November 10, 1992 and July 7, 1993, Cairo, Egypt
Tahsin Bashir served as spokesman for Egypt and for the Arab League in many capacities from 1963 to 1978. He knew Anwar Sadat intimately. Among the core findings in this interview about Sadat was Bashir’s repeated affirmation that Sadat was constantly seeking to reorient Egypt away from Moscow, and where it would not be influenced or controlled by other Arab countries, their interests or leaders. Bashir is emphatic that Sadat would have preferred not to have gone to war in October 1973; we do know from Hafez Ismail’s meetings with Kissinger in early 1973, that was the message that Sadat’s National Security Adviser carried to Kissinger. Sadat, says Bashir, used the Geneva 1973 conference to harness US mediation, it was a ceremonial opening only to achieve substance; Sadat’s Jerusalem 1977 trip to Israel was aimed to push forward a negotiating process with the Israelis that Sadat felt was stalemated in the detail that had stalled the Carter administration’s objective to have another international conference; this one too, Sadat wanted to be ceremonial as well and not substantive. Sadat wanted Carter to lead but not become stalled in negotiations with Israel because of resistance from other Arab leaders.Sadat by the end of 1977 was not willing to give to the PLO or to Syria any veto power to delay Sadat’s objective of having Sinai returned as soon as possible with the US steering the negotiations. An international conference that Carter wanted would might have allowed Syria’s Assad and the PLO’s Arafat to take a grip on Egyptian national objectives: Sinai’s return and Israel’s full settlement and military evacuation from there. Bashir tells us that in Sadat’s decision-making, he intentionally operationalized different channels to reach the same objective. There are candid assessments made of Sadat’s views of Ford, Carter, and Kissinger. Sadat preferred Begin over Rabin as Israel’s leader as the negotiations unfolded! Sadat realized that Begin would not have let negotiations stall over some arrangement with Jordan with regard to the West Bank. Sadat used the conference in 1973 and the 1978 Camp David talks to promote Egypt‘s interests, and NOT other Arab interests. Sadat wanted to use both the 1973 conference and the Camp David meetings as cover with Arab leaders who pounded him incessantly for making separate arrangements with Israel. Bashir provides numerous examples of how Sadat used policy misdirections to keep his own advisers and foreign diplomats guessing about the Egyptian President’s intentions. American diplomats who were engaged in Egyptian-Israeli diplomacy in the late 1970s constantly noted that Sadat seemed like he was always changing directions. Bashir came to know the individuals who interacted at the highest levels of the Egyptian government, he remembered their quirks, preferences, and personal competitions with one another. Similar bureaucratic infighting or bad vibrations existed in the US and Israeli foreign policy establishments and bureaucracies at the same time (Meir and Rabin, Dinitz and Eban) and certainly between William Rogers and Henry Kissinger and later between Cy Vance and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the State Department and White House over how to manage the 1979 Iranian revolution. For Egypt, Bashir provides examples of intense bureaucratic in-fighting between Ismail Fahmy and Ashraf Ghorbal, Ghorbal and Usamah al-Baz, and Bashir’s own tussles with Ismail Fahmy. Bashir expounds on Sadat’s relationship with Kissinger, how Sadat viewed Ford and Nixon, Muhamad Heikal, and other Egyptians in the foreign ministry and defense establishments.
Bashir served in the Foreign Office and in the Office of the Presidency under Presidents Nassar and Sadat. Sadat used Bashir as a speech writer and often in representing Egypt to European and American leaders. Bashir served as Egypt’s spokesperson to the 1973 Geneva Conference. And at the end of his career, he was Egypt’s Ambassador to Canada.
General Content Summary:
Note to the reader: in this interview Bashir refers to dozens of names of Egyptian diplomats and press people. There are many of them, and most are not known to the western reading public. Time might be taken to last the names and their positions to see their relationship to Sadat as he appointed them and took their measure.
Ken Stein Interviews with Tahsin Bashir, November 10, 1992 and July 7, 1993, Cairo, Egypt
KWS: Yah. Tell me about Sadat’s decision- making.
TB: Number one, by far, was Sadat. The others do the technical side, negotiation and whatever. The key of relation of policy was picked by Sadat. And here you will have in this period a lot of contradictory statements. Because everybody thought he was doing it. Fahmy unill we were in Tunisia together thought he was doing policy. And he used to be very irritated by me or this or that person close to the President.
KWS: In 1973 before the war started, what was your position?
TB: I will come to that.
TB: But I am not giving you that – do you want some butter?
KWS: Go ahead.
TB: I’m just telling you and assessing your material. I am giving you some tips.
KWS: Ahh, historiographic tips.
TB: Because when–books, biographies or semi-biographies, some of them stink, I mean in Fahmy’s farewell, he has a lot of lies.
KWS: There is a lot of mistakes in the book.
TB: Aside from the technical mistakes, I said lies. Fair mistake in history, there’s that. But when he wrote the memoirs, his political perception and tactics has changed. He had to appeal to Arabs and Palestinians, so he lied. You know, yet, (Professor) Ibrahim Abu-Lughod did a review of that book. You should read that tribute.
TB: Yeah. Because I had made Ibrahim meet Ismail. Ismail’s view of the world was rather different.
On the other hand, Ismail gets a lot of credit for the negotiation. Or the technical negotiation. Sadat never gave you orders. He gave you a spoke, a span, and a scope. You worked within it. In that period, aside of the hullabalu of of Ismail thought that Kissinger does not cough without permission from Ismail. And that’s what he was selling here. And the man never met the man before ’73. He doesn’t know him.
KWS: Before November 6, right.
TB: But, on the technical side, Ismail gets a lot of credit. How he pushes and pulls, takes Jordan out of the negotiating table, or this or that. Okay, so the Soviet Union, but that’s within orders or directions from Sadat. The others, their knowledge comes from being assistants. Sirry, Omar Sirry, he went to 101, he–
KWS: Was in Aswan in January of ’74–
TB: Mmmmmm, yeah but he is from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
KWS: But the fact that they were there and they listened–
TB: They listened to some, not everything.
KWS: I under–of course.
TB: No, well. Unlike saying when Usamah, was chef du Cabinet, and I appointed him that, Fahmy. His abilities were much more able than Omar Sirry. Omar Sirry is a very good technical Chef du Cabinet. He keeps the papers he knows, but he is not interpretative and analytical like Usamah
KWS: How about Ahmad Othman?
TB: He’s, well–
KWS: The same.
TB: Ahmad Othman is different. Maybe deeper than, maybe not as polished as Omar Sirry. But deeper in his legal mind, he will do a minute kind of work. And the work is kept all of it, all the kept in sight, so he will receive a promotion. I will promote you and give you the illusion that he is proven in the negotiation. Actually he is doing nobody. He is only meeting with Fahmy, and Fahmy will give him a technical, legal point to start with, but he wanted someone to sign on this agreement which has a lot of ifs and buts by us, and he published him to promote him, and he promoted him and he signed it. But he really had very little to do with it.
KWS: Fahmy had a tremendous ago.
TB: The whole world will not meet it, but now he is frustrated–
KWS: That’s obvious, I saw him yesterday, he’s an extraordinarily frustrated man.
TB: And he is not following things.
KWS: No, he’s very out of touch. But the point I want to make to you is, I have evidence from a bunch of sources that, for example, his relationship with Ashraf Ghorbal was terrible.
KWS: Just absolutely–
TB: It was outright fight.
KWS: He just absolutely denied Ashraf information.
TB: Alright, what else, I will tell you my opinion frankly about that.
KWS: But that happens in a society where the decisions are made by one individual and then the people close by want to retain for themselves as much power and influence as they possibly can. And that is what Fahmy did.
TB: No, he over did it, because you don’t do that with Muhammad Kamel or Mahmud Riad.
KWS: Doing it.
TB: Oh yeah, that was Fahmy’s pressure, for his advantage. Or Mahmud Fawzi. Fahmy today he was–because we were keeping together from the same time. We were given the same name for participating in the same seminar and limited vacation from the foreign office. Uhh, because we didn’t say things that the powers considered them to be critical.
KWS: When was this?
TB: ’72, Fahmy and I, when we were at a seminar. We participated in al-Ahram seminar. He was not invited, I was invited. Muhammad Riad was invited. Riad was ill, so I and Nabil Araby told Heikal at Al Ahram told Heikal, why don’t you invite, him. This guy, Ismail Fahmy, you don’t know him, and he invited him, but he and I came with a statement that was considered outrageous. I come when I–I am surprised that he didn’t tell you about it. And we both were not fired, but given something called unlimited–
KWS: Indefinitely. Okay?
TB: Okay. Then, and that was a game Sadat did. In ahh, in January ’73, Murad Ghalib was fired.
KWS: From what position?
TB: Minister of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs. And uhh, the prime minister was Aziz Sidky Sadat did not appoint–left to the prime minister to appoint a foreign minister, which means he will be a weak foreign minister. That means it is a game. Usually the foreign minister is appointed by the president. But he was playing his own game with Russians, and Aziz said to his friend with the Russians, so we–he left him to appoint a minister–and he appointed Zayat, which meant that Zayat was not really foreign minister, was officially a foreign minister, but the president didn’t a put a hoot. And as soon as the war started, why do you ask, in the U.N., where the Secretary meeting is in general session, he was being undermined by Sadat here. And Sadat appointed Fahmy, as minister of tourism, just to switch him later. And as soon as his Ismail came, he was appointed minister and Zayat went home.
KWS: Do they have any iced tea?
KWS: Or even lemonade again. Lemonade–That’s great.
TB: Fahmy, never knew Sadat before.
KWS: He never knew Sadat?
KWS: Then why did Sadat appoint him if he didn’t know him?
TB: That is my whole point. I knew Sadat before. I was spokesman of Egypt when Sadat was vice president, but Fahmy doesn’t, even Heikal didn’t know Fahmy until 1972. Fahmy was in good, hard-working condition in the firm often. What you have working, Fahmy working, there is a U.N. man, (it means he comes from an institutional background and is not an analyst,) not in special political affairs. Not in Arab-Israeli or anything like that.
KWS: What do you mean he was a U.N. man?
TB: In our foreign efforts, there are people who their basic training was the U.N.
KWS: Abdul Maguid.
TB: Like el-Reedy and others. They worked overtime at the U.N. They made their name with Fawzi, Mahmud Riad, Ismail Fahmy. And their claim to fame was the U.N. was something new in the world and they worked with Dr. Fawzi as a secretary and we have a school of diplomacy that sees the world in terms of the U.N.
KWS: You mean an Egyptian foreign policy.
TB: Yeah, and most of the Egyptian ministers–
KWS: Thank you.
TB: Ministers in this group? Othman, Fawzi, Muhammad Riad; (Muhammad) Ibrahim Kamel (later the Foreign Minister for Sadat in 1977-1978). He is a bilateral man. In the period like this, when the President makes the main lines of policy and it is period of transition, it is very difficult to get from these people here, why the transition took place. Because all they know—are some of the aspects, technical aspects of the transition. Part of Ismail Fahmy’s game; He didn’t know Sadat. To try to prove to him, that he knows Kissinger very well. But he is willing to do the American bidding, or better, Sadat’s bidding with the Americans. Lack of diversity between Amr and Usamah. Amr was picked during a Sadat trip to the Gulf, both appointments made so that they would do his bidding, the new bidding to go–to go with the President in the Gulf without questioning him.
KWS: Usamah (al-Baz) at that time had doubts.
TB: Right and I think he had doubt. And the President was in no doubt, he had through his appointment – loyalty all the way.
TB: Amer found the trends. He found a new trend, a new horse. And he saw the winds of change and he road it all the way without question.
TB: Amer. I think Usamah at that time had given some thought; Usamah is intelligent, but not courageous.
KWS: And not stupid.
TB: No. But you didn’t take it all the way. And that is why you must not become from the bush. It is the group that comes from the well born. Sadat didn’t know what was Ismail Fahmy. He wanted a new face to play the American part.
TB: Fahmy was the best face it would have done at that time, but I should say
KWS: He had been in the interest section in Washington.
KWS: Ashraf had been there.
TB: No. Sure, but not–Ashraf knows America.
TB: Ashraf knows the US ten times more than Ismail; Ismail knows the UN. He doesn’t know America. He doesn’t know enough English to know America; Ashraf knows America very well. The question is why wasn’t Ashraf Ghorbal going to be a Minister? The most obvious face to bring in America was not one Ashraf.
KWS: And what answer do you give to your own question?
TB: I’m answering it. And the President knew Ashraf, knew Ashraf from before, and he had appointed Ashraf spokesman with the head of the press of the office of the presidency. And he was spokesman on political affairs during the ’73 war. And he had promoted him two days before the war. But suddenly, on 14th or 16th. I was working as advisor for the Secretary General of the U.N., of the Arab League.
KWS: Secretary General of the Arab League?
TB: Because when, when we were rehabilitated back after Zayat, we had engaged in battle, he asked, he called me as soon as he came in, come back as soon as you can. He said, you choose. I said, I don’t choose. You tell me what you have for me and I will choose from it. And he (Sadat) knows that I am difficult, I will not follow unless I’m shown the way. He had instructions that I and Ismail will be rehabilitated (means bring back home). I cannot do anything about that. But Fahmy was offered ambassador to Austria.
TB: And he didn’t like it but that was only a stop gap. I was not–they didn’t tell him where to put me. Only to rehabilitate you. I said no, you tell me what you have. Then he started giving me the heads of departments that I might look into. I said, ‘you do not have a good posting abroad. I would like, I would rather to become the advisor to the Secretary General of the Arab League. He was relieved and I did it. I answered to the General of the Arab League because I am close to him, and I was part of the group that knew that the war was coming. Heikal used to come to us and tell me the president from his dugout, asked where is Tahsin. I said, what is he asking me about? I could not leave the Arab League on my own without interference from Mahmud Riad who trusted me day and night.
TB: For Egypt and the Arabs, for the front.
KWS: I thought that was Ashraf’s job?
TB: For me it was the point of view from the Arab League.
KWS: I got ya.
TB: And it was the first time that Ashraf works in Egypt outside the realm of the realm of foreign affairs. I was spokesman to the foreign ministry before, You know. I was spokesman for Nasser to the day he died. So I know the job. Ashraf didn’t know this job. Then, I get the message that the President wants me. I said, what does he want me for, I am doing the job here, Ashraf is doing it there.
KWS: Why did you say the 16th, the 14th or 16th of October, why were those dates important?
TB: The day of the (Israeli- Sharon’s break through from Sinai across the Canal).
KWS: Fourteenth, fifteenth. And then he spoke to the parliament on the sixteenth.
TB: No, I am talking about the spokesmen now. It was the 14th, I don’t know what they–when we knew of it, it was not made public.
TB: During that time, Ashraf said something about it which was not perceived to be, very good. Neither by the acting prime minister at the time, Muhammad Abdel Kadir Hattem.
TB: Hattem, used to be minister of information, appointed by Sadat. And I have been with this thing, taking the job. See, Ashraf is my friend, doing a very good job of it. Why, why the man keeps asking about me? Then, we were working in the Arab League and my secretary, my secretary of cabinet, Iman (his secretary), used to go lunch time, because you were working continually to be healthy, she would bring us our lunch and we eat while we are working. He comes to me one day and I said, my friend, the news comes that you can–the news just declared the first information; -you have been appointed the spokesman of Egypt.
KWS: And you didn’t even know it?
TB: I’ve been resisting.
KWS: No, but did you know you were going to get the appointment?
TB: No. Once Sadat sets his mind to something, I had been delaying it, resisting it. I knew that he wanted it. I worked with him before as spokesman. It is not the first time. When he became president I was an adjunct to England for our embassy there. And he brought me back. And made me spokesman for Egypt under him. So I had a long relationship with Sadat. But I didn’t want the job.
TB: It’s a very ticklish, difficult job.
KWS: Yeah, but you are certainly competent enough to do it.
TB: Yeah, but it is not a question of competence. You don’t get a chance to mistake. That’s why a competent, Ashraf did not ask, longing for the job. Who said to me, I said Ashraf, you are going back?You say he is going back but to what job in the foreign ministry. When I saw him take over, he was in panic. I know that. Up until he went back as the head of the (American) interests section again. He was not in the best mood. He was in a very bad mood. And he acted while you lost by this act of old stability and becoming the spokesman for the president.
KWS: You mean in these two weeks?
TB: Yeah, and a little bit before that. When I asked uhh…Sadat about it. Sadat used to say, despite his promotion, even when he was at the Presidency right after the war, Ashraf had already agreed. And as such, he did not think that Ashraf has the metal to be a foreign minister. And Fahmy won.
KWS: You think this was his way of testing Ashraf?
TB: He was testing–He was–Ashraf was closest to him, keep me up to it because I know the man from before working under Nasser. He didn’t know Ismail Fahmy from Adam. But he knew Ashraf.
KWS: Do you think he wanted to give Ashraf the chance to be foreign minister? And then he was persuaded–
TB: When he appointed him, the spokesman for the president, and promoted him twice, he was giving him every chance to do the job. President’s don’t think this way. But he was testing his depth. Is he a man I can trust? And rely on. He had quiverings about whether Ashraf can make a foreign minister. And he was very nice with Ashraf. But he had this–
TB: Doubt. When he worked as spokesman that finished it. He’s good, he’s not possible to be FM.
KWS: Okay, that explains it.
TB: And Ashraf almost died after wanting to be a foreign minister after Ismail (Nov 1977). And actually they floated his name as a cover because Amer was too young. The president wants to surprise the people. So he floated Ashraf’s name. The people around the President who Mubarak met with Ashraf. But Ashraf, not knowing that the internal game, thought the study is real life. They had been researching, looking. And afterall they were not looking for him.
KWS: You mean just a couple of years ago. Would he have taken the job as foreign minister?
TB: Oh yeah. He sees it as a career. He doesn’t look as a minister, a quality, as a job, as a career. The career of a diplomat.
KWS: Naturally, he’s disappointed.
TB: Yes. And he, he was rumored after he left Washington that he is making a lot of money out of company there. And to Mubarak, who doesn’t like to make money out of business, the ethic tradition, Ashraf went to grand equipping. -Communicate that he is not interested in money. Anyway–
KWS: And that is how he gets you into the spokesman, huh? And that is how Ashraf goes to Washington.
TB: No, he gets me, he knew me. He wanted Ashraf out. I was spokesman of Egypt under Sadat before that.
KWS: I understand.
TB: But when he gave President, I was spokesman of Egypt, than after that recording minister made me spokesman for the foreign minister. They cancel spokesman for Egypt.
KWS: So you became the foreign ministry spokesman?
TB: Which I was doing the same? Just like–
KWS: You’d been doing it over at the Arab League, under Riad.
TB: After that.
KWS: Right, I understand.
TB: But when you do it for the Arab League you don’t go into internal matters.
TB: Then when we said what we in that interview–
KWS: You are talking about ’72?
TB: ’72. This interview was introduced by Heikal. I was at the time and Ahmed Mahir Iddin, attending a conference we went Beirut, and then to a beautiful hotel overlooking in the mountain…And with your breakfast, they had a Lebanese breakfast, they give you the paper. he waiter said, ambassador, your face is all over the paper. Why? Right. I had finished the conference and there was nothing to mention my name. He said, whatever you said about the Russians. What Russians? The conference was about the gap in relations and understanding in the Arabs and the West. And knowing fully, Heikal, published the night before a summary in al-Ahram, that some people (Fahmy and I) attended a secret seminar, regarding whether, a summit between Breshnev and Nixon–
KWS: May of ’72.
TB: ’72. Enhance Egypt’s Middle East position; what do we expect and how we can do it? And our opinion was the Middle East has a very low priority and why–and we said why. And the existing Russian posture, we will never lead to the liberation of our land. My, my conclusion was similar to Ismail, but Ismail said that if we do some quick diplomatic activities, we can enhance the priority and my opinion was dumb. We have to answer the question, three questions. One, whether we are willing to give the Russians more chips? Second, whether we are going to deal with the Americans? Third, whether we are going to rely, like the Chinese on self-reliance. And each one of these implied different policies. But when that came, it shook the country, because it was the first time the Egyptian-Russian, diplomatic political posture, the value was punctured. And it was shocking because two people in the foreign office at that moment used to look, the people used to look at the foreign office as office boys of rich people took a point of view (against the Russains). When we said that al-Ahram, they were all flabbergasted at their ignorance. And they didn’t know how to react to us. Murad Ghalib was the Minister of Foreign Affairs; he said for Russia, this will be used to say that the Russians, that the relations will be harmed and will break unless Tahsin and Fahmy are kicked out. He used to be at last I support of Fahmy, and between them there were a great deal of personal jealousies. So he was also using it as a way—to finish Fahmy
KWS: To get back at Fahmy.
TB: More, to finish, Fahmy, as a principle darkhorse. And that’s why Fahmy and Ashraf had blood, because Fahmy did not want if anything goes wrong that Ashraf may come in. He knew very little of what Sadat thought of Ashraf. And on the version of it he can figure out well, if the Americans like Ashraf, he might be coming.
KWS: I got you.
TB: And he used to go to the resort.
KWS: Who is he?
TB: Ismail. For example, we were meeting for and Kissinger in Salzberg. Normally, the ambassador would come. Fahmy refuses.
KWS: Umm, Ashraf told me the story. Until the last day.
TB: Then Fahmy, then Ashraf goes through the head chancellor of the President’s office to ask to come. But when he came, he did not attend most of the talks.
KWS: Ashraf didn’t?
TB: Ahh. Yeah. That’s the end. Now, they used this piece (published in al-Ahram by Heikal) and our and he made it leave as a cover to tell the Russians that this was a mistake by these people and we fired them. Actually, my first visitor came to me with a box of cigars and he bought a bottle was the Russian ambassador. Murad Ghalib, then foreign minister was playing this game. Okay, just to show you how complicated this is, once you are on leave, you cannot leave the country. I had many deals, where I was not allowed to leave the country, even under Fahmy. And to leave the country, say you want to go for summer, you have to miss–who wants to go to Tunisia? It is a horrid place. Okay. Two days, I refused to take an unlimited leave, and all of this was done without a taker(?) telling us that you have an unadmitted leave. Being ambassadors, Minister Plenipotentiary, we have a special legal procedure to take us to dusk. And it is very complicated and they could not, they could not have found anything on us. Fahmy went home in a hurry and told me to make a campaign against Murad Ghalib. And when Fahmy and an enemy are in a fight, he doesn’t leave anything on the table. But his hands are stymied. He was very frustrated that we were required to stay. The New York Times wrote about Murad, not about him because he was not known.
KWS: Would it be fair to say that when he wants revenge, he uses a scorch-earth policy?
TB: Yes, everything. And he even changes history. Now, three days after our incident, I went back to my office and I told the minister, look, if you don’t–if you want me on an unlimited leave, you give me a letter. If you don’t give me a letter, I’m going back in my office. So, I used to go to my office and just to beg him. ‘Cause what he was doing is illegal. But, the third day, a big officer in intelligence, a friend mine, called and said someone from the intelligence wants to come and have a cup of tea with me. Fine. He came to my house. Would you have afterwards tea with mint, or turkish coffee?
KWS: Turkish coffee.
TB: Was good
TB: Okay, he came to my house and he offered a future course to the leaders of intelligence, of intelligence. America foreign policy, Russian–Soviet foreign policy and Israeli foreign policy. And while giving him the tea and coffee, I was laughing, because here is a man, banned from going to the foreign office and not allowed to leave the country.
KWS: Teaching the intelligence committee.
TB: The top ones. So when he finishes, he makes a very nice offer, and I am sure you know that I am only supposed to extended leave. Do you know who approves the list? Speakers, teachers–
KWS: Foreign ministers.
TB: The president. No, no that is a different domain. Sadat giving or approving of being silent on the foreign ministry. Sacking us, gives an order, a positive order and I will be and I went and gave the calls. At the same, I couldn’t leave the country.
KWS: Who said there’s any logic? Ha. Ha.
TB: No, but the logic was there was a game being played from the Soviets. And Fahmy was picked up for a new face, and a good record to show, where there was something specific. The president asked earlier whose three senior people in the foreign office. Their opinion. -Whether we can go, and whose security council resolutions did the group perceive.
KWS: When was this?
TB: Not early ’72.
KWS: Early ’72?
KWS: Before your seminar?
TB: Before our seminar.
KWS: Before the Brezhnev-Nixon consideration was shot down–
TB: That’s right, that was something…
KWS: Sadat wanted to know if there could be an alternative resolution to 242.
TB: Yeah, he didn’t want war to begin with. He wanted a resolution that would be implentable. Let his boss build out, so he cannot give it if he wanted a resolution that can explain the steps of modus operendi of application.
KWS: And this was early ’72? Who were the three people?
TB: Among them, what I remember, definitely Fahmy, Zayat, maybe Ashraf. And maybe Mahmud Riad. I don’t remember. And Fahmy was a better UN man then either Zayad or Ashraf, in terms of the U.N. Wrote a very realistic, and I know some of the people who worked on it with him, assist–no, that you are not going to get any resolution as a supplemental to 242. While Zayat, and Zayat always called him a stick in the mud. And I am sure Ashraf with it( And if you can convince the Americans–
KWS: A lot of conditionals.
TB: A lot of conditionals. So that’s no resolution. And Sadat listened to all of the groups in his life, all these bull- shitter, and Sadad didn’t like bull shitters, because he had been a bull-shitter earlier in his life.
KWS: Ha, ha, ha, takes the —
TB: Yeah. Can we go to other room, we sit and work and get the coffee there.
TB: Okay. –Now we can.
KWS: If Sadat wanted another resolution in (early) 1972, he tried to bring to the American’s attention by throwing out the Russians in the summer of ’72. He tried through Hafez Ismail to get Kissinger’s attention. In other words–
TB: The question is wrong.
KWS: The question is wrong?
TB: Sadat was a man who was not thinking in technical terms. Sadat was a man who wants Sinai back, in that order. -Sinai back, the occupied territories back, reasonable accommodation with Israel, non-belligerency. He does not want war. He knows that this conflict has to be settled one way or the other, he wants it to be settled as diplomatically and with the least costs possible. And he knows that for Egypt to build, it has to dis-invest itself from a heavy, ungoing confrontation.
KWS: And when did you know this, that this was in Sadat’s mind?
TB: I knew that in Sadat’s mind before he became president. When he became president, you know, that was, uhh–Sadat was not the Nasserist group. But, they also wanted that. And ’67 was an aberration. Many of them applauded and joined the bandwagon. Uhh, but essentially, the miscalculation, what did Nasser want to do with it. Take Ashkelon?
KWS: You made that point at Wayne State.
KWS: You still don’t know what his motivation was?
TB: Well, I know, but there was no really, it was just to give a match so he can settle from a point of strength. But he didn’t act this way. He made himself vulnerable to Israel, America and Russia. Okay. Sadat wanted to correct that. And Sadat was not ideological. Many of those around Nassar were ideological. They thought that what was lost by force could only be retrieved by force. And as such, the fork of possibility of war, as not inevitable. Why, some of it was real. Sadat wanted to leave no stone unturned for political activities via the Americans, via anybody.–
TB: After the Egypt cheer of Nasser got defeated in ’67, if you go to war and you fail, they will hang you in Tahrir Square. If you go to war and end up in a situation which is worse than June ’67, you are also condemned.
KWS: Ha, ha.
TB: And as such, going to war is not a priority any rational president will contemplate. Okay? Sadat, no I don’t smoke. Sadat didn’t want to go to war. He used the war as if there is no other way than I have to do it and also, as a deterrent. But no president, and I include in that Nasser, if Nasser was alive going again to war is a fantastic risk. If you are defeated once, you can always say I was set up. It’s the bars that play the game of me. I entered into a trap, I was entrapped. If you go to war twice and you failed then you are finished, you don’t have an excuse. And as such, going to war in ’73 was a very courageous stand by Sadat.
KWS: Very risky.
TB: Very risky. Now, his game was from Nasser’s funeral to see how to move 242. He conveyed messages to the Americans of Egypt’s intention to reach a peaceful settlement. And peace here does not mean normalization or anything like that.
KWS: No, I understand.
TB: Yeah. And the Americans did not respond. So we started thinking on many levels. How to break this vicious circle. One of them is to fire the foreign minister. Who’s a Nassarist, who his hand was in ’67, some point in ’67, who our group who saw only war as the way out. General Fawzi, Mahmoud Riad and the rest. He wanted new faces to come with new policies and to use a different language. Not the language that encases the argument in cement concrete, which was the case. You can start a certain formulations that are so rigid that does not allow any ambiguity, any way to reinterpret, any way out between the lines, so the only option becomes war. He fired Mahmud Riad in time. He mended, tried to mend the mistakes of Nasser. The Arabs are afraid of Nasser imposing personality, Egypt, he tried to be very nice with the Arabs. He stopped Egyptian intelligence in the Arab countries. He tried to give a lot of attention to the shakyhs of the Gulf and the Saudis. He also tried to prepare the army for a limited military operation. Which in Nasser days it started and this was a continuation. He tried to improve the relations above all with the United States. Thinking that the United States–if the United States cannot deliver, it is at least is the prime book. And it took him some time to realize that the United States, one might not be interested in deliberating, even if it is good. And at certain times that it couldn’t deliver–
KWS: If it wanted to.
TB: If it wanted to in some–
KWS: I got you.
KWS: Very clear, very clear.
TB: Sadat then started to make sure that any military action—any military action we do has to be politically insured. Politically safeguarded. No one thinks the war knowing that 100% you win. A war is worse than any U.S. election from Bush. You hope, but,
KWS: Good analogy.
TB: What, what insurance do you give your people? What are you going to will–what are you willing within yourself? The country is pro-Soviet, we need someone to help us build our industry. The game with Sadat in ’67 leaves a lot of question marks. Why they picked on Sadat, who was known to be anti-Soviet, to tell him that stories about Syria, and the concentration of Israeli troops. Sadat did not take that kindly. First of all, you want to disengage this war and this conflict from superpower conflict. That, that is the prime intention of Sadat, and he didn’t say it because you don’t say it.
KWS: But he came closest to engaging the superpowers by going to war.
KWS: Theory of unintended consequences.
TB: No, no, no. Wait a minute! He wanted the war between us and the Israeli’s be seen by America, particularly, and by the superpower other one, that this is not a war. We are not fighting for the Russians, we don’t give a damn about the Russians. We are fighting for our own interest. Okay? It is not part of a cold war, he wants to de-cold war the Middle East. Because if it becomes part of the Middle East, the Americans will automatically side with Israel and the Russians will give us support, but that is not for us. Give us words and speak, with us, you know, support, us. That was key to him. This also has an internal impact because the officers of the Egyptian army always accused, in most cases, I think, and unfairly that the Russians were pro-Israeli’s. The reason for the Egyptian defeat was too much Russian involvement. People of the airforce, if they let their advisor, who was a Russian, know their sortis, they usually were hit by the Israeli’s. When they did it behind his back, they came back safe. And there was a very strong feeling first of Russian perfidy [to the Egyptians—this is T’s conspiratorial view that Israel could not win the war without great power help someway!]
KWS: During the six day war?
TB: Umm, no, after the six day war. And even during the six war. Peace, intervention by the Russians about the Syrians was not taken kindly. And the fact that the Russian would cow down so quickly to Assad. And their reluctance to give us any advanced weapons of any kind. Just enough to survive, to defend. So he wanted to de—coldwarize the conflict.
KWS: Cold “warise” the–
TB: The conflict. Second, he wanted to prove to the Egyptian officers that we are not in this war for the Russians or anybody else. It’s an Egyptian war. For Egypt. Thirdly–
KWS: And in the process re-stablish a certain amount of lost Egyptian pride in their ability–
KWS: I mean, that was a parenthetical but a very important–
TB: Definitely, definitely–it was–they even regained the dresses of the Egyptian army from before. And like the Russian time dresses we had. We also did not want America to think that if Israel loses a battle or two battles in the war that that is a repeat for America, because America would not have allowed. The lesson of ’67 to him, is the irrespective of the issues, the United States and the United States Army will not allow the American armor to be defeated by Soviet armor, no matter what is the reason. So he wanted to disengage the conflict from the international environment. That’s why he did what Kissinger thought judged him to be a stupid guy. When he kicked the Russian advisors out, surprising all the people around him.
KWS: And not asking the Americans for anything?
TB: Nothing. Because the aim was to prove the following: that Egypt is a master of itself. And not a Soviet client state as the American’s used to see us. The American’s thought that Egypt was run by Russia, which was far from being true.
KWS: Very simplistic.
TB: Very simplistic. He wanted to prove that we can set– surprised even the people around him. Hafez Ismail was dumbfounded when Sadat dictated to him the rules. (seeking an accommodation with the US as door to unlock Sinai’s return)
KWS: Is this going to bother you?
KWS: Are you sure?
TB: You want an ash tray?
KWS: I’ll use this, this is fine.
KWS: Hafez Ismail was dumbfounded.
TB: Yeah. He never expected it. He was supposed to be his national security man. National security man or not he does implementation of policy. The policy is the president. Then, that is why we were picked, Ismail and I; the people who criticized the role of the Soviet Union. Who said in a public meeting, private public meeting that this policy with the Soviet Union will not liberate the Egyptian occupied territories. That was never printed in Egypt before. So he picked us both as foreign minister and spokesman.
KWS: I understand.
TB: I was spokesman before under Nasser. But the bidding after the debate is indicative. He also wanted to link with the Americans. And he tried to link with the Americans with many ways. -Via the Saudi’s, via Kamel Adham Adham, who was the head of the Saudi intelligence, but essentially in the end he ended up with a special back channel from our Abbideen palace to the White House. The intelligence. Which he used it during the war. When that happened Kissinger told people in. -Cambridge and Harvard, the set up of which, I don’t know what kind of a man he is, he’s a clown. Who would forfeit support of a major ower–the other major power without asking us–
KWS: For something in return.
TB: For something in return. Sadat didn’t want to do street bargaining, the bazaar bargaining, tit for tat.
KWS: He thought the American’s would nickel and dime him.
TB: Not only that, he wanted to do a graceful kind of bargaining. By doing this, he proved that he is master in his own self. He is a not a rickety leader coming after Nasser who has no power, he proved to have a lot of power. He proved that the Egyptians were not Russian stooges. That is very important. The Egyptian armed forces are not dancing to the music of Moscow. Above all, he proved to the Russians, you sons of bitches, you don’t cooperate, I’ll kick you out. I’ll kick you on the ass. And actually, this resolution was seen by the Russians as treason. Because I went to Moscow after that. September of ’73. But, ironically, he always, being a man of the world showing, by having a prime minister of Egypt who was for pro Russia, known in Egypt–
KWS: He was a lightning rod.
KWS: Yes, it’s very smart.
TB: So he put him there. He put the foreign minister–
TB: Yeah. And the Russians, as a result, gave us more arms to regain their position, even when they knew that it was declining, they didn’t want it to be in a quick decline. They give Egypt more arms than they were resisting to give at an earlier period in Sadat’s days.
KWS: So, you’re saying that even before the ’73 war, the Soviets were keenly aware that the position in this country was declining–
TB: Definitely, when he kicked the Russian advisors they knew–The Russians did not want to invest in Egypt politically or otherwise beyond the support of Nasser. Support. But not regaining anything here. When Sadat came, they never liked Sadat. They thought Sadat to be anti-Russian or Nazis or something. He was known in the Russian thing, as not friendly to them. Now, when kicking the advisors so sudden and for no particular, apparent reason, that’s got no– So when he, as a prime minister, the prime minister and the defense minister, and the foreign minister who was pro-Russian, Murad Ghaleb, went for arms, they give him the arms that Sadat shitted for two years to get. Because they thought that they can slow ly be in the decline and couldn’t change it. That is what Kissinger never understood, that they set that technique of negotiation is unlike the Israeli in the city did for two tracksh e doesn’t do that. He creates a situation in which you find it, he takes, he acts on Monday. But on Tuesday you find yourself in a new situation in which you have to help him because it is in your interest to help him. The whole negotiation, peace negotiation, including Camp David, was Egypt giving in order to collect back. How does he collect back? By creating situations that makes the collection a willingness. Syrians can not do that, the Palestinians cannot do that. The Israelis do not do that. And that’s why…
KWS: He made Jimmy Carter, Egypt’s ambassador to Israel.
TB: Yea. Well, it made Kissinger before, but Kissinger couldn’t deliver.
KWS: That’s right.
TB: Kissinger wanted to deliver, Kissinger was not after a comprehensive peace. He wanted…
KWS: No, it was a different objectives.
TB: Now, if the game was, the first game of Sadat was not the war or this or the Russians out, ?, it was Nixon, was to bring Nixon to Egypt and Nixon’s day of greatness was when he went on the railway to Alexandria and here a country but for Sadat this all calculated. You know, you say this is the Russian or Russian camp or pro Soviet Communists Alliance State, billions of people came to shout, Nixon, Nixon, Nixon.
KWS: Nixon, Nixon, Nixon, Nixon wished he were greeted that way in Preoria.
TB: Okay, as soon as Nixon goes home, our great effort, Nixon is impeached and we loose one, so we became adept at the game of loosing American presidents.
KWS: Jimmy Carter can blame Egypt.
TB: Is that No, Jimmy Carter, Ford; Look when Ford came, at least next to what as a man who had a view of the world strategy and suddenly, he goes away, after all the effort we did, and the public expectations, not only the government but the public. Suddenly a man comes, we look at his record…99%, a dramatic vote for every pro-Israeli, resolution that ever passed by his eyes. Ultimately, he votes for this. There was no reason in the world not to be frustrated, confused with a man in the Senate (he meant House of Representatives), all his votes Israel, Israel, Israel.
KWS: In the Congress, in the Congress.
TB: He was, ahh, minority…
KWS: House, House Minority leader.
TB: Ahhh, House Minority Leader. Sadat never bought this ideological shit. If you stayed with Israel for this, well he understands, He’s a Congressman, he supports whoever supports him. He does that himself, so, he transfers that to anybody he deals with. First time we met this man,
TB: Ford, in Salzburg, I went to meet him with Kissinger. He comes, Kissinger was coming with him, and he comes off the stairs of the airplane and slips and we are holding Yeah, then he sees the President the second day…absolutely sure that Ford never met an Arab before or an Egyptian before or anything. Sadat was briefed on these things. And Sadat was thinking, he comes in “Hello, Mr. President”, Henry tells me, he comes to me in Aswan and was crying. I saw him crying. And Sadat says, “Henry, I know they are difficult people, don’t feel bad, I know it’s not easy.” You know he is the man who worked with him all the way, and couldn’t get a second disengagement. He sent us a nasty cable that he failed, Golda reprimanded him (spring 1974); Kissinger came to Aswan, crying and then…
KWS: Aswan, in March 1974.
TB: ’74. That’s when America started after that doing, ahh what is that term used “reassessment,”
KWS: No, that was March of ’75.
TB: March of ’75. We started negotiations in ’74 in Aswan, but he came in ’75. After he failed in that he went to Washington and started his “reassessment.”
KWS: That’s the word.
TB: Okay. And I saw Henry crying. And Sadat calming him down. Here he is relying on the American Secretary of State, the great genius, he’s unable to do a 50 kilometer lousy disengagement? e goes to Ford and says “Mr. President” then he tells me that the Israelis do not trust us (the Egyptians). And I agree with him. Because I equally do not trust them (the Israelis). And after all this war, you don’t expect the parties to trust each other. So the way out is to look who does the Israelis trust? And I found that the only party they (the Israeli’s) trust is America. You support them, you give them arms, money, you cover them up, you find them, excuse them, you pay them a lot of money per capita, fine. You are their friends.
TB: Come and help us. You stand between us and them. I trust you, despite our misunderstandings between Egypt and America, the Israelis are your buddies so they will have to trust you, and I accept the Americans to be the ones in between, militarily observers, whatever. And Mr. Ford, where does Ford come from?
KWS: Lansing, Michigan.
TB: Lansing. Finds the logic to be very logical.
KWS: Grand Rapids, Michigan.
TB: Yeah. He said I agree with you. And that’s how we manage to go all the way to the second disengagement. Had he looked at these records of voting in the Congress or whatever, how many speeches at AIPAC and what did he say, he could not have come with an idea. And that’s where you have the element of creativity and imagination and the willingness to take risks. And he (Sadat) goes on.
KWS: And not let that be an obstacle to his goal.
TB: Nothing is an obstacle, because he had a very clear goal in his mind. I was not surprised when, at Camp David, he down-graded the other issues and put Egypt and Sinai for instance, first and above everything else. It is not that he is against the others. But he was not going to be his brother’s keeper. And it is this clarity of policy, inside the man’s head, who the same man, a few months in ’76, Frankel, the head of the Jewish Chronicle, was at that time a very moderate man for a a Palestinian state. A demilatrized Palestinian state asked for an interview. And I told Sadat that this man is good. “Nah, nah, nah, nah” I said “Are you crazy?” Because the Jewish Chronicle was in the history of Zionism in us. This was the house organ, for the Zionists.
KWS: The Zionists?
TB: Yes. But this man was reasonable and I knew him, and I said “Look, it’s reasonable and it’s better you talk to the Zionists. You talk to the others but the Zionists are the ones you are in conflict with.” He (Sadat) said to me “You are crazy. You want me to be in a difficult water with all the Arabs?” And yet this man and yet after that, went to Jerusalem on his own in his mind, at his own choice. That’s why it is very difficult with such kind of a man to go simply and try to figure out his policy from aid and assistants. Aids and assistants will know some of the details of the implementation of that policy. But the policy itself has in the end, to be with all the inputs you can put on it, the existential leap that a leader takes.
KWS: So when he in the middle of the ’73 war addresses his Parliament, and makes the statement about going to an international conference…
KWS: It’s only a vehicle to get the great powers involved on the diplomatic path.
TB: Yes, and to get the Americans activated. In essence, we’re willing.
KWS: And he knew from the beginning, he wanted not only the Americans to be active, but he wanted the Americans to dominate.
TB: Sure. He knew that, I mean to begin with he starts with a naive concept that the Americans are the key to the solution. The Israelis are only in need of the Americans. Later he learns that it’s more sophisticated. Well, he accepts the change. Starts taking the Israelis on. Once Carter tells him, you know, “Mr. President, let’s meet for better times, when everything is ready.” He’s not going to wait for Mr. Carter’s time. Mr. Carter has different time, different agenda. He (Sadat) used to say the ’73 War has lost its momentum, it’s not hot enough.
KWS: When did he say that?
TB: Many times. When it looses we need to do something to warm up, to move this forward. He knows that here you are changing a situation. You don’t change a situation, if a stationary situation (remains)…
KWS: And he also wasn’t going to let the ’73 War success, however limited, become stagnant.
TB: He had already during the war contacted the American.
KWS: By the back channel?
TB: By the back channel. Made clear to the Americans we are not here, we are fighting on our land not to destroy Israel. And he made sure that he would not fail. Ahhhh…
KWS: Bill Quandt told me that on the second day of the war, they received a cable in the White House from Sadat. Kissinger
TB: Yeah, yeah.
KWS: Telling Kissinger
TB: We are not attacking Israel.
KWS: “We want this to end in a diplomatic solution.”
KWS: And Kissinger says, still said “This man’s crazy.”
TB: I know.
KWS: By the end of the first week, Peter Rodman told me that Kissinger came to the conclusion that this man was no longer a fool.
TB: Was a genius.
KWS: But was combining the two things that Kissinger admired most: the ability to use force and diplomacy simultaneously.
TB: And use them at the same time, that’s right.
TB: Now, he was surprised by the break through (the Israeli break through led by Arik Sharon to the West Bank of the Canal.) In his political parliament, he thought it was just a little tactics. And that did not make him detour. He just, it excited and accelerated his reliance on Kissinger. Kissinger was thinking that he’s making use of Sadat and Sadat was equally making use of Kissinger.
KWS: It’s mutual symbiosis.
TB: Yeah. Now, ahhh, yes but…
KWS: He had to save the third army?
TB: Well, as you know now the third army was not in any fatal shape of danger of being annihilated. It was a hullabaloo (the Third army’s destruction was exaggeration). Even they found the supply of water. But he was not going to take the risk. That is the difference. You can always be sure that you have other alternatives but if it did not work, you know, if the people of Michigan or some county in Los Angeles did not vote for you, Orange County, did not shift the last minute back to the republicans) What will happen to you. He (Sadat) was not willing to take that risk and he was not crazy about it. He knows that he has the cards, he has a hand to play if everything else is stopped, but he doesn’t want to be cornered with no exit. He doesn’t want to test the last chance, he wants the chance before the last to work.
KWS: Or any of the ones before that, but…
KWS: He doesn’t want to get to the dead end in the road.
TB: Never, never.
KWS: And you saw that consistently throughout his entire political career?
TB: Yeah. Yes.
KWS: When you became spokesman, within ten days after after becoming spokesman, there was a real possibility…
TB: Now, I again, I was spokesman in ’63 to the Foreign Office, we created that job which never existed in Egypt under Nasser. Then I did not stay in it, because I was selected to be in the second echelon of the “Vanguard “Party. But Nasser was doing it. He appointed ten and each of the ten would select ten. I was selected in the second ten. And without asking me, he told me the great news, and in Egypt that would have been visionary. Had I accepted that, I would have been Minister for years. And being all my life even before the revolution, non-partisan until today. I told the Minister of Presidential Affairs, who liked me a lot, “Look, I don’t understand this Vanguard party. I am not a partisa unto anybody. I’m an independent Egyptian, I will die like that, so please forgive me I will not accept.” That is already loosing two, three promotions. And these people liked me a lot, I mean don’t get me wrong. “Tahsin, that means you will not be posted to any foreign external office.” I said. “Fine, I take my chances.” He said, “What are you going to do?” They liked me. I said “Well, the Arab League head has always liked me. He offered me to the head their office and I said take it. Because here we will not be able to give it to you.” And I, that’s why I ended my career. I still was their on paper but I ended the spokesman.
KWS: But my question has to do...
TB: Then, then I was spokesman again after the defeat in ’69 under Nassar. That’s where I learned more about Egypt not just the Foreign Ministry. And in that post, I got to know the Vice President (Sadat) was a nothing body, was living in the shadow. He was boring but cunning on Sadat. When Nasser died, I am the one who ordered the Koran and all television and waited for Sadat with Heikal who was Minister of Information, to come to the television to declare to the public that the President died. And having worked at that difficult time as spokesman for Nasser, for Egypt under Nasser, I was more happy to pick up and take either an Egyptian external position or the position of the head of the Arab League in Washington, which was paying much more money. Sadat insisted, and I came and I worked for him.
KWS: Okay, but I have very specific questions about the ’73 War and I don’t want to drift because I don’t have many opportunities to spend with you.
KWS: Was there really a fear that the Soviets were going to send troops here in ’73.
TB: Send troops to help us? Nah. We would have liked if they have send more missiles, and many missiles with their experts on them, but not troops all of that. It’ missiles. The Israeli air force was much more superior than ours and we wanted…
KWS: But did you want them to come and help you after the Israelis created the bulge?
TB: No, it was too late then. Nobody expected that, nobody thought of that, and the Russians never offered. The Russians would have liked Sadat to be defeated.
KWS: Didn’t they send some observers here?
TB: Oh they have their advisors. Some advisors stayed on and many of their army advisors were honest people, not partisans and their hearts were with the Egyptians. The did not have a foreign policy.
KWS: Umm, do remember Resolution 338 and how it was passed?
KWS: Egypt was never consulted.
TB: No, that was Kissinger and the Russians.
KWS: Did it, uhh, how did that affect Sadat?
TB: Fine. It all, it fall into the trap or the contraption that Sadat was building. The Superpowers were happy with the status-quo as it is and find it necessary to change the status-quo. And if they agree in a new formula to allow Syria to join in. Resolution 338 was to allow Syria to join in, and to avoid a nuclear alert or whatever. Fine. But it all fell into line.
KWS: Do you remember Kissinger’s visit here in November 7, 1973?
KWS: What do you remember about it?
TB: The first visit?
KWS: The very first time, and Sadat’s initial reactions to Kissinger.
TB: He came when exactly? November?
KWS: November 7th and 8th.
TB: I remember about it because I was spokesman for Egypt.
KWS: The two of them had this four hour meeting and everyone else walked around in the garden, (Roy) Atherton, Ashraf (Ghorbal) and Herman (Eilts), and…
TB: The key before the visit, all the top people came to ask me whether his name is Kissinger or Kissinger (hard or (“g’) or soft (‘g’)(pronunciation in English or in German diction). Because there was Kurt Kissinger, Kurt Kissinger
TB: In Germany, and this man is he Kissinger or Kissinger? The top people were asking us on many levels, ministers, because the Egyptians pay a lot of attention to personal relationship. Second, Sadat met Kissinger in the morning, and in the afternoon, and then met Heikal in the Hilton. And during this meeting with Heikal a rift happened between Kissinger and Heikal.
KWS: Between them?
TB: Between Heikal, disagreed with the policy that was fed to him, whatever lines Henry told him. He, there was two diametrically opposed positions. Sadat decided to play along with Henry, and Heikal thought that this is not beneficial for Egypt. And since that day the rift started growing between Sadat and Heikal. And I remember earlier in 1971, Heikal was the one who stood with Sadat when Sadat liquidated the Nassarites in the May 1971 “Corrective Revolution…
TB: That’s right. Now, and, Sadat wanted nobody next to him as he wanted Heikal to be next to him. And now, Heikal failed him. And Sadat died with no comprehension, “why would Heikal who had swallowed, for Nassar’s support, rocks and mistakes would not support him in this bid with this decision.
TB: And I remember one time, after he kicked him from the al-Ahram newspaper, he wanted him to come and be press advisor to the President- or any advisor in any capacity to the President. And I was to go between these two people who were close to me trying to negotiate, and to tell Heikal, the best for Egypt is that you swallow your ego…
KWS: …and come back…
TB: …and join. And we together we can moderate his position when he tackles this thing. Because Sadat was given to a very flexible narrative pendulum, but uh… Heikal never budged. So that’s why in the end he put him into two-three months of jail with everybody he put in jail in September 6, 1981. [KWS Sadat threw in jail 1,536 clergymen, professors, journalists, politicians, and lawyers whom he accused of fomenting unrest in Egypt between Moslems and Christians, wanted the Coptic Pope exiled; of Heikal he said to the NYT “he always distorted the image of Egypt in the United States.” Sadat then was violently angry that he had consulted with President Reagan before the crackdown, as if Sadat had to consult with the US before it took action domestically. – clearly US press person insensitive to Egyptian pride and nationalist feeling]
KWS: Tell me about the Geneva Conference.
TB: O.K. In the time of/before the Geneva Conference Fahmy was running high his hopes. Sadat usually gives an impression to people around him that he likes, or he wants to play with, that the sky is too narrow for them, that they should think about other planets. And he had led on Fahmy to think of himself . and he was trying to tell him that… almost Kissinger doesn’t go to shit unless he takes permission or consultation with him (Fahmy).
TB: It’s true!
KWS: I’m sorry, but the way you said it was terrific…
TB: I know!
KWS: …was terrific.
TB: And I was telling him look Kissinger now, has seen that the great man is Assad, not you. -That this is a technique of negotiation, that what his Ismail Fahmy is telling you is bullshit. You’re talking about a man, that I and him, you know we had the same professor, Professor Elliot at Harvard. And I knew Henry from the summer school at Harvard. I knew Henry for many years. When he was not sexy, nobody thought Harvard or Henry Kissinger as sexy and women go for him. And then when I used to..was an undergraduate… are you, are you Nazi? Are you an ex-Nazi? You know… I used to pull his leg. And here, when you hear Ismail Fahmy talking about Kissinger at these days, it is something- total fabrication. I said I had with this man has two, three seminars a week- you know, he doesn’t need Ismail or anybody else to go and do his homework for him. There are techniques of negotiation or “befriendment.” but believe me now is the time of Assad. And actually Henry likes Assad because Assad and him think alike- very balance of power.
KWS: …very balance of power.
TB: And Sadat used to listen to me, but he goes ttimes to Fahmy, so what does Tahsin say? So and so does not want to be in the throes of one man. Anyway, we had a period of, I was close to Sadat personally. I knew the man, I knew he was nothing as a vice president, and Fahmy was irritated by this. So, I get a telephone call that I should go to London as the second man in the embassy with General Shazli. He calls me from Aswan, I said Ismail listen… (KWS– Fahmy seeks to get Tahsin out of Cairo, and away from Sadat because he feels Tahsin is too close to Sadat and vice versa!)
KWS: When is this?
TB: ’74, I think.
KWS: This is after Geneva…
TB:…after Geneva. When?
KWS: Geneva was December ’73.
TB: .. I don’t no after… must be after. They wanted to get rid of him [General Shazli] from the army but they wanted promoted, he asked for London and they wanted to send me with him. Fahmy would do… hit two birds with one shot- get rid of me, and get rid and check- mate Shazli. I refused. And he would use language to compromise me with the President. He said, I tell the president that you are refusing his instructions! And I answered back -instructions of the President come to me directly, not through you. I refuse your suggestions. If the president asks me, I will answer him. He said, I’m carrying the President’s instructions! Ahh! you’re not carrying the President’s instructions. I worked with the man, I know how… Anyway, the end result, I was cancelled from spokesman of Egypt, returned to head a department and to be the spokesman of the Foreign Office. Which means, I’m under the thumb of Fahmy; fine. Because I was irritating Fahmy, with suggestions about a report, and he thought that I was humbled. And he is very polite with friends, very polite but… he can slaughter you politely. And suddenly the telephone rings, and here is Sadat asking me to do this and this and that. So I go back to poke Fahmy. I go and visit him, open the door get in., -Oh by the way, what happened if the President asks me to do something? Am I to come to you?
TB: I said “Ah, I’m not going to go unless you give me an answer. I don’t know what to do.” So, he looks down. He said of course. “You do what the President asks. But, did the President ask you”? I said “Is that what we are asking, when the President asks you something, you come and tell me?” He said “No.” I said “Why you are asking me this question?” He was uncomfortable to answer. And things like that. Okay.
KWS Shimon Shamir told me that he was very impressed with the way you handled yourself.
TB: I’m coming to that story
TB: So one day, Fahmy calls me and I’m under his “thumb [at the Foreing Ministry] And the President talks to me all the time, though I’m not legally his spokesman without even a paper. He said, ummmm, he brought me in, he said “Tahsin, by the way, I’m not going to take you with me to Geneva. Uhh, but I want you to see, to read the statements I’m going to do, to read at Geneva. I said “Well, I’ve never asked for a job in my life, but if you mention Geneva I want to tell you that I’m the most fit to go to Geneva. And if you are not going to take me to Geneva, then I want to know why. And that’s not for personal reasons, that’s for the good of Egypt.” He said, “The acting Prime Minister doesn’t like you.”
KWS: Who was that?
TB: Hattim. I said “Look Ismael, if the acting Prime Minister might have some irritations with me, but if he dislikes me one iota, he hates you a hundred iotas. So if you don’t want to take me, you tell me to my face why you don’t want to take me. But don’t put it on the other hand. Because all that I’m going to do now is going to take my car and go to the acting Prime Minister and give him hell! In the name of Egypt. And I know him enough. So he gets upset. So anyway “Show me.” And he has his advisers (Ahmed Osman, Amre Musa, Omar Sirry) , he gives me the piece, he reads it to me. So I looked, I said “Who is this? Who wrote this sophomoric piece of nonsense?”
TB: Sophomoric piece of nonsense. You know if a student of mine at the Diplomatic Institute wrote of this, with a historic moment when Egypt and Israel meet for the first time in a public peace conference, I’ll flunk him. So he says…
KWS: He must of loved that.
TB: Yeah, well he respected me, good friends, but we disagree on many things. He said “Well, why don’t you sit and correct it and delete. Then I knew that this was orders. Nobody likes to his face in front of him telling this. So I look at him, I said “Look, this is, is beyond retrieval.” Honestly.
KWS: You didn’t say that?
KWS: To his face? In front of Sirry and Shafi
TB: To his face.
KWS: With Ismail Fahmy’s advisers there.
TB: Everybody. I said “Look, this has to be written a new one.” But the fact that he asked me and was very cordial to me, meant that he was ordered to do that, that the President must have told him “Take Tahsin’s opinion on the paper.” Okay…
KWS: But Sadat would never have read the speech.
TB: No, but Sadat before reading this… no, he hasn’t read the speech. Sadat will trust in the final analysis with that speech two people…me and Heikal. So Sadat calls me. And I found from him that he had given the instructions. I said “Mr. President, that’s unfair. This is a sophomoric game. You know, clerks [in the Foreign Office wrote this] Ehhh, something like they say in the U.N., not up to the historic thing at the UN.
KWS: The U.N.
TB: Yeah, the U.N…
KWS: Uh huh. I see, I you.
TB: Though I worked in the U.N. as…have Heikal read it. And it’s really nothing, it’s very bad. He said “Ahh well, read it to Heikal.” And I’m trying to say “We have no time..” I said. “All right, I will read it with Heikal.” I go home and spend, in the wee hours of the morning, my time writing a piece for the President called “Our Public Peace Strategy.” I wrote the piece, I got my secretary to come type it, one copy. I sent it with the Minister of Presidential Affairs to Sadat’s headquarters. The second night, very late at night, two officers from that office come knock on the door, but that was preceded with a phone call from Minister Abdallah, who said that the President has read it, a formulation of the Egyptian Delegation to Geneva has changed, you are number three in it, and the President read it paragraph by paragraph and you conduct it, you’ll be the spokesman for the Delegation and you conduct it the way the President read it and approved it. Well, ’till today, of course, Fahmy never saw it, nobody saw it…
KWS: Nobody saw the paper.
TB: The strategy of peace. But that’s how so I go to Geneva and suddenly uhhhh, Fahmy has to swallow all he said about taking you, we traveled in the same airplane, in the same class. I go to Geneva to do, to face Abba Eban and four Israeli ambassadors. Each one is born to a foreign tongue; the Spanish is born Spanish, the German is born German. And Fahmy to take his revenge appoints to me a first secretary who has a doctorate in foreign affairs in French, he never did, all I did is use his personal car from our place Geneva to communicate for me no secretaries, no nothing. So I had to face Aba Eban, and among the people who were called the “intellectual brigade “were Itamar Rabinovich, Shimon Shamir…
KWS: Shimon Shamir..
TB: Shamir and many of them.
KWS: Shaul Friedlander, Moshe Ma’oz, Tzvi Yavetz, Shaul Friedlander
TB: That’s right. All of these I met at Geneva.
KWS: That’s right.
TB: That’s right. Okay, I’m not a French speaking man, I can understand it.
KWS: But Freelander was.
KWS: And that’s why he was sent.
TB: but he had an ambassador with him…
KWS: That’s right.
TB: Whose mother tongue is French.
KWS: That’s right, that’s right.
TB: But, LeMonde appears the second day. The front page, an appeal to the new generation of those who want peace in Israel in a peaceful way. And we conducted a fantastic discussion When I go to the hotel, I got up in the morning, they ask me if Fahmy still is in his under garments. I mean we are friends. And he says, “I hear LeMonde covered you up on the front page.” I said, “I read what he said.” I know, I know very little French.” I mean I knew exactly what he said, but I didn’t, and I found on his bed LeMonde spread. When we took Sadat for the first visit to Washington, and succeeded, taking the airplane, Jerry Schechter who was the head of TIME magazine Washington office, waved to me “Tashin, I have a present for you.” nd I knew Jerry used to come here. We were in the airplane and we’re sitting there, Hasan Kamel and everybody, and I’m trying to find the present, it was TIME magazine, TIME magazine had a write-up on me, my picture smoking cigars, and the bold face Tahsin Bashir is the reason for Sadat’s success in this first instance. And next to me is Ahmed Bahadeen (the writer/editor of al-Ahram), a good friend of mine and he whispered to me “Tahsin…”
KWS: Who was it?
TB: Ahmed Bahadeen, the writer, the editor of the al-Ahram at the time. He whispered “Tahsin, pack up, pack, back, pack up your papers and everything, you are going to fired if Fahmy noticed something. Well, you think outside that is good for you here? It is the kiss of death. So we went to Geneva. I conducted my game. My game was a brief directly from me to Sadat. Fahmy was there every day, but yet he didn’t know anything but he couldn’t stop it and because we were friends, I went with him when we met Kissinger, Gromyko or this or that person. But that’s how the President conducts his policy. And these directions were to be the Egyptian policy from then ’til today. They haven’t changed.
KWS: What did Sadat want accomplished at Geneva. I mean, he knew it was a ceremony.
TB: No. Geneva was, sometimes you need ceremonies to do weddings or death, to dramatize; to make peace is a possibility to overcome a backlog with an enemy, to show that we are waving, we are moving the mountains. Peace diplomatic ceremonies are like theaters; they expiate a lot of sin. They also create drama and the people need drama. In the world now is with us, if the world is in peace we should not loose that game. We should be an initiator of peace.
KWS: Not lose the game, but not lose the momentum.
TB: Sure, the momentum, but also the game. Because he was conducted then, not simply how to get from the Israelis, that he knew. But he had to transform the Egyptian political scene, and at least neutralize and gain some gains in the Arab political scene.
KWS: Right. Then the two questions that are of critical importance: (1) What concerns did he have about his Arab brethren before Geneva and coming out of Geneva? (2) And what kind of domestic constraints did he have before Geneva and after Geneva?
TB: Geneva itself was not a big problem with the majority of Arabs because the Syrians were going to go to Geneva in principle. At 10:30 p.m., they told us they are not coming. So, I was told by the President to go and sit with Heikal and both of write a rationale for why the Syrians are not coming, and why their not coming means very little. And I asked permission, because it’s late in the day, and we have no secretaries to take or Usamah al-Baz because his handwriting is well so we get him, we can dictate to him, Sadat said, “if you need it, take him.” And that’s when you are commissioned, you can not add people on your own. And I was the one who made Usamah, Fahmy’s Chef du Cabinet. And he had to ask the permission of the President. Anyway, we went to Heikal’s house and we discussed, Heikal and I, or Heikal and I discussed it and we wrote a statement that appeared in the text [why it was not important for the Syrians not to be at Geneva]
KWS: Did Usamah participate at all?
TB: Yeah, in writing it.
KWS: But did he lend any…
TB: Ehhh, very little. Even in the debates in ’72 where we attended, very little.
Usamah attended but his only addition, his only contribution he didn’t like Fahmy, and Fahmy did not like him. He used to mock Fahmy. Just a little. Ahhh, so the only ones who were against Geneva of the key position is the Iraqis. And the rest of the Gulf and the rest of the Arab world thought that’s fine. Geneva is a U.N., the U.N. was there. It’s unlike the negotiations…
KWS: And they didn’t care about the distinction that was being made that was un…
TB: Under 338
KWS: No, that it was the U.S. and the Soviet Union that were making Geneva run and it really wasn’t the U.N. The fact that the U.N. was there was enough.
TB: Was enough, after all…
KWS: Fahmy made this big deal about it.
TB: Yes, but Fahmy was very good at that, avoiding the technical tracks. That I give him credit for, but the U.N. was there…
KWS: Wait, and at the end of the day Sadat didn’t care about it, he just wanted them there. He didn’t care about what capacity.
TB: No, he leaves to his assistants to cover up the muck,, to clean up the muck. But, for example, Fahmy applied with venom the kicking of the Soviet Union out of center stage. He could have done it less, but the direction was kick the Russians out as much as possible. Accommodate Henry. But you can do it 100%, you can do it 30%, you can do it 50%At that time, Fahmy was building himself and knowing that the American way is the new connection. And he did it all the way.
KWS: I understand.
TB: Uhhh, and when the Russians objected to us in the talks, I said “Ahhh, “you are Superpower, another Superpower. What do we have to do with it? You are asking me to tell the Americans? You go tell the Americans. You’re Superpowers together.” And in negotiations Fahmy gets, I give him credit. But, his conception of the world is very limited. He’s very good with technical negotiations.
KWS: And Sadat knew that.
TB: Or got to know that. For example, this is just one and we’ll finish with this. Both of them decided to keep me out of the details of the second disengagement.
KWS: Decided to what? To keep…
TB: To keep me out of the…
KWS: Of the second disengagement.
TB: Of the details.
KWS: Of the second disengagement.
TB: And a lot of the Egyptian negotiation was taking place at the summer cabin of Ismail Fahmy sitting in his bathroom, he was trying to imitate Kissinger, a lot but without the mechanisms. And we committed a lot of mistakes by this, you know.
TB: Yeah, I mean it created not having enough time for the maps sometimes. Now it’s not, but at that time, that was big. Ahmed Osman was brought in from Vienna or something, and Aharon (Barak) comes to me and says “Ohhh I added this little thing to give me a whole bad bundle of stories. So I ask him the real questions and he knows nothing about it. Anyway, when the Americans came back, and Hindi(?) and I have streams, I mean I know from, so he kisses me and I remember it very well because the then Vice President and the then Prime Minister didn’t know Kissinger. So here Kissinger comes down, hugs the President…
KWS: Wait, is this ’75?
TB: ’75. September ’75. He comes to me, he hugs me, then we go on our way to chat. I tell him “You are being told that this son of a bitch that Sadat did this and this” and he answers me back and yea, ehhh. And the Vice President, who was Mubarak is irritated. He wanted to be kissed too. I mean, it’s here , and you know the man umm, so suddenly one of the Americans argues with me about some details about some detail I knew in fact. I said this in Egypt this will be done. Egypt would forfeit if he tried to use our process to settle this problem. And I said “This is ridiculous. You can’t ask a country to do that while it’s still occupied.” To use it minimally, to use it even almost, you with all the doors closed, but not…so I get the text. And I use the text and I see red I take my car, which is next door to Moteza where we are staying, to go to the President’s house. I’m entering there and Gamasy is entering there. I said “What is this General? How do you allow this nonsense?” He looked at me and said “Tahsin, I’m only military. When we go inside you talk, I’m not going to talk. I don’t, I’m military, I don’t. So I told the President “What is this in the article this part about? He looks at me, laughing, and said “Did Fahmy give you the text?” I said “You know that Fahmy has been keeping the text out of me.” So he laughs more. They were agreed, keep it from me because I don’t like pieces in it. They figure out, he said “Look Tahsin”, he sat with me in many private, and me I sat with him in many private talks with many generals, Egyptians and non-Egyptians, who told him that the Egyptian army needed to be safe-guarded, like the other side means to be safe-guarded diplomatically because militarily the deployment was bad. He said “Say whatever you like to say about the agreement but if you spoil it, I will hang you. That’s it. That’s my direction for the second disengagement.” Sitting…
KWS: If you spoil it, I’ll hang you?
TB: Yeah. That’s it! Sitting with the President at dinner that night, after we signed. I asked two top Americans, next to Kissinger…
KWS: Saunders and Atherton
TB: No, more technical than that, okay. No. Anyway, “how do you think,” (I might have asked also), “how do you think that you will get the rest of Sinai. We paid a lot for this. Israel can sleep on it for many years.” And their uniform answer was “Peace momentum.”
KWS: Peace momentum?
TB: What is this peace momentum? When, just to conclude, when Sadat must have figured out that “peace momentum” is a term that covers nothing, it’s like waiting for Godoh. That he has to do the changes himself, and when all doors close, and when Carter told him he had to wait for better times, he decided to make better times himself. And went to Jerusalem. And he told everybody about going to Jerusalem, he told them and did not tell them, including Fahmy. He will tell it teasingly, as if it’s a story and if your reaction to it is bewilderment, he will withdraw it. He said “I’m kidding you.”
KWS: In Sadat’s mind…
TB: I have to go, I have to see Mustafa Khalil
KWS: Well, I have to see you one more time because…
KWS: In Sadat’s mind, where were the Palestinians at this point, in his mind, after the ’73 War?
TB: If the two protagonists, start making peace, then everybody else will have to adjust. We will help them, find, give them the sort of needs for Palestinians. Ahhh, this decision was taken without consultation by anybody. You know, all this books you read about the Arabs giving them this, ehhh, it was a bullshit. They, yeah, one Palestinian suggested it, the others were giving the Palestinians nothing and to taking it in while I was sitting there in Casablanca, I said “Fine.” And fine, it passed, and nobody else would take the trouble to stop it but King Hussein.
KWS: But Sadat was not going to be derailed from this process of building on the ’73 War?
TB: He would ring them had they jumped on his wagon.
KWS: He would have brought them along full, for both
TB: As much as he could.
KWS: He would have brought them along…
TB: Along as much as he could. But he will not allow them to deter him. By not being there, being out of the talks like at MENA House (December 1977); (when the Arab states and the Palestinians did not show up in Cairo, they, the Arabs made it easy for Sadat—he could “drive alone,” Kws
KWS: It made it easy for him.
TB: What are you going to do?
KWS: I have to, I’m going out to Heliopolos to the sporting club to see Gamasy
KWS: Ashraf) has talked to me about it, Usamah has talked to me about it, you’ve talked to me about it…
TB: About what?
KWS: This some on again/off again tension amongst the people who were close to Sadat in the Foreign Ministry…
TB: Depends on what you did.
KWS: And, yes, yes it varies.
TB: In that period there was none- Ashraf and Usamah, Ashraf ended it by going to America.
KWS: Okay, but my point is this, did this kind of jockeying exist under Nasser amongst the advisors?
TB: To some, I mean, we have to sit again on that.
KWS: I just want to know what the context is. I don’t want to put this, take this out of proportion.
TB: Yeah, none of these tensions existed, mostly it was not a dialogue tension. This people did not fight with the President.
KWS: No, not with the President, but they fought for the President’s ear, without fighting with the President. In other words, there was a denial of access…
TB: That would be, that would be Ashraf at one time and Fahmy at another time, and me, and Usamah came in on this, when Usamah worked with the Vice President, that is after ’75.
KWS: Did this kind of in-fighting, which is present in any bureaucracy, did it prevent you from influencing Sadat more than you could otherwise, because Sadat wasn’t going to be influenced anyway.
TB: No, I, uhhh, one has to differentiate I had a very close personal relationship [with Sadat}
TB: Relationship. He knew that I did not take any promotion. Didn’t get a house from government, didn’t get anything.
KWS: You were kosher.
TB: I was kosher to him, to him. The others, even Fahmy was very clean. He took an apartment for his son and the day that he found him or he accepted. I was still with Jehan (Sadat). “But you have been fighting with him.” Fighting with him is one thing, for different opinions, but he’s a clean man. He said “Ehh, not that clean. After all, he took this..” And she told me the story which was correct and the rent, and you know and Nabil was making out of it two thousand dollars a month. That is in one month more than the salary of the Minister in four months. But, ehhh, this is limited on the ones on top. Then you have it at the lower levels. Those who are fighting for Fahmy’s ear. Omar Sirry vs. Usamah and uhhh, Fahmy likes Omar Sirry, certainly more than he likes Usamah. Usamah is a writer. It is complicate
KWS: It’s an extraordinarily fascinating part of Egyptian diplomacy that…
TB: It’s everywhere.
KWS: That no one knows anything about.
TB: Yeah, but that’s everwhere, in every diplomacy.
KWS: And, and
TB: Even with Kissinger they were doing that.
KWS: Oh, the stories between Saunders and Sisco.
KWS: But you know…
TB: And Peter Rothman, and the others and even his typing, his secretary. He who trusts in the typing, because even in this position, your secretary is very important, you give her a memo and she likes you, she can help you. If she doesn’t like you, she can drop a counter-word
KWS: Right. Right?
TB: That’s true in any.. but, but Sadat never carried a grudge unless you attacked him and his family.
KWS: Or unless you directly undermined him…
TB: And none of these people were fired by Sadat. I was, many times, and it turned as quickly as that.
KWS: And Sadat didn’t hold a grudge with them even when they resigned? He never touched…
TB: No. No, no, no Fahmy. Once, once you attacked him or proven that you are not up to the task, then he will never treat you (well)again.
KWS: But he never was vindictive to Fahmy.
TB: Nah, nah, nah, nah.
KWS: You see that’s interesting too.
TB: He was not vindictive per se…
KWS: Right, I mean didn’t throw Fahmy in jail when he threw all these other people in jail. [September 18, 1981].
TB: No, Fahmy. was not doing anything. He didn’t do anytying, cursing. No. Fahmy, actually realized it that once he realized his mistake, he tried to join again. That’s the story which he tells. And they came again with him, they send him Hafez Ismail, who started massaging his ego by saying ,”The only one can settle this mess here is you, as National Security Advisor.” And Fahmy’s appetite went sky high. And they kept him for months, helping to limit an attack. Once he’s finished and he never attacked, I mean they’re not vindictive. His son was getting very good jobs at the Foreign Ministry.
KWS: Can I see you again in January when I come back?
TB: Ahh sure. Sure. I’ll see you in then
KWS: If you don’t like him; are you going to the Conference?
TB: Yeah, I told you that.
KWS: Oh, you’re going to the Shamir Conference?
KWS: Oh, I didn’t know that. Okay.
TB: Sunday I’m leaving. What time you leaving?
KWS: I’m leaving Wednesday night.
TB: Ahh. Okay.
KWS: I’ll see you.
TB: See you there.
Need to space speakers in this interview, like the last one
Ken Stein Interview with Tahsin Bashir, July 13, 1993, Cairo, Egypt
KWS: Anyway, you said that Ghorbal was passed over.
TB: Sadat never considered Ghorbal to be heavyweight. He considered him excellent. But that’s…
KWS: But not the do-good…
TB: No. When he listed him as spokesman for Egypt, during the first part of the October war, he ended firing him. He fired him and got me… made me lose a very lucrative job with the Arab League to work as spokesman for Egypt. He always said that Ghorbal was green.
KWS: He had a chance to see Ghorbal here as…
TB: Ghorbal worked for him for more than a year.
KWS: Yes, Hafez Ismail’s deputy.
TB: Yes. No, he wasn’t…
KWS: That was the official title.
TB: I’m saying de facto, like in the White House workings, Ismail had his and Ghorbal had his. He promoted him financially a lot. But when he tested him during the war, he said he’s green and departed.
KWS: He took Fahmy, whom he didn’t know.
TB: No, no. Fahmy, I and Fahmy have been suspended from our jobs.
KWS: Right, I remember that.
TB: Okay, so he wanted to play a new game. He wanted to change to America.
TB: So he had to pick,new persons, not Mahmud Riad), he went out of his way to irritate Mahmud Riad. Because Mahmud Riad will be not as flexible in going that way (toward the Americans).
KWS: But why did he not fire Zayat
KWS: Why did he not fire Zayat?
TB: Zayat was not his choice. He didn’t like Zayat, Zayat was not his choice. Zayat was picked by Aziz Sidky, the Prime Minister who knew him, and this was a cabinet, was supposed to throw cotton in the eyes of the Soviets. And actually, Aziz was able to get, after we fired the experts, to get more aid from the Soviets then otherwise. He took his pick in the ministry. He picked, at first, Murad Ghaleb
KWS: Right, that you told me.
TB: Then when Murad Ghaleb was fired for the first time. He did something…
KWS: He shouldn’t have done. Right. I want to get beyond though…
TB: Now, Zayat was the kind of man, when you ask him a question, he’s from Damietta, it’s a business, so he wants to figure out what is your game. Why are you asking this question. And he makes a bet that if you want this answer, so he will leave…
KWS: I know those people.
TB: And that’s why he lost it.
TB: Actually the one who answered a straight answer was Fahmy. We cannot pass a new 242., can not pass a new 242 (to get the negotiations started) That was straight. And Sadat wanted to know always what is the bottom line. That was the bottom line. Zayat played it this way or that way. [He equivocated on 242]
KWS: In other words, Zayat stood on the fence
TB: That’s right. And he was not his.
KWS: Wobbled or waffled.
TB: That’s right.
KWS: According to the smell in the air.
TB: That’s right.
KWS: But when he asked a question of Ismail Fahmy, he got a straight answer.
TB: That’s right. And Ghorbal does some of that too.
KWS: Would you say that Ismail was a straight shooter?
TB: At least when he is asked by the President a serious question.
KWS: What were his outstanding qualities as a foreign minister?
TB: That’s a different question. Now we are talking about why Sadat chose this.
KWS: I understand why.
TB: The why was that he wanted a new face to begin with. And a new face that will do his bidding. Ismail Fahmy did not know why he was chosen ’til he was fired. It’s only when he was fired, he cherished the fact, he thought that he was picked for his sterling qualities. Actually, for Sadat, he was going to do his [Sadat’s]bidding. So long that he’s doing his bidding…
KWS: His bidding in what realm? In the realm vis-a-vis the Soviets, the Arabs…
KWS: But not the Washington portfolio. That Sadat kept to himself.
TB: No. No, no. The negotiation with Kissinger, Fahmy played a very important role in it. But within the frame of reference agreed by Sadat. Heikal’s problem was that he did not like, he objected to the frame of reference. Zayat would do anything. But, he was not his [Sadat’s] type. He wanted a younger man, a more dynamic man. The only one that Sadat knew from before was me. I knew him as the Vice President. Now…
KWS: Eilts tells me that Fahmy was a very good drafter of memorandum. He was very good technically.
TB: I’ll give, Ismail is a very good negotiator. If you give him [set parameters, which is what Sadat did], that’s what I want and you go this way only, he will negotiate. He’s a tough negotiator, dogged, hard-working, crude. And that he did very well. But he has a lot of personal fancy. He fancied himself that Kissinger doesn’t do anything in the Middle East, until he Kissinger consulted with him [Fahmy].
KWS: You said to me that Fahmy believed that Kissinger wouldn’t sneeze until Fahmy gave him permission.
TB: On the Middle East.
KWS: On the Middle East, okay. A Middle East sneeze
TB: Sadat was not that kind of demanding guy, he never allows his ego to go beyond the decision. It’s different when you use your ego for bravado, but when you take decisions, Sadat was a real down-to-earth person, who knows this takes 6 months, it can not occur in four, a realist. He knows human nature, he has been ups and downs of history. He comes from a very poor background. He comes from a poorer family than Nasser. So he was willing to allow flexibility, so long that he’s (Famy) is going his (Sadat’s) way.
KWS: And you said to me, you were quite clear in the last interview, you said “And above all, remember that Sadat did not keep a grudge.”
TB: So long that you don’t attack him personally. That’s, this qualification is very important. I used to fight with him but he knew I will not attack him.
KWS: You also told me, and I’ve also learned from other people, that Sadat kept his own counsel.
TB: Oh definitely. All the time.
KWS: He wouldn’t sit down and discuss an issue with someone unless it happened to be a rare occasion.
TB: No, no. Sadat would pick many, would listen to many people. Listen. If you bullshit him, he will not embarrass you.
KWS: But he didn’t read. He listened.
TB: He listened. And most reports are written in the end with an executive summary anyway. Then he’d sit sober under a tree and mulls over how this works. And he thinks in the forest, not in the trees. He will do the trees only if it is conspiratoric (not sure what this means). He’s going to get rid of this, he enjoys, that’s his past time. Ismail Fahmy was a very good negotiator, he was not the maker of policy. He thought he was the maker of policy.
KWS: And Sadat never disabused him of that notion?
TB: No, on the contrary. It’s like Mubarak in a way and Amer (Musa) now
KWS: Gave him as much leash as possible.
TB: Yes! And he made him to expect the end of the world. To be Vice President, to be prime minister, everything. He knew exactly what is your weakness and fit it.
KWS: Sadat did.
TB: Sadat. You know, the crumbling of Ismail was the trip to Israel.
KWS: But Sadat also knew that there was this tension, acrimony between Ghorbal and Fahmy. He was quite aware of that.
TB: Oh yes. In full details. And he will come in the end, like when we went to Salzburg and accommodate Ghorbal after Ismail will take him down the drain.
KWS: And try to deny him to even come.
TB: Yeah. And then he lets him come. And as a grudge, and he (Ghorbal) stays away from [that meeting with Ford, Kissinger, Eilts, Sadat in Salzburg- Ghorbal was hurt by Fahmy’s games]it. Oh Ismail is a killer if you get in his way. But Sadat kept accessibility beyond his foreign ministry.
KWS: What do you mean accessibility beyond the foreign minister
TB: That he’s accessible to anyone.
KWS: Ah, ah, ah, in other words…
TB: I could go to him and tell him a counter opinion,
KWS: Would he encourage it?
TB: He definitely does not discourage it. On the other hand, sometimes he picks it and goes to Fahmy, and gives it to him in his face. And Fahmy blows at me. Sometimes he doesn’t tell him.
KWS: Omar Sirry told me the story that they were sitting with Sadat on like the 30th of October or the 28th, no the 27th October, before Fahmy goes to Washington and before Kilometer 101 talks start, and it was the first time that Sadat sat there and dictated, or he spoke, he didn’t actually dictate, he spoke and Sirry took notes about what Sadat’s strategic outline was going to be for Fahmy to take to Washington. Sirry said he took it down verbatim, and them Sadat asked for a copy of it. Sirry sent him a copy of it, and to Sirry’s amazement, Sadat corrected the small portions that were not right, and in fact as Sirry reflects to me, he said, “more importantly, Sadat was right. I left out two or three words, I left out two or three concepts, Sadat filled it in exactly as he had said it.” And it was that that Fahmy then took to Washington which became the critical six points. Now Sirry said he was amazed at Sadat’s ability to do this.
TB: When he concentrates, he concentrates. But it is not every day that he concentrates.
KWS: That’s very interesting. It’s a very nice story that Sirry tells. He had great admiration for Sadat’s ability and also great admiration for Fahmy. But Eilts said that Fahmy was a good, a good diplomat. That he wrote good memorandums, he wrote good cables…
TB: Oh yes. He’s an excellent negotiator. You know diplomats can have many functions.
KWS: And qualities.
TB: You know, he will come with new ideas. Now, the one who will come with new ideas more was Sadat. But Ismail was a very good negotiator.
KWS: Okay. You took me down to the Geneva Conference, and I told you that Shimon Shamir had said to me that he was so impressed with the way you handled the world press. And you said you’d talk to me about it and tell me about it, but we never got to it. So, what I want to know is I want you to describe to me the atmosphere of the conference, what your goals were, and how you think you performed.
TB: Nah, you have to wait for my memoirs. But, essentially this…
KWS: You’re writing your memoirs?
TB: I will not publish them now because my enemies will be too many.
KWS: But have you written them?
KWS: Please write. Please, please, please.
TB: One day, I was called, I was in this dual faction, I was in the Foreign Ministry, I take my salary from the Foreign Ministry, but I am an officer of the President. And I keep shuffling. One day, Fahmy calls me in and we had some tension. I thought that his understanding of America was limited, and his understanding with Kissinger was limited, tough negotiator as he is. And he compensates this by covering up and not letting me know. In the second disengagement, he told Sadat he will not let me know. And when I knew the text of it, I got mad. I was against it and I thought it was a poor document. It was a flop for Mubarak, and for Sadat, and Ismail, and I went rushing to the President. “What is this nonsense?” And his answer was “Did Ismail show it to you?” I said “Mr. President, you know that Ismail has been keeping that from me. I got it from the Americans” (aside in Arabic). You want some coffee?
KWS: I’ll have some.
TB: So he laughed. I said “How do you accept to put in writing that you will not use the Egyptian armed forces (Arabic aside), while the country is occupied?” He said, “Look Tahsin, do whatever you like to say. But if you ruin it for me, I will hang you.” That was the only direction I got from Sadat on the second disengagement. The military were fuming, but they are cowards. Gamasy and them. He was fuming. He was against it, he didn’t say anything except “it’s political decision.”
KWS: It’s a good excuse. It’s a great way out.
TB: Ismail Fahmy calls me to his office and he has Omar Sirry and Shafi, and he says “I want you to read the speech I’m going to give in Geneva.”
KWS: Now this is different than Sinai Two?
TB: That’s different from Sinai Two. This is Geneva (1973).
KWS: All right. Oh yes. You told me the story about Geneva, you said “What is this rubbish?”
TB: Yeah. And I knew that he’s calling me because the President must have told him “Let Tahsin read the text.” Because when I went home, the President called. He said “What happened?” I said “Well, Ismail had some rubbish that cannot be resurrected. I have to write a new one.” That night again, the Syrians, Foreign Minister Khaddam, shocked us by telling us just before the news 8:30 in the evening, they are not going to go to Geneva. It’s up to us to say anything. So we say “You and Heikal think of something.” I said “Can I use Usamah al-Baz because his hand-writing is good and it’s late, to come with us to write this?” And I came with an idea that Heikal agreed to. “Well Tahsin, we are going to trail, to blaze trail this road, and if it works…” Fahmy in Geneva went all the way to Kissinger. He did not bargain. That was his instruction. But to my mind, he went beyond the pale. That means, we were going to Geneva to do an Egyptian-Israeli, we are not going to trail blaze this road and even prevent me from seeing Zeid Rifai (PM of Jordan who wanted some disengagement, wanted to satisfy the Palestinians. So there was nothing in Geneva but Egypt and Israel.
KWS: Were those Fahmy’s instructions?
TB: Fahmy’s instructions were to cooperate fully with Kissinger. But he went out of his way to veer away from the Soviet Union. In a very crude way.
KWS: Fahmy did
TB: Fahmy. And he threw the table of events when he invited us for dinner. And said the Americans are doing this and this. If you are going to do it with them, he said “Mr. Deputy Prime Minister here, if your two superpowers talk to each other, you want us to intervene with you and them. It’s your business. You go pressure the Americans.” And got nothing, he got nothing for Jordan. He was concentrating on Egypt. You get an instruction, but how far do you push an instruction?
KWS: Well Fahmy’s instructions…
TB: Fahmy contradicted his position, but when Sadat faced him with a trip to Jerusalem, he waffled. And that’s why he decided…
KWS: I understand that. But we’re talking about Geneva now. At Geneva, at Geneva, you say that Sadat told Fahmy to go along with Kissinger, essentially because Kissinger and Sadat had worked it out in advance. In other words, essentially the same thing he would say to you two years later, “You do whatever you want, but don’t screw it up for me. You can play with the little toys, but don’t mess up the end goal.” Right? That’s about right. But at Geneva, when you went, you went, did you know that there was going to be no negotiation going on?
TB: I went high road for Sadat. The policy that became the Egypt public policy at least. It was my baby, my invention, I didn’t consult anybody. I sent it to Sadat, who came late, early officer’s came with my paper, Sadat corrected. That’s okay, this okay, and then he informed on the telephone that I have been appointed to the delegation of this party. To the charging that it made Ismail upset. So instead, I have to face Abba Eban and the four Israeli ambassadors, each born to a foreign tongue. Speak German, I had nobody, not a secretary, not a car So, only I had one from secretary who studied some penal law or something, and knew nothing about the media. So I had to handle it alone. And I did. I made the policy for Israel for Sadat… Ismail doesn’t know about this. He didn’t see my instructions from Sadat.
KWS: What was the policy? In short.
TB: In short, is that Egypt is gearing, Sadat will not tell you the end product. You read his mind. “Read my lips.” And if you knew the lips rightly, you win. I made a policy of open peace. Worked on it, Sadat approved it, and it became the message that shocked everybody in Geneva. For example, I started the first day with the French speaking. With me telling the peaceniks in Israel, those who love peace among the Israelis, let’s forget. You know, bury the hatchet and start making peace that is reasonable and fair to both sides. And I went to, in the morning, Fahmy was in his underwear, and said “I am told that LeMond has a front page status with you.” I said “Ahh, I don’t know any French.” I saw the LeMonde, so I started contacting them and returned to him. The he talks about what he did to this and that, I get what he was doing, I knew that Geneva was just a dramatization of peace. Not (Arabic here), not the negotiating table. It’s to dramatize that here Egypt is getting to peace, here is America committed, here is Russia committed, and it started the first…
KWS: Did he ever talk to you about speaking on behalf of the Syrians or speaking on behalf of the Palestinians?
TB: No, speaking on behalf of the Palestinians, yes. But, on behalf of the Syrians, it was my statement and Haykal, why the Syrians did not come. We are saying that testing… He kept wanting to satisfy the Palestinians. Ismail Fahmy’s understanding of Arab politics is narrow.
TB: Narrow. Very limited. So he covers up by satisfying the Palestinians and he went out of his way to irritate the Jordanians. By doing this he figures out that the Palestinians will be satisfied. So the vast Arab opinion usually followed the Palestinians. So he’s covered this way. But I remember years past, when he went to the Americans all the way, I went to him one day, and I was in the doghouse. I said “Ismail, where are you taking Sadat? We’re going with the Americans in an open-ended way and you’re taking Sadat one way.” And Ismail lies. Even in his memoirs, he lies about it. And I… he said well “Any national leader has to take different decisions at certain times.” But when Sadat took the difficult decision, Ismail was not there.
KWS: How did Sadat get on with Gamasy? Respect?
TB: He respected Hafez Ismail, he respected Gamasy’s talents, I don’t think he liked Gamasy though. Usually, if Hafez Ismail lived to be, this would have been a problem. Though the man was big at different times. Always have a problem when a national hero or a military hero, who has been through the mill, who was defeated and succeeded. What do you do with that? But you appointed. Gamasy, he put him down. And he drove a wedge between Gamasy and Mubarak. Until now, Gamasy never got his due. Gamasy is a very good military technician. He’s not a leader, he’s not over-courageous, but he has a clear mind, very disciplined, but that’s all. He is not a leader. He is not a leader of men. He is a very tough military…
KWS: Did Sadat identify Mubarak as a leader?
TB: No. When he picked Mubarak, he called me to me in and said “I just did a…,” I saw them coming in. One from the right, one from the left. They went out. He counted. He said “Why do you think I picked him?” I said “Well, the only reason I can see, and don’t get mad at me, is that his wife’s mother and his (?) wife’s mother are English. He laughed. He said. “Don’t kid me.” I said “Well, I’ll tell you the real reason, but you’ll be mad.” He said, “What is the real reason?” I said “It’s about time, Mr. President, enough, let them go to the army instead.” He said “Look, not in my lifetime and not in your lifetime for at least another fifty years. The President will be military. Until the public…”
KWS: The President will be…?
TB: From the military. Until the military and the civilians are totally meshed within Egypt.
KWS: It will be the military.
TB: Up until then, it will be the military. I said, “Well, yes, you picked young man, who never thought of being a vice president, let alone an ambassador.” And he appointed him an ambassador to be a great tool. He’s young, so he can wait for it. He’s not like Gamasy, who is almost the same age.
TB: Be patient. Once, you know, if you are three or four years younger, who will die first?
KWS: Where was Mustafa Khalil at this point?
TB: No, he was not there at this point.
KWS: Not even an emerging politician?
TB: No. Mustafa Khalil was at first, disliked by Sadat. Because Mustafa Khalil had written a letter in favor of Baghdadi, in this election after Nasser. But later Jehan (Sadat’s wife) met Mustafa Khalil at the party and she asked why did you not support my husband?
KWS: Did you have to peddle, sell, convince the Arab world that Sinai I was not a separate agreement?
KWS: Were you successful at it?
TB: A little. Any military agreement was not the first. We had many Sinai first, in the history of this but it didn’t come like this (through negoiations), including the armistice. The armistice stated it is for an everlasting peace.
KWS: Did Sadat want a Syrian-Israeli agreement in order to get to a second Egyptian-Israeli agreement? Did he have to have one as a fig-leaf, as an umbrella, or did he have to have one because he needed it, because he believed in it? And I never understood why you didn’t go from Sinai One to Sinai Two. Why you had to go off to the Syrians.
TB: Thhat had to do with Kissinger.
KWS: Did the oil embargo have anything to do with it? The need of the United States to get…
TB: No, because we got off the oil embargo before ’74.
KWS: March or April it began to… The Saudis tell us that…
TB: He was trying to make a unique relationship.
TB: Sadat. Between the U.S. It’s a unique relationship to be financed by the Saudis and separate from any other friendly relation. He wants… Israel has a unique relation with America, which cannot be duplicated. But he wants next to that, a very special relationship with America which continued to work. During Sadat’s days, now it’s a little bit eroding (mumble).
KWS: This is going to be a tough question but, and it’s really an opinion question more than anything, but you saw it unfold in front of you. Did Sadat use Kissinger or did Kissinger use Sadat or was it mutual?
TB: Both, both. Kissinger was exactly the son-of-a-bitch that Sadat is. Both of them are exploitive.
TB: Sadat is kinder and his ego is not as big. But Henry is a big bullshitter. The only one who put him down was Golda. And his attempts to shift techniques from the Vietnam treaty to the conference in the Middle East and balance of power, is very tenuous. But through the by-product of Kissinger shuttle has created a dynamism that put the Middle East in the center of the world. And we played it. I played it.
KWS: And Sadat liked that.
TB: Oh yes. We played it. I and Sadat played it. I suggested to him that we will use, every time Kissinger comes, we’ll take him to another part of Egypt so the American public and American Jews will see when they talk about Egypt, they are not taking about the gamusa and some poor hungry Egyptian. They are going to see the glory…
KWS: Aswan, Alexandria…
TB: Everything. And I take him to the High Dam. Here the Americans sacrificed Egypt for less than 200 million dollars, over fifteen years. That was planned.
KWS: So, at each stop there was a history of modern Egypt that you wanted to impart…
TB: Yes, and the fact, to impart to Mubarak, but, above all to the American people via the press core. That’s why all the trips, my, my spokesmanship was essentially to compliment these people.
TB: They fight now, almost every week. This was calcultated And at the same time, businessmen, with the Jewish group, the Jewish Congress, and Sadat was essential. He was unmatched, I mean, Ismail and others were not as open as Sadat.
KWS: I get the feeling, simultaneously, Ashraf was doing a good job in Washington with the Jewish…
TB: Ashraf was doing a good job in Washington public relations wise.
TB: And with the administration, and with heads of organization, the public at large.
TB: Why they [critics of Ashraf Ghorbal] are critical of Ashraf now is that at Camp David, he was not able to impart on the Egyptian side. The political thinking of Carter and his negotiating team, why do the Israelis have this thing
KWS: What do you mean he didn’t impart? What should…
TB: We did not know how the President, who’s advising him on Middle East, what they are coming from, what was their hoped for end result, Camp David is essentially a negotiation between Carter and Begin. With three people that are around Begin with importance. Dayan, Ezra, and Barak(?). Barak is the ‘smother’ [drafter] but the two real issues were these two: all the negotiation was the Carter team trying to come closer to something that Sadat can accept.
KWS: How did Sadat get on with Dayan?
TB: Dayan plays… is a complicated man. He would be very tough when he represents Israel. Then he goes to the Americans, and he was looking for ways, , and suggests to them how to overcome some of the things he’s said. I think Sadat got along better with Ezer. Ezer was interested in peace. Dayan was interested in promoting his, he was very, you cannot imagine it without Dayan. But he was more interested, I think, in introducing his own compromises. The Egyptian delegation, on the other hand, was not more productive. All they did…
KWS: You mean at Camp David?
TB: At Camp David. They were sitting with a nice gentleman minister who was a about international politics that Kamal will go to him, and the man feels that Egypt is being defeated And he went close to Sadat (outside noise too strong.) Before you resign, if you want to do something, it’s to give you an option, an alternative, possibilities. He didn’t do that. Only stuck to the marks on his text. And worst of the diplomats around him (in MIK book Sadat rips the Egyptian Foreign Minister officials of not have a broad enough view of what what Sadat wanted to do—kws note) But Usama tried to help. That’s it. Carter said Usama are you speaking for the President?
KWS: But how did Sadat get along with Dayan earlier. Like in Ismailia?
TB: Well, Ismalia with Begin around was quiet because Sadat, for the first time, looked at the Palestinians. So Begin went to the negotiation with a plan. If you say anything according to the plan, fine. If you bring the Palestinian in, that’s not in his plan. He worked on an assumption that peace with Egypt would is a downplay the Palestinians. Sadat went with a plan, first we take Egypt. Let me take mine step-by-step, but not at the expense of the others, Begin didn’t want the Palestinians…
KWS: Did you ever go with Sadat to visit Begin
TB: I was out during that time, I was permanent delegate to the Arab League.
KWS: What year?
TB: ‘Til Camp David. Then I was (inaudible). Then it came from Camp David that all the Arab countries would be suspect, especially Saudi Arabia, they wouldn’t take it. (Outside noise???) too easy and now I say Sadat is going to Israel and (outside noise) But I know the man. So he told me the story. Again, the idea of meeting head on is an old idea.
KWS: When in ’76 did you go to the Arab League?
TB: Early spring. After a fight with Fahmy.
KWS: Is it fair to say that Sadat’s purpose for going to war in ’73 was to get back Sinai, to bring in the Americans, to push out the Soviets, to use diplomacy then to get the rest of Sinai?
TB: That is too much but almost He went [to war]in ’73 for two reasons. But he was not going to war if he put the Egyptian army at risk. He wanted to put the sraeli army on defense. Gain support from America. Change the status quo. After that, use whatever diplomacy and work with the Israelis and the Americans If you want peace in the area. Now, if the peace the Americans, wants to exert pressure on the Russians, ok/
KWS: So that wasn’t a currency he was afraid to use. The U.S. wants the Soviets out; If that’s what Kissinger wants, that’s fine.
TB: He is willing to trade on that. And that is not new. That is the lesson of Nasser. Nasser, Arab nationalist, used Arab nationalism as a selling point to America. Afraid the Middle East will go Communist, through Arab nationalism it will not work. You [the Americans] support the Arab nationalism. That’s why Nasser was always willing to go, it’s Israel in ‘54 that refused the ? speech. So Sadat was going to Israel. He was not Communist and there was no Communism…
KWS: How impatient was Sadat to get this done after the ’73 War?
TB: He was impatient when the pressures made him impatient. The ’73 War is the hand that made him stronger. Sadat of the two meetings by Ismail and Kissinger [early 1973] If Egypt did this or this or that, Sadat was willing at that time to move if Israel would withdraw. There is a way, aside from war, to change the status quo. To make Americans inhabit the peace process, he would not have been too happy. He was reluctant; once he realized that the [to the Israelis for a small withdrawal from Sinai in 1973 message is a joke], that unless there is status quo change, and the guard is changing, I will not do anything, he decided… Even a little bit.
KWS: What was his attitude towards the Syrians as he figured all this out in his head? Hermann Eilts tells me that Sadat didn’t like the Syrians at all
TB: He didn’t like them but he knew that for the success of his effort militarily, they have to Sadat has to have the Syrians, But Hermann Eilts came later
KWS: Hermann Eilts came on November 5th.
TB: Yes. Later.
KWS: With Henry
TB: Yes, after the war.
KWS: Did Sadat at all want to make an agreement with Rabin during ’76, that you know of?
TB: Oh definitely. ’76…
KWS: After Sinai Two, after September ’75.
TB: After Sinai Two, he was willing to settle the Middle East. Henry convinced him that he was to shop with the other Arabs. And he accepted that.
KWS: Why did Henry sell this comprehensive stuff?
TB: That’s the comprehensive.
TB: Because that was an Arab demand. Even Sadat could not have done it without the term “comprehensive.” Because the issue is the Palestinians, not the Egyptians. If he does without comprehensive…
KWS: But you said that even though he was sincere, he still wanted to let Egypt have the…
TB: Peace to Egypt. But it has to be comprehensive, eventually.
TB: No, I mean, he was not putting the time, the dates,
KWS: That kind of definition which you’ve just articulated is essentially the concept of linkage.
TB: It is linkage. But tacit linkage, not an imposed linkage. He was not going to delay Egypt. If he insisted, I would not get Sinai through and nothing for the Palestinians. And the Israelis would refuse. He would not like to undermine his own success.
KWS: Did the Israelis know that? Did the Israelis use his impatience? Did the Israelis use his desire for success to squeeze him? Do you think the Israelis played him?
TB: He played them and they played him. Because he insisted on no such demands. That’s where he squeezed them. And to him, that was more important.
KWS: Why? What did it represent for him?
TB: It represents the lesson of Egyptian nationalism. From 1880 negotiations. No negotiation before evacuation to put any (inaudible)
KWS: They’ll wait for four hours until they decide who goes first.
TB: He wanted to prove above all, that he is a top Egyptian nationalist. That while Nasser lost land, he regained the land.
KWS: Was Nasser looking over Sadat’s shoulder?
TB: Oh definitely.
KWS: How did that manifest itself?
TB: Well, he had great respect for Nasser.
KWS: On the war, or the aftermath
TB: Around the whole period.
TB: From the War of Attrition to the war. I’m sure Heikal was very critical about Sadat’s aftermath. I also think that when I look to map, I draw a line, this way, so it is the West Bank.
KWS: From ’73 until you took the job in the Arab League, you were the press spokesman for the presidency.
TB: I was the spokesman.
KWS: The spokesman for the presidency.
TB: And for Egypt.
KWS: And for Egypt. Did you travel with him at all?
TB: Yes, all the time.
KWS: Did you go with him to Salzburg to meet Ford?
TB: Yes, I go. I made a fantastic meeting with Kissinger in Salzburg.
KWS: What did Sadat want to accomplish in Salzburg
TB: He accomplished a magnificent, result, the disengagement was stalled. The Israelis would not accept the UN, international, involvement. So Sadat goes there, I went to the airport to meet Ford, Ford slips around the stairs, I keep him from breaking his leg. I go to the talks and Sadat. And we had all the records from the negotiations. And 99% of that was Israel. I said “Mr. President, the Israelis don’t trust us. And I understand why. We don’t trust them and you can understand why. But now that we are building peace, we have to pick someone that we and the Israelis trust. You give Israel everything, aid, support, ammunition, arms. And though we have been at loggerheads, we trust you. So we trust that the America becomes the peace forces between us and the Israelis. And it’s a proposal America cannot refuse. And the Israelis cannot refuse.”
KWS: No, he’s building on Kissinger anyway. This wasn’t new.
TB: Kissinger was with fault. This showed America as the key, the spokesman. Separating the parts between both armies. And Ford accepted.
KWS: Before, what Sadat was doing is, he was playing to Ford’s ego.
TB: And for Henry. And Ford, but also giving something that Israel cannot say no to.
KWS: American mediation.
TB: No, forces. Forces, observers, the multi-national force must be kept essentially by this concept. Israel will not accept the U.N.
KWS: So whose idea was it to put the men in Sinai? Was it Ford’s, Rabin’s, Sadat’s? Whose idea? Rabin says it was his idea. Ford says it was his idea. In their respective memoirs, they don’t give credit to the other guy. So you tell me.
TB: What I have is this, Sadat said it, Ford (noise from traffic drowns out TB.)
KWS: American monetary.
TB: Yeah. America gave the money. And since then, in America, that’s the proof positive. The monetary.
KWS: And where did Sadat come up with the idea?
TB: At Salzburg
KWS: Not before?
TB: Before there was always, we always wanted not just America. Because it looks like the Middle East is becoming American states. We want something else. Swedes, UN…
KWS: Fiji, Fiji, Fiji
TB: Fiji, we had Fiji.
KWS: You got to get Fiji. There were more members of the Fijian army in Sinai than there were in Fiji, at one point.
KWS: How did Sadat like Gerald Ford? After Nixon?
TB: He liked Nixon better.
TB: Cause he’s stronger. Sadat likes strong men Liked Begin that way. Not that he loved Begin, he didn’t love Begin that way. But he respected his power. If Rabin was the Prime Minister of Israel, Egypt at that time would not have progressed. Rabin would have come in the end and lost it, And a deal is a deal. You pay it. It’s not for free. Nixon was that kind of man. But Henry is the one who manipulated Ford. When Israel resisted, there was an Israeli resistance. And he made, what was the word he used? Reassessment?
KWS: Reassessment, March of ’75.
TB: He made the reassessment. But it was very weak reassessment. But they stopped aid a little bit. I’m sure that if Fahmy was at Camp David, we could have gotten 1% better terms. And this could have sold it to the Arab states.
KWS: Did Sadat, was he shocked when Ford lost the election?
TB: No, he knew that in America this happens. He was shocked when Nixon, like everybody else, was kicked out of office. We invested a lot in Nixon. We took him in the face and we and examined him. In which the President came, the last days of Watergate was in Egypt.
KWS: Yes, everyone writes about it. After Kissinger…
TB: But that was very important on another level. Because it proved that the mass of the Egyptian people were not for the Russians or Communism. That was something big, voluntarily they greeted the man. Vut not this specifically.
KWS: There was a mass demonstration.
KWS: There truly was.
TB: Later, of course, he liked Carter.
KWS: But how long did it take him to get to know Carter?
TB: To get to know who?
KWS: Carter. How long did it take him to get to know Carter? Did you travel with him on the first trip to Washington? You were there
TB: I was the spokesman, when he was attacked as a “Nazi, anti-Jewish, when he was questioned on the resolution (UN 1975) on Zionism…
KWS: What did Sadat think about that visit?
TB: Suddenly by the time which Carter became very popular in the American eyes. And TIME magazine gave me the credit for that. I was very glad for at him. The editor of Time magazine in Washington. While we were climbing to the Egyptian airplane towards, the man from Time Magazine called my name and said “I have a present for you.” He gave me TIME magazine which had my picture smoking a cigar, saying “the secret behind Sadat’s success.” And that gave me a lot of problems in Egypt. Not with Sadat, with Fahmy.
KWS: Were you there when Carter said to him… “no Mr. President.”
TB: First visit was with Ford.
KWS: Right. Did Sadat in ’77 hint at all to Carter that he was interested in another interim arrangement with Israel?
TB: I think after the second disengagement you had to go comprehensive.
TB: Comprehensive for Egypt. Kissinger convinced him that if you go and ask Israel to cede the Golan, the West Bank, never, there is no cabinet in Israel that can take that decision. And Sadat thought that if he were [Israeli] Prime Minister he would he would not seed the Golan Heights.
KWS: Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem?
TB: Was it Jerusalem? I don’t know.
KWS: You were there.
KWS: Didn’t go?
TB: No. I was the representative to the Arab League. I was having tea with Jehan. I said to her my only fear is a bullet. She said “What?” I said “A bullet.” The public will support him but the bullet might get him. But I went publicly and supported him.
KWS: Even from the Arab League?
TB: No, I was the representative to the Arab League. And I defended Egypt in the Arab League, of course. Because for sure while they were signing Camp David. He took me to the first Camp David meeting, not to the final signature, and I was to carry an attack on Israel if the negotiation failed. I was the back, the backup, if it failed I would have done that. But I knew that if he gets all of Sinai, it won’t fail.
KWS: Did it occur to Sadat that he couldn’t sell this, couldn’t sell Camp David to the Arab world?
TB: He became very impatient. He was in a hurry, he was in a hurry to score the return of Sinai. He was then thinking more that he did what Nasser failed to do.
KWS: By when?
TB: Once he returned from Camp David, he wasn’t caring about the Arab League, you know, countries started severing relations with Egypt. I used to go to the Ministry, I said, “ sever relations with them all. Who wants it? Actually with Iraq, we severed relations with Iraq before Iraq severed relations…
KWS: You said he got to know Carter and he got to like Carter. What was it that created a chemistry between them?
TB: A degree of honesty. Carter was an honest man. When he was unable to do something, he told you “I cannot do that.” Kissinger, he liked the wheeling and dealing, and Sadat liked to be in the company of a jet set.
KWS: Sadat did, the Pharoah.
TB: Sure. He would not have been very happy if you send Ross, Indyk or Miller to him; he would not have liked that.
KWS: Did you ever realize that Sadat’s advisors were very compatible with Carter’s advisors politically?
TB: In what way?
KWS: They both wanted, essentially, the same kind of solution. ’67 borders, modification, Palestinian participation.
TB: That was from the Brookings days
KWS: Yes, but the compatibility of the advisors on the American side and the Egyptian side…
TB: No, on the Egyptian side, the advisors were more hawkish, less flexible than Sadat.
KWS: That’s true. Absolutely true. In fact, they are the ones who probably kept Sadat from going faster and further.
TB: No, he didn’t listen to that.
KWS: At all?
TB: Ahh, just a little bit. He was not, he called them the tailors.
KWS: Could Sadat have gotten more out of Camp David?
KWS: Had Fahmy been…
TB: Let me be specific. Something like one or two percent He would have gotten a better language from the Palestinians and the rest of the Arabs.
KWS: So it really didn’t matter how well prepared the Egyptian delegation was.
TB: No. It mattered because it could have impressed on the Israelis, the Israelis were not impressed by the quality of the Egyptian negotiators at Camp David.
KWS: I’ve heard that from the Israelis.
TB: Yeah. They were more impressed with Usamah when they went to the castle in Leeds. And the delegation that went to Camp David was not the best. They’re nice people but they’re still not political, talking about generalities, “UNish.” And all this school of diplomacy was built on the U.N. Were U.N. speeches(?) The only one who was astute(?) was Usamah, but Usamah is not a policy maker.
KWS: How much did Sadat include Mubarak in decisions?
TB: He totally included him.