The furor whipped up by the publication of the first part of the memoirs of Egyptian leader Amr Moussa refuses to die down. The memoirs, which claims to provide behind-the-scenes account of over half a century of political events is replete with exaggerations and egotistical flourishes. However, the narrative style remains captivating as it covers specific set of events that follow a method explained by the narrator in the introduction to the book. The level of interest created by the book keeps varying and rises when it deals with stories related to Sadat, the author’s meeting with Abdel Nasser, the October War of 1973, events of the Gulf War and the peace process, as well as the diplomat’s stances during the Madrid Conference of 1991 when he talks about his encounters with James Baker.
The Madrid peace deliberations
Amr Moussa speaks of his rhetorical exchanges on meeting with Baker wherein he linked any progress in the peace process to the immediate suspension of Israeli settlement activities. He also emphasizes Egypt's centrality in any peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. In the book titled The Prince by William Simpson, Prince Bandar bin Sultan has referred to Moussa’s position in a chapter dedicated to the Middle East peace process. In it, Prince Bandar refers to an incident when Baker asked him: “Will Amr Moussa try to lecture us after I have met with his president?” Prince Bandar answered in the affirmative and Amr Moussa acted as predicted. His speech on meeting Baker was both long and stridently nationalistic. In the end, Baker had to bang a leather file on the table to bring Amr Moussa back to senses (p291).
Despite certain issues with the book, one cannot totally negate the political and diplomatic history presented by the veteran Egyptian minister.Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran
Apart from his literary indulgences, especially those related to the question of Palestine, Moussa’s account deals with another important topic: the nature of relations between Egypt and Qatar, particularly between Amr Moussa and the former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa and his Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim. He talks about strains in relations following Hamad bin Khalifa’s assumption of power but then adds: “There is a great deal of cooperation and mutual friendship between me and Hamad bin Jassim; I have a lot of respect for him and I appreciate his efficiency, his activity and his openness. I used to tease him by saying: “Stop accumulating wealth,” to which he responded: “I want to be the richest man in the Arab world.” The author then goes on to say: “The relationship between President Mubarak and Hamad bin Khalifa was very good, despite the many problems that appeared at intervals.”
The joke on Qatar
Among the jokes that the Prince would repeat using Mubarak's words was the story of Hamad bin Jassim's plane, which the Emir of Qatar had facetiously ordered to be given to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh had seen this plane during his official farewell at the Doha airport. The Emir of Qatar then offered this plane to Saleh, even as its owner Hamad bin Jassim looked on clueless. The Prince used to joke about this incident whenever Mubarak met Hamad bin Jassim. Mubarak would then ask him: “How could you give your plane to Ali Abdullah Saleh?” To which he replied: “It was a joke, Mr. President.” At this, Mubarak would say: “Well! The joke was on you.”
These jokes illustrate the lack of seriousness among Qatari politicians. Still Amr Moussa has mainly ‘nice words’ for Qatar. He speaks of an instance when the Late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia got angry over al Jazeera’s attack on Egypt and then observes: “Qatari politics still tried to please him as much as possible," which is not at all correct. Although Moussa's memoirs were printed at the height of the crisis between Gulf countries and Qatar, the author pays no attention to the country that tried to violate Egypt's sovereignty. It is not true that Qatar has worked hard to please any of its neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, because it continues to disrupt the security and stability of countries in the region.
Moussa describes the former Emir of Qatar in the following terms: “I would like to add here a summary of the Emir Sheikh Hamad. He is a Nasserist and a Wahhabist. He either practices both or does not practice them at all.” This first part of Moussa’s memoirs covers more than 600 pages. Despite certain issues with the book, one cannot totally negate the political and diplomatic history presented by the veteran Egyptian minister. However, the details presented remain subject for discussion and debate with respect to the information, descriptions, people and stories contained in the biography.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.