October 29, 2001.
Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who’s been in office for 20 years, is no
stranger to terrorism. Islamic radicals killed his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, and
then tried to assassinate Mubarak. While Mubarak is overtly endorsing the U.S.
war on terror, he’s also helping in various ways behind the scenes. In addition
to exchanging intelligence, Egypt has granted 300 overflight requests for the
U.S. military since Sept. 11. But Mubarak warns that, in order to keep the
region stable, there must be progress on peace.
Last week NEWSWEEK’s Lally Weymouth talked with Mubarak.
WEYMOUTH: Are you with the U.S. until the end in the fight against terrorism?
MUBARAK: I support the United States in fighting terrorism.
Do you believe the United States is taking the right course of action?
I think so. We suffered from terrorism and understand it well.
Some in the U.S. argue that we should go after Iraq and other countries that
Don’t widen the battlefield. If you do, you will have public opinion
against you, not only in the Arab world.
But you said that there are [terror] networks beyond Afghanistan.
Some may exist in Europe.
Did you ever think an attack like Sept. 11 would happen?
Never. I was shocked.
Do you believe the United States can capture Osama bin Laden?
If you catch him, we will clap our hands for you.
What is the extent of Egypt’s intelligence sharing with the U.S.?
Now we are exchanging information almost on a daily basis.
Why are there so many Egyptians like Ayman al-Zawahiri in Al Qaeda?
He was one of the mujahedin recruited by the United States in
Afghanistan. When the Soviets withdrew, he turned to terrorism.
It is rumored that you have been consulted about a new secret U.S. plan for
As long as you are attacking terrorism in Afghanistan, please strike a
balance by moving forward in the peace process. Thus, the public would
understand that you are not just attacking Muslims.
Even if the Palestinians and Israelis had reached an agreement at Camp David,
don’t you think bin Laden would have blown up the World Trade Center
Osama bin Laden made his explosions and then started talking about the
Palestinians. He never talked about them before.
Are you advising Arafat that this is his last chance?
We keep pushing him to move.
He seems incapable of making a decision.
Arafat cannot make a decision alone or the people would leave him.
Mind you, Arafat has some terrible people around him, like [Tanzim leader
Egypt did make peace with Israel, but it is said to be a cold peace.
Egypt is a country that sacrificed for peace. We lost Sadat. I have been
criticized for making contact with Israelis. I’ve had three promises from Sharon,
but not one was implemented. After he took office he sent a special envoy to
me who said Sharon wants to end his career by making peace. He was going to
make a peace plan within two weeks and meet with me. Then I received
another message telling me he was ready to negotiate if the violence went
down. The violence went down, but nothing happened.
How can you prevent young Egyptians from being radicalized?
Look, the situation does not give us room for investment to create jobs
for them. If the Israelis could make progress on the peace process, it would
help the whole area.
Suicide bombing has been condoned by the Egyptian press. Don’t you think it
should be condemned?
We are against killing innocent people by suicide bombs. Suicide
bombing is a result of the [Israeli] siege.
Is the reward for the World Trade Center terrorists that Arafat gets a Palestinian
Let us be realistic. I don’t care about Arafat. I care about stability. I care
about the fact that terrorism, though it can’t be stopped, could be lessened if
peace moved forward. Time will prove that I am right.
Don’t you think that, like World War II, this is a turning point?
Look, conventional war is easier to deal with than terrorism. In a real
war, you know where your enemy is. Terror is much more terrible than war.