US embassy cable - 86CAIRO26111

"NO NASSERISM, ONLY NASSERISTS"

Identifier: 86CAIRO26111
Wikileaks: View 86CAIRO26111 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 1986-11-13 10:31:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV PINS EG US
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 131031Z NOV 86
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0056
INFO AMCONSUL ALEXANDRIA
AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
AMEMBASSY LONDON
AMEMBASSY RIYADH
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
AMEMBASSY TUNIS
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 26111 
 
E.O.:  12356:  DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  PREL, PGOV, PINS, EG, US 
SUBJ:  "NO NASSERISM, ONLY NASSERISTS" 
 
REF:  CAIRO 22742 
 
1.  C - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY.  "NASSERISM" HAS GAINED PUBLICITY AND 
TOPICALITY IN RECENT MONTHS (REFTEL), BUT NEITHER A 
COHERENT IDEOLOGY NOR A BROAD BASED POLITICAL MOVEMENT HAS 
EMERGED TO GIVE DEFINITION TO THE TERM.  THE MOST CREDIBLE 
ATTEMPT TO FORM A MOVEMENT IS THE SQUARELY ANTI-U.S., 
ANTI-ISRAEL  "ARAB SOCIALIST NASSERIST PARTY" (ASNP), NOW 
IN THE LEGAL LIMBO OF "PARTY UNDER ESTABLISHMENT."  A NEW 
WEEKLY NASSERIST NEWSPAPER CLAIMS INDEPENDENCE FROM THE 
ASNP, BUT CLEARLY HAS LINKS TO IT OF DUBIOUS LEGALITY. 
MUBARAK HAS TOLERATED BUT CAREFULLY CIRCUMSCRIBED THE 
RE-EMERGENCE OF NASSERIST VISIBILITY.  THE NASSERISTS 
CLEARLY POSE NO IMMEDIATE THREAT TO THE REGIME, AND ARE 
LOCKED IN HOSTILE COMPETITION WITH ISLAMIC ACTIVISTS IN 
THE ATTEMPT TO BEND POPULAR ECONOMIC DISSATISFACTION INTO 
POLITICAL SUPPORT.  THE NASSERISTS' PRIMARY SIGNIFICANCE 
IS THEIR THEORETICAL POTENTIAL TO INCITE OPPOSITION TO 
ECONOMIC REFORM, ADDING TO MUBARAK'S CAUTION IN ECONOMIC 
DECISIONS.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  NASSER'S GHOST:  REFTEL REPORTED DIVERSE ELEMENTS OF 
AN APPARENT RE-EMERGENCE OF  "NASSERIST " POLITICAL 
ACTIVITY, NOTABLY:  MOHAMMED HASSANEIN HEIKAL'S 
RE-APPEARANCE IN PRINT; ESTABLISHMENT OF A PLAINLY 
NASSERIST WEEKLY NEWSPAPER; PROMINENT OFFICIAL 
COMMEMORATION ON 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF NASSER'S 
NATIONALIZATION OF THE SUEZ CANAL AND HIS SUBSEQUENT 
EMERGENCE AS A NATIONAL HERO IN THE 1956 WAR; AND 
ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVITIES OF A PROSPECTIVE NEW NASSERIST 
POLITICAL PARTY.  THERE IS LINGERING, PERHAPS EVEN 
MARGINALLY REVIVED POPULAR NOSTALGIA FOR ELEMENTS OF 
NASSER'S LEGACY.  NEVERTHELESS, THIS SELECTIVE NOSTALGIA 
IS VOICED MAINLY AMONG INTELLECTUALS AND THE LOWER MIDDLE 
CLASS PUBLIC SECTOR AND GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, WHO 
PROSPERED UNDER NASSER.  EVEN THE DEMAGOGIC LEFTIST 
OPPOSITION HAS AVOIDED PROMINENT PLAY OF NASSERISM AND THE 
BRUITED NASSERIST REVIVAL. 
 
4.  MUBARAK AND REVISIONIST NASSERISM:  IN HIS SPEECHES IN 
SEPTEMBER AROUND THE ANNIVERSARY OF NASSER'S DEATH, 
MUBARAK LAID CLAIM AS THE TRUE HEIR OF NASSERIST 
NATIONALISM AND INDEPENDENCE FROM SUPERPOWER DOMINATION, 
BUT DISTINGUISHED HIS OWN APPROACH FROM NASSER'S IN KEY 
AREAS (PEACE WITH ISRAEL, DEMOCRACY, ECONOMIC REFORM). 
BESIDES REVISING THE VALUES OF NASSERISM, THE MUBARAK 
GOVERMENT IS TOYING WITH THE NEW "NASSERISTS."  IT 
EFFECTIVELY HAS LURED THEM ABOVE GROUND BY PERMITTING 
PRE-ORGANIZATIONAL POLITICAL ACTIVITIES AND PRESS 
INTERVIEWS, WHILE ARRESTING SOME ACTIVISTS AND WARNINQ AT 
LEAST ONE WOULD-BE LEADER OF THE LIMITS ON HIS 
ACTIVITIES.  THE NASSERISTS ARE THEMSELVES (UNADMITTED) 
REVISIONISTS, CLAIMING TO PROMINENT PROSPECTIVE RECRUITS 
THAT THEY HAVE DISCARDED NASSER'S AUTHORITARIANISM. 
EVIDENTLY THEY RECOGNIZE THAT THE MEMORY OF NASSER'S 
OPPRESSION ALSO REMAINS VIVID FOR SOME. 
 
5.  NASSERISTS VS NASSERISM.  NASSER CONFIDANT AND 
CHRONICLER MOHAMMED HASSANEIN HEIKAL APTLY HAS 
CHARGED IN PUBLISHED INTERVIEWS AND PRIVATE CON- 
VERSATIONS THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS "NASSERISM, 
BUT ONLY NASSERISTS" TAKING PERSONAL INITIATIVES. 
ABSENT THE GREAT HERO HIMSELF OR A BODY OF SEMINAL 
PUBLICATIONS TO GUIDE HIS HEIRS, NO COHERENT POLITICAL 
PHILOSOPHY EXISTS TO UNIFY THEM.  COMPETING 
NASSERISTS ARE ALLEGEDLY ACTIVE IN EACH OF THE 
ESTABLISHED POLITICAL PARTIES; THE REMNANTS OF THE 
DORMANT "EGYPT PARTY"; A PROSPECTIVE NEW NASSERIST 
PARTY; A NEW WEEKLY NEWSPAPER; AND EVEN AMONG 
ISLAMIC ACTIVISTS.   THE TERM "NASSERIST" IS 
USED LOOSELY AND DISPARAGINGLY:  THE FREE-MARKET 
WAFDISTS, LIBERALS, AND MEMBERS OF THE CONSERVATIVE 
SIDE OF THE NDP REGULARLY ACCUSE MUBARAK OF TOLER- 
ATING NASSERISTS (IF NOT OUTRIGHT MARXISTS) AMONG 
HIS SENIOR ADVISORS, USING AS EXAMPLES (WITHOUT 
EXPLANATION) OSAMA AL BAZ AND SPEAKER OF 
PARLIAMENT RIFA'AT MAHGOUB.  THE RIGHT SUSPECTS 
NEW PM ATIF SIDQI FOR HIS PAST ASSOCIATION WITH 
NASSER THROUGH MAHGOUB.  ONE WELL-CONNECTED, INDE- 
PENDENT POLITICAL SCIENTIST CLAIMED THAT THE NASSER- 
ISTS ARE DELIBERATELY PURSUING THEIR OBJECTIVES IN 
MULTIFARIOUS CHANNELS, NOT QUITE AT ODDS WITH EACH 
OTHER BUT NOT QUITE COOPERATING EITHER, AS A 
MEANS TO EVADE GOVERNMENT PRESSURE. 
 
6.  FARID ABDEL KARIM AND THE ASNP:  THE MOST PRO- 
MINENT OF THE NASSER REVIVALISTS -- AND PERHAPS 
LEAST LIKELY TO FAIL -- IS CONTROVERSIAL LAWYER 
FARID ABDEL KARIM, THE "DEPUTY" OF THE NEW "ARAB 
SOCIALIST NASSERIST PARTY" (ASNP).  THE ASNP IS NOW 
IN THE LEGAL LIMBO DEFINED AS "UNDER ESTABLISHMENT." 
THAT GIVES THE ASNP THE DISADVANTAGES OF BEING OUT 
IN THE OPEN, AND HENCE EASY MONITORING BY THE GOVERN- 
MENT -- WITHOUT THE ADVANTAGES THAT GO WITH BEING 
COMPLETELY LEGAL:  HAVING A REGULAR PUBLIC VOICE (SEE 
PARA 8), OR UNRESTRICTED ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVITIES. 
ABDEL KARIM TOLD POLOFF THAT THERE ARE ONLY TWO IMPORTANT 
POLITICAL FORCES IN EGYPT TODAY:  NASSERISM AND ISLAM, 
NEITHER OF WHICH ARE REPRESENTED BY POLITICAL PARTIES. 
ABDEL KARIM CLAIMS THE NASSERISTS BELIEVE IN TRUE 
DEMOCRACY, AND THAT THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD PERMIT 
ALL THOSE DESIRING POLITICAL PARTIES TO FORM THEM. 
IN THIS CASE, THE ISLAMIC ELEMENTS WOULD QUICKLY 
LOSE THEIR POPULARITY IN THEIR FRACTIOUSNESS.  ON 
THE OTHER HAND, THE OVERWHELMING POPULAR SUPPORT 
FOR NASSERISM -- ABDEL KARIM CLAIMS 100,000 FOUNDING 
MEMBERS -- WOULD ASSURE THE PRIMACY OF HIS PARTY. 
ABDEL KARIM SAID THE ASNP AIMS NOT TO TAKE POWER, 
BUT TO UNITE THE NASSERISTS ONLY TO LEAD THE LEGI- 
TIMATE OPPOSITION THROUGH PEACEFUL MEANS.  HE PRO- 
FESSED SATISFACTION AT THE RECENT GOVERNMENT PRESSURE 
ON HIMSELF AND OTHER NASSERISTS, CLAIMING THAT THIS 
IS A POWERFUL UNIFYING FACTOR.  HE EXPLAINED THAT HE 
USES THE TITLE "DEPUTY" ("WAKEEL") -- ALTHOUGH HE 
IS THE FOUNDER AND LEADER OF THE NEW PARTY, BECAUSE 
NO FORMAL ELECTION OF A PRESIDENT CAN BE HELD UNTIL 
THE PARTY EMERGES FROM "UNDER ESTABLISHMENT." 
 
7.  FOREIGN POLICY:  AS IN HIS PUBLISHED INTERVIEWS, ABDEL 
KARIM MADE CLEAR THAT TWO KEY ELEMENTS OF ASNP POLICY ARE 
OPPOSITION TO U.S. "INFLUENCE" IN EGYPT AND TO PEACEFUL 
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI TIES.  HE CHARGED US PRESSURE IS THE 
PRIMARY REASON THAT THE GOVERNMENT STILL HAS NOT PERMITTED 
FULL ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ASNP AND HAS SUSPENDED ITS 
PUBLICATION, "AL ISHTIRAKI", AFTER ONLY TWO ISSUES 
(PHOTOCOPIES POUCHED INR).  NONETHELESS, HE WELCOMED THE 
OPPORTUNITY FOR A DIALOGUE, AND CLAIMED MANY PERSONAL 
FRIENDSHIPS WITH AMERICANS.  HE ALSO IMPLIED THAT HE 
OPPOSES U.S. INFLUENCE IN EGYPT PRIMARILY BECAUSE OF HIS 
MANIFEST HATRED FOR ISRAEL, RATHER THAN FOR ANY PURELY 
NATIONALIST OR IDEOLOGICAL MOTIVATION.  ABDEL KARIM DENIED 
LINKS BETWEEN THE NASSERISTS AND QADDAFI, CHARGING THAT 
QADDHAFI IS NASSERISM'S WORST ENEMY.  HE SAID QADDHAFI 
SEEKS ALLIANCE WITH NASSERISM TO DOMINATE IT, BUT THE 
NASSERISTS REFUSE HIS BLANDISHMENTS. 
 
8.  "SAWT AL ARAB":  AN EXAMPLE OF THE CONFUSED AND 
COMPETING RELATIONSHIPS AMONG LEADING NASSERIST LIGHTS IS 
THE CASE OF THE RECENTLY ESTABLISHED "SAWT AL ARAB" 
NEWSPAPER AND ITS FOUNDER-EDITOR, ABDEL AZIM MANAF, WHO 
HAS AVOIDED EMBASSY CONTACT.  HEIKAL (FOR ONE) DENIED THAT 
"SAWT AL ARAB" IS A NASSERIST ORGAN, CHARGING (AS DO MANY 
OF OUR INTERLOCUTORS) THAT MANAF IS ON THE LIBYAN 
PAYROLL.  ONE OF MANAF'S FORMER UNIVERSITY MENTORS SAID 
MANAF IS A "FANATIC," BUT FIRMLY DENIED THE PREVALENT 
BELIEF THAT MANAF GETS LIBYAN FUNDING, CLAIMING SAWT AL 
ARAB IS INSTEAD SUPPORTED BY THE SONS OF NASSER.  FOR HIS 
PART, FARID ABDEL KARIM DENIES LINKS WITH MANAF OR HIS 
NEWSPAPER; HE ALSO DENIES THAT MANAF HAS POLITICAL 
CONNECTIONS WITH LIBYA OR THE SONS OF NASSER. THE OFFICE 
OF SAWT AL ARAB ALSO DENIES CONNECTIONS WITH ABDEL KARIM'S 
ASNP, ALTHOUGH THE PAPER HEAVILY COVERS ABDEL KARIM AND 
TOUTS A NASSERIST LINE.  THE PRACTICAL BUT UNOFFICIAL LINK 
BETWEEN THE ASNP AND SAWT AL ARAB IS DARING, BECAUSE UNTIL 
THE ASNP IS FORMALLY ESTABLISHED IT MAY NOT LEGALLY 
PUBLISH A REGULAR NEWSPAPER.  MININT ZEKI BADR COULD CLOSE 
BOTH ORGANIZATIONS AT HIS PLEASURE ON THIS LEGAL BASIS. 
 
 
9.  COMMENT.  WE DETECT NO CONSENSUAL UNDERSTANDING OF 
WHAT THE TERM "NASSERISM" MEANS, AND NO POPULAR BASIS FOR 
A REVIVAL OF NASSERISM AS A POLITICAL MOVEMENT, 
PARTICULARLY IN THE ABSENCE OF A SIMILARLY CHARISMATIC 
NATIONAL HERO.  AS HEIKAL SUGGESTED, THE ESSENCE OF 
NASSERISM, AND THAT FOR WHICH SOME NOSTALGIA REMAINS, WAS 
THE MAN AND HIS IMAGE, RATHER THAN ANY COHERENT BODY OF 
IDEAS.  MANY PUBLIC SECTOR WORKERS AND GOVERNMENT 
EMPLOYEES PROBABLY DO SHARE LEFTIST INTELLECTUALS' 
RESENTMENT AT THE PERCEIVED U.S. PRESSURE ON MUBARAK AND 
HIS GOVERNMENT TO ADOPT ECONOMIC MEASURES THEY CONSIDER 
INIMICAL TO THEIR INTERESTS.  MANY EGYPTIANS NO DOUBT ALSO 
SHARE THE NASSERISTS' BITTER ANTI-ISRAELI ATTITUDES, BUT 
SUCH ATTITUDES ARE ALSO HELD BY ISLAMIC OPPONENTS OF 
NASSERISM, AND DO NOT DETERMINE AN INDIVIDUAL'S 
IDENTIFICATION AS A "NASSERIST."  THE CHIEF IMPLICATION OF 
LATTER DAY NASSERISM FOR U.S. INTERESTS IS ITS POTENTIAL 
TO DIMINISH POPULAR SUPPORT, OR AT LEAST TOLERANCE, FOR 
THE ECONOMIC REFORMS REQUIRED FOR EGYPTIAN STABILITY. 
THEY LACK ORGANIZATION AND MASS APPEAL, SO THEIR 
EFFECTIVENESS IN ACTUALLY INCITING THE PEOPLE AGAINST 
ECONOMIC REFORMS PROBABLY WOULD BE ONLY MARGINALLY 
INCREASED IF THEY EVENTUALLY ARE PERMITTED TO FORM A 
LEGITIMATE PARTY (OR PARTIES) UNDER THE CURRENT INFORMAL 
LEADERSHIP.  END COMMENT. 
 
 
WISNER 

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