Egypt’s pro-state media reignites Clinton e-mail controversy as US vote nears

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Oct 20, 2020

With US President Donald Trump trailing the Democratic presidential nominee within the polls, Cairo is considering the prospects of a Joe Biden electoral victory .

Biden, a former vice chairman underneath Barack Obama, has already made clear there can be “no more blank checks” for Trump’s “favorite dictator,” as Trump had referred to as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the G-7 summit in France again in 2017.

Unlike Trump, who has largely turned a blind eye to human rights violations within the area, besides in Iran,  Biden has tweeted that human rights can be “at the core of our engagement” and that “nations that violate the human rights of their citizens would be held accountable.”

Biden has additionally criticized Egypt’s crackdown on activists and human rights defenders. In a remark printed through his official Twitter account in mid-July, he said, “Arresting, torturing, and exiling activists like Sarah Hegazy and Mohamed Soltan or threatening their families is unacceptable.”

Hegazy, an LGBTQ rights activist who was detained and tortured after elevating a rainbow flag at a Mashrou’ Leila live performance in Cairo in September 2017, dedicated suicide in June, apparently on account of her struggling post-traumatic stress dysfunction resulting from her incarceration. 

Soltan, a twin Egyptian-American nationwide and former political prisoner in Egypt, has seen a number of of his relations, together with his father, detained in current months. The arrests and detentions got here after he filed a authorized criticism towards Egypt’s former Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi in June, accusing him of overseeing his alleged torture whereas in jail.

Soltan isn’t the one human rights defender to undergo reprisals for his dissent. The newest case is that of Khaled el-Balshy, editor-in-chief of the unbiased Daarb information website — which is amongst tons of of reports websites blocked in Egypt — whose brother Kamal was arrested Sept. 20 in retaliation for Balshy’s important journalism, in response to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

Human Rights Watch researcher Amr Magdi informed Al-Monitor by e-mail that Sisi and different Arab leaders consider that if Trump wins, they win.

“This is not just evident in their warm welcoming words for Trump but also in financing his [previous election] campaign according to some media reports,” he mentioned in reference to current information reviews of an investigation by US federal prosecutors into whether or not a state-owned Egyptian financial institution had pumped $10 billion into Trump’s 2016 election marketing campaign. The inconclusive probe went on three years earlier than ending this summer time. 

“Threatened by the 2011 Arab Spring pro-democracy movement, Arab autocrats have sought to reverse the small, democratic gains of the uprisings in their countries,” Magdi lamented.

Magdi, nonetheless, doesn’t count on any dramatic adjustments in US coverage towards Egypt and the area if Biden turns into president.

“We know from the Obama era that US foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East was not so different” from the coverage of the present US administration, he mentioned.

Hisham Kassem, an analyst and former writer of al-Masry al-Youm, additionally expressed doubt {that a} change in US administration would spell any actual change in US Egypt coverage.

“There would likely be fewer official visits between Egypt and the US and Biden may use tougher language to condemn rights abuses,” he informed Al-Monitor. “But a Biden administration will, like all previous US governments, only care about safeguarding America’s interests, namely the prioritization of US naval vessels through the Suez Canal and access to Egyptian airspace for US military aircraft; no American president will want to jeopardize US relations with Egypt,” he added.

Egypt’s largely pro-government media has in the meantime made it crystal clear that the state has chosen to facet with Trump. In current days, the Egyptian press has introduced Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s e-mail controversy again within the highlight. Various information websites, together with state-owned Akhbar el-Youm and privately owned websites like Youm7 and others, printed what they declare are “recently declassified emails” that serve as proof of the Obama administration’s alleged help for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic group designated by Egypt as a terrorist group in late 2013.

They additionally accuse the previous US administration of “using the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network to spread chaos in the region.” The anti-Clinton marketing campaign is seemingly meant to show Egyptian public opinion towards Biden as one other former Obama administration official.

The privately owned Sada el-Balad claimed {that a} leaked Clinton e-mail revealed that she visited Qatar in 2010 and met with Al Jazeera’s then-director Wadah Khanfar and with the channel’s board members. The authorities understand the Arabic-language Al Jazeera channel as being biased in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood and its web sites are blocked in Egypt.

Referencing one other “declassified Clinton email” dated Jan. 29, 2011, and which allegedly was despatched from an Al Jazeera Blackberry, the information website claimed the sender had congratulated an Obama administration official on Obama’s “principled stance on Egypt.”

Obama had expressed help for the Tahrir Square protesters demanding the ouster of the Hosni Mubarak regime throughout the 2011 rebellion. Sada El Balad interpreted the e-mail as “part of a conspiracy to destabilize Egypt and the region,” an concept propagated by different information websites and TV speak present hosts like MBC’s Amr Adib. 

The English-language information website Egypt Today said that Clinton’s emails function “a reminder of a US policy that favored the Muslim Brotherhood at the expense of the Egyptian people.” In one other article lambasting Cliton, it claimed that one other leaked e-mail had revealed “Clinton’s cooperation with Yemeni activist Tawakol Karman,” a staunch Muslim Brotherhood supporter who has described the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi by military-backed protests as “undemocratic.”

The articles didn’t specify when the alleged emails have been launched however the timing of the assaults on Clinton, just some quick weeks earlier than the US election, could probably be an try by some media shops to deceive readers into considering that the data offered in these purported emails is new. Mohamed Abul Ghar, former head of Egypt’s liberal Social Democratic Party, dismissed the assaults on Clinton as “outrageous” and “an attempt to appease the government.”

Abul Ghar informed Al-Monitor, “Much of the information cited as being from declassified emails is in fact bits and pieces from a batch of emails leaked in 2016 and which have been taken out of context by the media to mislead the Egyptian public. But Egyptians aren’t the ones voting in the US presidential election, so who cares if the Egyptian media prefers one candidate over the other?”

Contrary to the faulty Egyptian press reviews, there are not any newly leaked emails from Clinton’s personal server. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has actually confronted criticism from Trump over his failure to get better and launch extra of Clinton’s emails forward of the November election.

The Clinton e-mail controversy dates again to the times when she served as secretary of state in the Obama administration. Clinton had used a non-public e-mail server for official communications as a substitute of the safer State Department e-mail accounts, a selection denounced by some members of Congress as a violation of federal regulation. A federal investigation that lasted a number of years and ended in 2019 discovered no deliberate mishandling of categorized data, in response to The Guardian.

While Clinton did acknowledge her mistake, she defended her motion in a March 2015 press convention, saying she had gone “above and beyond disclosing all work-related correspondence.” She reportedly handed the State Department greater than 55,000 pages of emails however deleted 1000’s of others on grounds they have been private. Trump has currently been pushing for the discharge of these emails, hoping to make use of them as fodder towards Biden.

Meanwhile, officers are considering the best way ahead for Egypt and the area in a post-Trump period. Nabil Fahmy, a former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, informed Al-Monitor, “As a global power, the US will always have an interest in the Middle East even as it pivots elsewhere. Greater self-dependence is warranted in the Middle East; Arab countries will need to manage their relations with the US efficiently but at the same time, ensure strong relations with multiple major powers so as to be able to fulfill their interests. This is crucial regardless of whether Trump or Biden is elected.”