Please disable your Ad Blocker in order to interact with the site.

Two weeks ago Egypt announced with great fanfare that it found a Hezbollah cell operating inside in the Sinai desert. As their plot unraveled it offered a rare insight into the way Iran and its satellites are manipulating the Middle East political world.

Egyptian authorities say the Hezbollah cell was planning attacks against tourist sites in Sinai, conducting surveillance on strategic targets including the Suez Canal, and funneling arms and money to Hamas.  Hassan Nasrallah, has admitted that the ringleader of the cell was  a member of his organization to provide “logistical support to help the Palestinian brothers in transporting ammunition and individuals.”

These latest actions by Hezbollah have planned by Iran, who wants to be top dog in the Muslim world. This past summer as Egypt was trying to broker a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, Iran was doing its best to screw it up. In the middle of this winter’s war, Nasrallah called on Egyptians to embarrass Mubarak by marching on the city of Rafah to open the border to Gaza by force.

Now we get to the Hizbollah cell in Egypt, as it turns out, a Joint Conspiracy by Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood:

Egypt: The Hizbullah Cell in Egypt – A Joint Conspiracy by Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood-MEMRI
By: Y. Yehoshua *


Introduction


In April 2009, Egypt’s public prosecutor ‘Abd Al-Magid Mahmoud announced that a Hizbullah cell had been exposed in Egypt. According to the prosecutor’s statement, the investigation of the suspects revealed that the cell had planned to perpetrate attacks against Egypt: undermining security by attacking strategic facilities and tourist sites, especially in Cairo and Sinai; assassinating top officials; and spreading the Shi’a. It was further stated that the cell members had received assistance from outside the country, had been trained in obtaining and manufacturing explosives and making bombs, and had been instructed to lease premises in various locations along the Suez Canal, where they could monitor shipping traffic. [1]


Since the story broke, the Egyptian press has published numerous additional – and sometimes conflicting – details about the cell members, their plans, and their contacts with senior Hizbullah officials, and about the involvement of other organizations and countries in the affair.


The activity of the Hizbullah cell in Egypt is perceived by the Egyptian government as part of a large-scale, carefully planned conspiracy by the countries and organizations of the Iranian axis – comprising Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. It perceives this conspiracy as aimed at undermining Egypt’s security and standing, and at helping Iran in its bid for regional hegemony.


The affair has become a focus of a media war between the moderate, anti-Iran camp, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the Iranian axis. In this struggle, Egypt was naturally backed by its ally, Saudi Arabia, who harshly condemned Hizbullah and Iran. Conversely, the media outlets of the Iranian axis attacked Egypt, stating that it had deliberately created this crisis, to tarnish the image of the resistance, and to intervene in Lebanon’s upcoming parliamentary elections – all in retaliation for the defeat of the moderate camp in the wake of the Gaza war. [2]


Following are excerpts from articles and statements on this affair.


Attacks in Egypt on Hizbullah and Iran


After the exposure of the affair, the Egyptian press published many articles condemning Hizbullah, and also condemning Iran, owing to Hizbullah’s ties with this country and in light of reports in the Egyptian press about Iranian involvement in the affair. [3]


Muhammad ‘Ali Ibrahim, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya, wrote that Hizbullah was worse than Israel, since it had planned to harm Egypt in the name of Islam: “To those who defended Hassan Nasrallah, I say… by Allah, he is worse than Tel Aviv, [because] the Jews recruit spies to gather information and [find out] secrets, while Nasrallah recruits them to destroy and fell the Egyptians’ [sources of] livelihood… Oh Sheikh Hassan, may Allah’s curse be upon you and upon your masters who hired you to destroy Egypt… Sheikh Hassan, from now on, I regard you as [no better than former Israeli prime ministers] Yitzhak Shamir and [Menachem] Begin, and [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman – the Zionists who aspire to kill us because we threaten their existence. Except that you aspire to kill us in the name of Islam, the religion, sacrifice, and martyrdom. Again: May Allah’s curse be upon you!” [4]


Hizbullah’s activity in Egypt was regarded as part of an Iranian plan to take over Egypt so as to promote Iran’s bid for regional hegemony. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a speech: “We will not allow any interference [in our country] by foreign forces that are hostile to peace, who push the region towards hell out of a desire to spread their influence and [impose] their agenda on the Arab world… and who [use] their agents to threaten Egypt’s national security, violate its borders, and undermine its stability. To these [forces] we say: We are well aware of your plots, and we will expose them and repay you as you deserve. Stop trying to clear yourselves [by pretending to support] the Palestinian cause. Beware the wrath of Egypt and its people.” [5]


In an interview with the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit said that Iran had used Hizbullah to infiltrate Egypt: “Iran and its proxies in the region want Egypt to be a servant of Iran when [Iran enters] the Middle East, but Egypt cannot be anyone’s servant, because it itself is the ruler of this region.” Abu Al-Gheit added: “In the recent years, Iran has worked to grab certain Arab [bargaining chips], for it to use in managing its negotiations with the Western world… When Iran, in the guise of Hizbullah, sits on the shore of the Mediterranean, this sends a clear message to the West, to Israel, to Egypt and to all the Arabs: ‘We are here, and we will have an impact on your interests.’ Time has revealed… that Iran [in fact] uses this party [i.e. Hizbullah] to gain a foothold in Egypt and to say to it ‘We are here’…” [6]


The Egyptian press called Hizbullah “an agent of Iran” and “an Iranian party that does not represent even the Lebanese,” as Al-Gumhouriyya chief editor Muhammad ‘Ali Ibrahim wrote. [7] The editor of the daily Roz Al-Yousef, ‘Abdallah Kamal, who is close to Gamal Mubarak, wrote in an editorial: “Hizbullah’s intelligence apparatus is subordinate to Iran’s intelligence apparatus… Considering Hizbullah’s religious subordination to Iran, it is inconceivable that it would carry out an operation like the one in Egypt without receiving a green light from the religious and intelligence authorities in Tehran…” [8]


Khaled Imam, editor of Al-Gumhouriyya’s evening daily Al-Masaa, characterized the affair as “another chapter in the filthy Iranian plot against Egypt,” adding: “Iran launched this secret operation [against Egypt] by means of its authorized agent in the region [i.e., Hizbullah], after its paths were restricted and it found the gate to Egypt completely closed to it…” [9]


Ibrahim Nafi’, former Al-Ahram editor, wrote: “Hizbullah has begun to export its terrorism from the internal Lebanese [arena] to [the rest of] the Arab [world], in a way that serves the Iranian policy and its aims… The aims are purely Iranian, and the Palestinian cause is only an excuse for the [Hizbullah] movement.” [10]


The Circle Expands: A Joint Conspiracy by Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood


While at the start of the crisis, Egypt leveled accusations only at Hizbullah and Iran, after a week it extended its accusations to the entire Iranian axis, including also Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian press stated that all these parties were involved in a long and carefully planned conspiracy aimed at harming Egypt. [11]


An investigative article in Al-Ahram stated that the affair was “part of a large-scale conspiracy against Egypt that had been carefully planned with the deliberate intention of undermining its security,” and that “international forces had been involved in it.” According to the article, “in the period prior to the Israeli invasion of Gaza… it was already clear that a large-scale and [officially] authorized conspiracy [was taking shape], which involved the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the branches [of this movement] in the Arab states and Europe, as well as Hamas, which is the military branch [of the Muslim Brotherhood], and also Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and Qatar…” [12]


The daily reviewed the role of each country and organization involved in the conspiracy. About Syria, it stated: “Syria’s role was reflected in [the attitude of] its media, in the statements of its president [Bashar Al-Assad,] and in his embrace of [Hamas political bureau head] Khaled Mash’al and other Hamas leaders… [It took the form of] an unprecedented cooling in Syria-Egypt relations, which led [Syria] to harm Egypt and its political role.” According to Al-Ahram, Syria deliberately harmed Egypt by insisting on convening the January 2009 Doha summit despite the absence of a proper quorum, and with the attendance of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and of Khaled Mash’al, in violation of the Arab League charter and regulations. The daily added that “Hizbullah is known for its close ties with the Syrian regime, which gave it three quarters of the Syrian weapons prior to the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon.”


As for Qatar, the article accused it of participating in the conspiracy by means of its TV channel, Al-Jazeera: “As usual, [Qatar’s role] started out as a media role [played out] by means of Al-Jazeera. This channel gave up [any pretense of] neutrality and worked to mobilize the Arab and Egyptian pubic opinion, to stir up [people’s] emotions, and to drop blatant hints about Egypt’s involvement in a plot against Hamas, along with Israel and the U.S…. We must not forget Al-Jazeera’s excessive focus on the speeches of Hassan Nasr[allah] and [Khaled] Mash’al, and on the Muslim Brotherhood protests in Egypt.” Al-Ahram also accused Qatar of organizing the Doha summit, at Iran’s suggestion, in order to torpedo Egypt’s policy: “Iran advised the Qatari mini-state to organize an Arab League summit attended by [representatives of] Iran and Hamas, even though Egypt had already announced [its intention] to organize a summit for the same purpose [of discussing the Gaza crisis]… [Through this move], the leaders of this mini-state tried to sabotage Egypt’s policies and contacts with certain countries in the region, as well as [its relations with] Turkey and the European Union.”


Turning to the Muslim Brotherhood, the daily stated that “its role was [played out] gradually.” According to the article, before and during the Gaza war, the Muslim Brotherhood tightened its coordination with other opposition forces, forming a front that demanded the opening of the Rafah crossing and even called to open it by force and to reduce the export of Egyptian gas to Israel. The daily also stated that the Muslim Brotherhood, with the help of Al-Jazeera, had tried to incite the Egyptian people against the regime by claiming that Egypt was assisting Israel in the war on Gaza. Another claim was that five of the suspected members of the Hizbullah cell were Muslim Brotherhood members, who had ties with the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide, and that they had been particularly close to Hizbullah operative Sami Shihab.


As for Hamas, the daily stated that it had insisted on firing its “useless rockets” because it believed that the Gaza war would last no more than three days, in the course of which the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt would incite the Egyptian masses, forcing Egypt to open the Rafah crossing. In this scenario, ultimately the Egyptian regime would be toppled and the peace agreements with Israel would be revoked. [13]


Roz Al-Yousef editor ‘Abdallah Kamal likewise argued that Hizbullah’s activity inside Egypt was part of an anti-Egypt plot by the pro-Iranian axis: “Iran is striving to form a regional coalition of all the organizations and gangs under Hizbullah’s leadership. It wants… [Hizbullah] to be its most widely deployed [force, and its major] tool in carrying out its plans against the Arab countries.”


Kamal added: “Hizbullah is [now] the official and authorized representative of the countries that call themselves the ‘resistance camp,’ of which Syria, Iran and Qatar are self-proclaimed members. This coalition formed during the Gaza war, and is mainly aimed at harming Egypt… Also part of this group are organizations that claim to be upholding [the principle] of resisting the Israeli enemy, including Hizbullah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Palestinian [Islamic] Jihad.” Kamal stated further: “Hizbullah has long been the tool of Iranian policy in Lebanon, [and has been fulfilling this role] openly. Since the advent of the Iranian-Syrian alliance, and the deepening of the Syrian [involvement] in Lebanon, Hizbullah has become a joint tool of [Iran and Syria]… Historically, Hizbullah was created by Iran, but many of the preparatory meetings prior to its establishment took place in Damascus, back when Ali [Akbar] Mohtashemi-[Pour] was [Iran’s] ambassador there. He has been described as the spiritual father of Hizbullah, while his successor, Mohammad Hassan Akhtari, was the father [of the actual organization] on the ground, as was revealed in a series of interviews that appeared in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat…” [14]


According to Kamal, “the plot [against Egypt] was the fruit of many years’ work, and its scope became clear when [Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide] Mahdi ‘Akef expressed his desire to send 10,000 of his men to [join] Hizbullah in its war against Israel… This statement alone indicates a tightening [of relations], and [the emergence of] a unique coalition of Sunni and Shi’ite organizations under the guise of ‘resistance.'” Kamal concluded: “The ongoing media campaign, especially on the part of the main sponsor [of this coalition] – namely Qatar – has helped…to create a sense of closeness that blurred the differences between the Sunni and Shi’ite [coalition members].” [15]


Saudi Press: Iran and Syria Are Jeopardizing the Security of the Arab Countries


The press of Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s ally and the leader of the anti-Iranian camp, likewise voiced harsh criticism against Hizbullah and Iran. The daily Al-Jazirah stated in an editorial: “The security and legal apparatuses in Egypt and Morocco were alert and saved their countries from the plots of evil [forces]. They [also] raised the alarm among other Arab and Muslim countries that have become targets of [Shi’ite] religious missionary [activity] and of terrorist attacks that serve [the interests of a certain] country in the region, [namely Iran], which is undermining the security of the Arab states and which threatens them all in a bid to realize its regional aspirations.” [16]


An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Watan stated: “Tehran’s empty political and media declarations cannot disguise the game it is secretly playing [against] the superpowers… and its maneuvers that are jeopardizing the national security of the Arab countries. Tehran must know that the Arabs will not let it play fast and loose with their strategic interests, at any price.” [17]


The Saudi press made implicit threats not only against Iran but also against Syria. Another Al-Watan editorial stated: “Just as Hizbullah operated in Egypt, and previously in Jordan, [some] other organization or party may [one day] operate in Syria or Iran with a similar purpose. This is something that no country can tolerate.” [18]






Speakers for the Moderate Camp: “Resistance” and “Support for the Palestinians” – A Guise for Terrorism in the Service of Iran


Speakers for the moderate camp denied the allegation of the Iranian axis that, by exposing the Hizbullah cell, Egypt was harming the resistance and serving Israel’s goals. They stated that Hizbullah’s activity in Egypt was not resistance but terror, and argued that the support for the Palestinians was just a guise for Iran’s plan to destabilize Egypt, embroil it in a confrontation with Israel, and harm its standing in the region.


Roz Al-Yousef editor ‘Abdallah Kamal wrote that the claims of resistance and support for the Palestinians were nothing but “pretexts meant to disguise a comprehensive campaign of deploying [Hizbullah operatives] in Egypt and Jordan.” He added: “The investigations and findings of the Egyptian authorities indicate… that the affair is much broader than it appears, [and involves much more than just] extending logistic support to the resistance [in Gaza]… The objective of [the Hizbullah cell was]… to embroil Egypt in a confrontation with Israel.” About Iran, Kamal wrote: “One of Iran’s major goals… is to perpetuate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, so as to expand Iran’s arena of operations in the region, which will enable it… to undermine the security of the [Middle East] countries, to abolish the peace agreements [with Israel], and ultimately to impose a completely new political vision [upon the region].”


Kamal stated further that Hizbullah and Iran could not be trusted, because they may be employing the Shi’ite principle of taqiyya: “Hizbullah’s machinations are an overt reflection of the Shi’ite principle of taqiyya… namely giving outward expression to what you do not truly believe in your heart… [Nasrallah] said that he supported the resistance, while his [real] plan was actually broader. In light of this [principle of] taqiyya – which is part of the political and security activity of anyone affiliated with the Shi’ite political organizations in the Arab world and in the Persian state – we are leery of any open discussion or positive dealings with these [organizations], because they cannot be trusted or believed. They usually say one thing, while meaning another. [19]


Egyptian spokesmen stressed that Egypt supported the resistance, but that Hizbullah’s actions in the country could not be regarded as such. Egyptian Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shihab said, “Egypt supports the Palestinian resistance, but support for the Palestinians does not justify violating the Egyptian law.” [20] Al-Gumhouriyya editor Muhammad ‘Ali Ibrahim wrote: “We welcome every bullet and missile fired at Israel, but it is inconceivable that Egypt should become an arms depot, which will attract the resistance to [its territory], and it is inconceivable that branches and funding offices of the resistance should be established in our country… When Nasrallah tries to establish a Hizbullah base in Egypt, I and all other Egyptians can only oppose it, for we do not want him to do in Egypt what he did [in Lebanon] in his May 7, [2008] coup, when he took over Beirut…” [21]


Hizbullah’s actions in Egypt were characterized as terrorism. Ibrahim wrote: “Egypt respects the resistance [but] does not sponsor terrorism… We will never agree to terrorism in Sinai, under any label. [Hizbullah wants] to sow death [there], and then have us applaud [its men] as heroes of the resistance. But you and your gang are terrorists, Sheikh Hassan…” [22]


The chief editor of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Tareq Al-Homayed, likened the head of Hizbullah to Osama bin Laden, calling him “bin Nasrallah.” He wrote: “What Nasrallah and bin Laden have in common is that neither of them believes in states, borders and international laws…


“The danger posed by bin Nasrallah and his ilk [lies in the fact] that they strive to overthrow governments and to create in the Arab countries pockets of chaos controlled by Iran, which are to become states [within states], like the one in Lebanon, in which the [central] authorities and the state command no respect. [The goal is to] turn the Arab states into hotbeds of weapons and violence. There is an excuse, of course, namely defending Palestine, as bin Nasrallah said. This is the same excuse that Saddam Hussein used when he occupied Kuwait, and that bin Laden used after he wreaked havoc in our countries and throughout the world…” [23]


The spokesmen of the moderate camp argued that Hizbullah’s restraint during the Gaza war constitutes further proof that it is not concerned with resistance but with promoting Iran’s interests. An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah stated: “If Nasrallah is so concerned about the situation in Palestine, where was he during the Gaza war? [Then,] he had an opportunity to display his loyalty to the Palestinian cause and to make the sacrifices he is so eager to make. [Instead,] he hurried to deny any connection to the rockets that were fired from Lebanon into Israel during the aggression against Gaza, so as to avoid getting involved in the war…” [24]


Al-Gumhouriyya editor Muhammad ‘Ali Ibrahim addressed Nasrallah, saying: “If you did not want to [jeopardize] Lebanon by supplying weapons to the Palestinians during the Gaza war, out of fear that Israel would retaliate against the Lebanese, why do you want to embroil Egypt in a confrontation [with Israel]? Did you [receive] orders from Iran to embroil Egypt in a military escalation in the Middle East, which would distract it from [defending] its national security, so that, in the meantime, Tehran could sign an agreement with the U.S., giving it [free reign] in the Arabian Gulf [region] and placing it in charge of the oil [trade with the West]? Are you party [to an attempt] to embroil Egypt in an unfortunate escapade, so as to remove it from the power equation in the region?… [25]


The Iranian CampResponds:


The Crisis with Hizbullah Is Aimed at Reaping Political Profit


Hizbullah leaders claimed that the organization’s activities in Egypt were part of its support of the Palestinian resistance, and that the allegations of attempts to harm Egypt’s security were baseless. Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, whom the Egyptian public prosecutor accused of direct involvement in the affair, [26] admitted that Hizbullah had operated in Egypt, but claimed that its only aim was to extend logistic assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza and to fight Israel. He dismissed all the allegations of planning terrorist attacks and assassinations in Egypt as fabrications and lies. [27]


Nasrallah’s deputy, Nai’m Qassem, who has also been implicated in the affair, accused Egypt of creating the crisis deliberately and of “blowing the affair out of proportion.” [28] He told the independent Egyptian paper Al-Shurouq: “We do not think that what we did was a violation of Egypt’s sovereignty. It was a simple act that had to be done for the sake of Palestine. [Such activity] must naturally be carried out in secret, since the Egyptian regime is against it.” Qassem added that the Hizbullah operatives had received clear orders “not to operate against Israelis inside Egypt, which shows that Hizbullah had no intention of harming this country…” According to him, “the Egyptian security forces are guiding some of the media outlets of the regime [and instructing them] to fabricate stories and pictures in order to distort and corrupt the image of the resistance.” [29]




Egypt Is Trying to Improve Its Regional Status, in Order to Counter the Growing Strength of Iran and the Resistance


Speakers for the Iranian axis stated further that the accusations against Hizbullah stemmed from political considerations, and from the need to improve Egypt’s image. They argued that the standing of Egypt and Saudi Arabia – the leaders of the anti-Iranian camp who, according to them, serve U.S. and Israeli interests – has declined since the victory of the resistance camp in the Gaza war. This political defeat, they said, was reflected in the convening of the January 2009 summit in Doha with the participation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as in the March 2009 Arab League summit in Doha, held in the absence of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.


Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said at the opening of a Majlis session, “[The Hizbullah affair] was meant to make up for the damage to the image of [certain] governments that have been accused of collaborating with Israel’s escapade in Gaza.” [30] The conservative Iranian daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami stated that Egypt was trying to avenge the defeat of the “Tel-Aviv-Cairo-Riyadh axis” in the Gaza war. [31] On Hizbullah’s TV channel, Al-Manar, it was claimed that the Egyptian government was “trying to break out of its distressful isolation in the Arab [world], which became an established [fact] at the [March 2009] Doha summit.” [32]


An editorial in Jomhouri-ye Eslami stated that the entire affair was a conspiracy aimed at saving Mubarak’s image in the eyes of his people: “It was expected that Mubarak would invent an excuse in order to prepare the ground for persecuting the [Egyptian] people, and for imprisoning his opponents through [various] plots… Hosni Mubarak’s collaboration with the Israelis during and the Gaza war, [which continues] to this very day… makes him a war criminal that should be tried and punished by an international court, along with the heads of the Zionist regime. This is the desire of all the free people in the Arab and Muslim world, and the Egyptian people itself has stressed this on several occasions…


“This reality frightens Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, so he fights it using familiar tactics such as reiterated accusations, and arrests. These useless efforts [only] expose his great weakness and herald the end of his oppressive and tyrannical rule. He is afraid of the ‘Nasrallahs’ that are emerging in Egypt, and he is absolutely right to be afraid. The culture of resistance is sweeping through Egypt, like a flood [that threatens] the servants of America and the Zionist regime. This flood will end the life of the unblessed Hosni Mubarak.” [33]




Egypt Wants to Turn the Resistance into the Arabs’ New Enemy


Iranian speakers stated further that the Egyptian government was trying to weaken Hizbullah and the resistance and to set them up as the Arabs’ new enemy, instead of Israel – all in retaliation for the successes of the resistance. [34]


An editorial in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra stated that the accusations against Hizbullah were an attempt to hobble the resistance after its victories in Lebanon and Gaza. He added that, in the future, resistance leaders may have arrest warrants issued against them by the International Court and by Interpol at the request of Arab leaders. [35] An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Watan explained this position: “Hizbullah constitutes a tangible threat to Egypt owing to its support of the resistance in the [Gaza] Strip, and because it defeated Israel in the Lebanon war of summer 2006 – a victory that completely upset the [previous] regional and international military balance. The Egyptian government sees its relations with Israel as ‘strategic and crucial,’ and as part of these relations, it is fighting the resistance and tightening the rope around its neck, and using all the knowledge and experience at its disposal to withhold [from Gaza] not only weapons and military equipment but also food and drugs.” [36]


Another Al-Watan article stated: “After George Bush failed to turn Iran into the Arabs’ new imaginary enemy… Cairo launched a campaign that corresponds with Israel’s interests… and which [is meant to] ensure that the resistance – in the form of the Lebanese Hizbullah and the Islamic resistance movement Hamas -becomes the Arabs’ new imaginary enemy.” [37]


The chairman of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, Ibrahim Al-Amin, who is close to Hizbullah, described a future scenario in which the Egyptian regime persecutes anyone who supports the resistance: “The attack on the resistance is heading towards [a situation in which] resistance will be presented as a disgrace and as a violation of Egyptian law… If things indeed develop in this direction, the campaign against politicians and people in the media who oppose the attack on Hizbullah will soon come to the point of imposing a legal and political ban [on any expression of support for the resistance]. Anyone who defends the resistance will be dragged to state security headquarters, [deprived of] his freedom, identity and honor, [and maligned] in the government papers and on the Egyptian-Saudi [TV channels]. Judging by the form this campaign is taking, it will [soon] be forbidden to make any contact with the resistance forces… It will even be forbidden to participate in conferences, symposiums and meetings attended by resistance leaders from Lebanon or Palestine… The purpose of this campaign is to declare that the conflict between Egypt and Israel is over, and that [now] the real enemies are those who carry the banner of resistance. Anyone who supports this group is an enemy of Egypt, and anyone who does not bother [to make clear that he] backs and supports the governments’ moves is an Iranian agent.” [38]




Egypt Is Trying to Tip the Elections in Lebanon


Another claim was that Egypt is trying to distort Hizbullah’s image and thereby to influence the upcoming parliamentary elections in Lebanon. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated that Egypt’s accusations against Hizbullah were “old and hackneyed,” adding: “As the parliamentary elections in Lebanon draw near, overt and covert [forces] are trying to create a crisis.” [39] Iranian Majlis Speaker ‘Ali Larijani likewise drew a connection between the accusations against Hizbullah and the Lebanese elections. [40] The Iranian website Ayande News stated that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, having failed to defeat Hizbullah on the battlefield during the 2006 war, were now hoping to defeat it in the parliamentary elections through their propaganda and accusations. [41]


Lebanese columnist ‘Alwan Amin Al-Din wrote in the Syrian Al-Watan that, while Egypt claimed that Hizbullah was intervening in its internal affairs, the fact was that Egypt was the one intervening in Lebanon’s internal affairs in an attempt to harm Hizbullah. Egypt’s intelligence apparatuses, he said, have been intervening in Lebanon since 2005 by arming militias, training fighters, and dispatching experts and officers to Lebanon, who operated there during the 2006 war with Israel and after it. Amin Al-Din wondered whether Egypt’s accusations against Hizbullah were meant to serve the March 14 Forces in its upcoming election campaign against this organization. [42]


Iranian Weekly: The Anti-Iranian Campaign Is Motivated by the Possibility of Iran-U.S. Rapprochement


An editorial in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) weekly Sobh-e Sadeq stated that the affair reflected the concern of the “oppressive totalitarian countries,” meaning Egypt and the other members of the moderate camp, about a possible rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. The article argued that the surge of anti-Shi’ite and anti-Iranian sentiment in Egypt and in the other countries of the “appeasement camp” could be understood as a “banal deception” on the part of their regimes, aimed at inciting the people. The article added that the heads of these Arab regimes “must understand that… Iran’s growing influence in the region stems from its actual support of the Palestinian resistance and of the oppressed people in Palestine and in the other Arab countries that are suffering from the greed for power and the oppression of America… [Conversely,] Egypt and the other members of the appeasement camp make it their first priority to serve America and the Zionist regime, in order strengthen the foundations of their own regimes.


Addressing the moderate states, the article stated: “If you really want to stop [the growth of] Iran’s influence and find your true place [in the region], you must support the Palestinian people and resistance, stand firm against the influence of the Zionist regime, of America and of the [global] arrogance in your countries and in the region, respect the will and aspirations of your peoples and act accordingly… [Otherwise,] you can expect your influence and your legitimacy to diminish…” [43]


*Y. Yehoshua is Director of Research at MEMRI


[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 9, 2009.


The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported further that the suspected cell members had admitted in their interrogation that top Hizbullah operatives had been involved in planning the cell’s terrorist activities, and that the plan was overseen by Hizbullah’s intelligence chiefMuhammad Qabalan. According to the report, Qabalan stayed in Egypt in 2007-2008 in order to begin training the terrorists. The plan was to smuggle them into Egypt in small groups, which would be ready for action when the time came. Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 11, 2009.


[2] On the ongoing “cold war” between the two camps in the Arab world, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 510, “The Doha Summit – A Defeat for the Saudi-Egyptian Camp,” April 8, 2009, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=ia&ID=IA51009 ; MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 492, ” An Escalating Regional Cold War – Part I: The 2009 Gaza War,” February 2, 2009; http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=ia&ID=IA49209.


[3] A senior Egyptian official told Al-Ahram that Iran had played a crucial role in the affair, and that two employees of an Iranian satellite channel in Cairo had been involved in the terrorist plot. Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 9, 2009. According to the Egyptian daily Al-Masaa, the Egyptian investigation has revealed that senior Hizbullah operative Muhammad Yousef Mansour (known as Sami Shihab) had been dispatched to Iran several times, on Nasrallah’s orders, in order to be trained in terrorist tactics by the Revolutionary Guards. Al-Masaa (Egypt), April 13, 2009.


[4] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), April 10, 2009.


[5] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), April 24, 2009.


[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 14, 2009.


[7] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), April 12, 2009.


[8] Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), April 18, 2009.


[9] Al-Masaa (Egypt), April 10, 2009.


[10] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 12, 2009.


[11] It should be noted that the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa spoke from the start about Qatari involvement in the affair. Quoting the attaché of the Egyptian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, it reported that, according to some of the detainees, Qatar had been involved in funding and training the terrorist cell, and the cell commander, Sami Shihab, had entered Egypt using a Qatari passport that had been given to him in Doha. The source stated that this was the reason that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had boycotted the March 30, 2009 Arab League summit in Doha. Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), April 10, 2009.


[12] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 18, 2009. According to the article, “the date for the start of [Hamas’] military actions in Gaza had been known and determined in advance by several parties, [namely] Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the Qatari channel that belongs to the state of Al-Jazeera.” The daily also contended that Hamas’ rejection of the tahdiah had been planned in advance by all these parties.


[13] Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 18, 2009.


[14] About the interview with Akhtari, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 448, “The Iranian Roots of Hizbullah (1),”


http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=ia&ID=IA44808#_ednref2.


[15] Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), April 19, 2009.


[16] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), April 11, 2009.


[17] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), April 17, 2009.


[18] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), April 19, 2009.


[19] Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), April 19, 2009.


[20] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), April 20, 2009.


[21] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), April 11, 2009.


[22] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), April 12, 2009.


[23] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 12, 2009.


[24] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), April 12, 2009.


[25] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), April 12, 2009.


[26] According to the prosecutor’s statement, Nasrallah himself had ordered to carry out the terrorist operation in Egypt. The daily Al-Ahram claimed that the secret codeword for launching the operation was embedded in Nasrallah’s January 2009 ‘Ashura Day speech. The Hizbullah cell-members were supposed to carry out attacks on the following day, in various locations across Egypt, but the plan failed because the cell-members had already been apprehended – a fact that was unknown to the Hizbullah leadership at the time. Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 9, 2009. According to Egyptian press reports, the public prosecutor is considering filing charges against Nasrallah, after the latter has admitted in a TV interview that Hizbullah was involved in transferring arms through Egypt into Gaza. Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), April 14, 2009.


[27] www.hizbollah.tv, April 10, 2009.


[28] According to Al-Ahram, Nasrallah charged Qassem with overseeing the cell’s operations, and Qassem, in turn, delegated the task to Hizbullah operative Muhammad Qabalan. The latter, who was in Egypt in March and April 2008, placed Hizbullah operative Sami Shihab in charge of the cell. Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 14, 2009.


[29] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), April 14, 2009. It should be noted that the Egyptian press has published several transcripts of the detainees’ testimonies, which contained conflicting claims regarding the goals of the Hizbullah cell. According to the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Sami Shihab admitted in his interrogation that his mission was to establish a Hizbullah office in Egypt – called “the Egypt Bureau” – as part of Hizbullah’s “ring unit,” which is in charge of activities in the “ring countries” (i.e., the countries bordering Israel) and is tasked with supporting the Palestinian cause. According to this report, Shihab claimed that the Hizbullah leadership had instructed him to refrain at all cost from harming Egypt, and had stressed that the goal was not to target Israelis inside Egypt, but to help the Palestinians by infiltrating Palestine and fighting the Jews there. Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 13, 2009.


According to Al-Ahram, on the other hand, Shihab has admitted that the cell’s activity was directed against Egypt and had nothing to do with helping the resistance in Gaza. Hizbullah had appointed him to make all the necessary arrangements for carrying out terrorist attacks inside Egypt, especially against tourists from Israel and other countries. The operations were to involve suicide bombings, car bombings, or bombs planted in locations frequented by Israeli tourists in Sinai. Al-Ahram (Egypt), April 14, 2009.


[30] IRNA (Iran), April 12, 2009.


[31] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), April 21, 2009.


[32] www.islamonline.net, April 9, 2009.


[33] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), April 12, 2009. “Unblessed” is a pun on the name Mubarak, which means “blessed.”


[34] ‘Ali ‘Omar, a Hizbullah MP in the Lebanese parliament, said that Egypt’s attack on Hizbullah was meant to distort the image of the resistance and to create a new enemy for the Arabs. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 13, 2009.


[35] Al-Thawra (Syria), April 12, 2009.


[36] Al-Watan (Syria) April 12, 2009.


[37] Al-Watan (Syria), April 13, 2009.


[38] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), April 18, 2009.


[39] IRNA (Iran), April 15, 2009.


[40] IRNA (Iran), April 11, 2009. A similar remark was made by Hizbullah MP ‘Ali ‘Omar. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 13, 2009.


[41] Ayande News (Iran), April 11, 2009; http://www.ayandenews.com/fa/pages/?cid=5725.


[42] Al-Watan (Syria), April 12, 2009.


[43] Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), April 20, 2009.

Become a Lid Insider

Sign up for our free email newsletter, and we'll make sure to keep you in the loop.

Send this to friend