORANI: So should all journalists then be concerned? But now in the digital age, essentially, you can't hide your sources, that you're a target for governments who don't want you to reveal certain secret programs, government programs, that this is now in this day and age, almost impossible to keep a source confidential and also that you're always a target?

Is this a legitimate concern?

GLADSTONE: It's a legitimate concern but this detention at the airport doesn't make it any more or less of a legitimate concern. The fact is, as Alan Rusbridger, "The Guardian" editor said, We don't even have to do it here in England where the rules are so much stricter. We can report this out of New York where the American First Amendment and laws against prior restraint would allow this reporting to proceed. And so just as you can be tracked everywhere, you can avoid the laws of your locality and do it elsewhere.

GORANI: Right. SO that's what's interesting. It's two sides to that one coin. One, you can be tracked everywhere but, two, you can also operate from anywhere.

GLADSTONE: Security experts say the best thing to do is to use snail mail or meet face-to-face and carry this stuff. And maybe, just maybe, that's what Miranda was doing. Maybe he wasn't.

GORANI: Right. You have to -- the only way to keep a secret is whisper it in someone's ear. everything else you are -- is -- yes, everything else is considered risky.

Brooke Gladstone, great talking to you. Thanks very much -- of National Public Radio joining us here in the studio in New York.

And after a break, we see how Egypt's military has come back with a vengeance. But imagine another nation, long ruled by the army, that's put its former top general on trial. The president charged with murdering a prime minister when we come back. Stay with us.




GORANI: And a final thought tonight, as Egypt's military reestablishes its grip on power, imagine a world where the military in the person of its former leader faces the once unthinkable, standing trial for murder.

Today a Pakistani court charged former military strongman Pervez Musharraf with the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's first and only female prime minister. It marks the first time in Pakistan's 66 years of existence that a former military leader has stood before a judge to face a criminal indictment.

The tightly guarded courtroom in Rawalpindi, just outside the capital of Islamabad, was not far from where a camera was rolling six years ago when Ms. Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack as she was campaigning for a political comeback and challenging the then-all powerful Musharraf. Amid the chaos and conflicting accusations that followed, Musharraf was forced from office and fled the country.

Then back in March, he made a dramatic return, hoping to forge his own comeback. But within a month, he was placed under house arrest and now faces a murder trial. Musharraf's supporters insist the case against him is a sham, and mere political payback by his long-time rival, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

But the fact remains that while Egypt has returned to its default of military rule, a Pakistani court has delivered a warning shot to the still powerful military elite when the political tables turn, they sometimes turn against the most powerful of generals.

That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us at our website, And you can follow me on Twitter @halagorani. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.