By virtue of his long experience in the General Intelligence Directorate, having served for over 17 years, Hatem Bashat has experience in the region, especially on African matters and on our southern border, of which he was in charge during his work, in addition to his experience in modern parliamentary affairs. He spoke to Daily News Egypt about all of this and analysed the current situation in this interview.
1. How do you assess parliament’s performance in the recent period?
At the beginning of the parliamentary session, most of us lacked experience, including myself. An atmosphere of mistrust prevailed among parliament members, including the speaker of the parliament himself. This happened at a time when we needed to put together the parliament’s bylaws, form committees, and discuss a large number of laws.
But in the second session, we began to gain experience and things got much better. I believe this was the real beginning of parliament’s work. It appeared that the parliament has a large number of competencies, but there is an absence of fair participation in parliament.
2. Why did you join the parliament through the Free Egyptians Party?
Because it was the most youthful party and their [youth] participation is great. Today’s youth are different. I was astonished when my son asked me for a copy of the Egyptian Constitution to read. At the same time, I was provoked by mottos like “in the love of Egypt” and “the support of Egypt”—all of us love and support Egypt!
3. Do you support broadcasting parliamentary sessions on air?
Yes, I support the broadcasting, although some MPs have used this for grandstanding. Sometimes, many used to adopt certain ideas in front of the cameras and make arguments inside the committees. It will, however, be better. I hope the broadcasting resumes with the next session.
4. How do you see the 25-30 Alliance’s performance?
We have great respect and I appreciate them. I have confidence in their patriotism. Yet, they lack experience in a number of files that they are enthusiastic about. We have suffered several times because of that before. There must be respect for specialisation. This is why there are specialised committees in parliament.
5. What are the best laws passed by parliament? What laws did you not accept?
The Health Insurance, Investment, and the Disabled Persons’ Laws were among the best laws. I was not satisfied with the Civil Service Law in its final form. The law in its first form was more useful to the state and a powerful blow to bureaucracy.
6. But what about popular opposition to the law in its initial form, which made the president return it to parliament?
The [Muslim] Brotherhood was behind the opposition because it was against their conglomerations in all institutions. But, unfortunately, they got what they wanted. The president was unsatisfied but preferred to respond to popular opposition.
There are ministries full of minefield areas as a result of the failure to approve the initial version of the law.
7. As a general intelligence employee for 17 years, how do you see the concept of national security?
National security encompasses all areas of life. Campaigns must be carried out in light of the current media openness and the penetration of the social media. But there are many who appeared on the screens saying many things that harm national security very much. I demand the presence of a media minister to control these matters.
7. Is the type of terrorism prevalent in the current period different from the 1990s?
Of course. The terrorism of the nineties90s was individual or of small groups, limited in number and possibilities. But, now,; terrorism is carried out by armies. The only thing that will end this terrorism is the will of the international community with all of the its superpowers. The funding of terrorism now is now flowing from entire countries, not just individuals or groups.
8. What is our position now under this huge attack from terrorist groups?
Egypt is already guarded by God. The internal front is also solid, but we must remain vigilant, and not rely on this. The enemy will not sit still.
9. How do you see the massacre of Bir al-Abed?
It was the biggest hit on Egypt. It also resulted in the largest number of martyrs in one incident. There is also a small sectarian part, which is not strange for those groups. I lived through similar incidents in Sudan while I was there. Many were killed at a mosque on a background of sectarian conflict.
10. How do you see the Qatari role in the region?
Qatar plays the role that Israel cannot play in the region because we share the same language and religion, which gives it the freedom to move between Arab circles and Arab youth.
And the idea of the so-called Arab Spring was launched by Qatar itself. The black box of the American administration in the period of Obama is in Qatar. The Brotherhood knows it because they are partners in the planning. Trump completed the scenario. Ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s son threatened America, saying that he has papers in his possession.
11. How do you assess our ability for military confrontation currently?
We have strong agencies and an army that is the ninth in the world, not the tenth, in the global ranking in terms of capabilities and power. We have monitored the scenario of the move of terrorists from Syria to Sinai before the plan was exposed by Erdogan and the dissidents of the Syrian opposition. But this is not good for us. We obtain accurate, timely information, but the information is worrying.
12. What is the purpose of all this, is it Sinai or is to involve the army in Sinai?
The goal is planned—from the Nile to the Euphrates. But many are absent-minded, such as Arab youth who are being distracted through many schemes away from the master plan.
13. How do you see Sudan’s moves of recalling its ambassador and offensive statements by the Sudanese leadership?
Sudan knows very well that Egypt is right. The whirlwind raised around Halayeb and Shalateen is seasonal. And unfortunately, in some cases, Sudan uses it as a tool that harms both countries, Egypt and Sudan.
I call upon the Sudanese youth to pay attention to the scheme that their country is being dragged into. They lost the southern part, despite Egypt’s best efforts.
The sweeping movements in Sudan are due to another major reason: Sudan has become the last stronghold of the Brotherhood.
14. Is South Sudan a threat to the region?
Of course, if the tribal conflict erupts in the south, no one can contain it, and it would represent a serious danger to many countries, including Egypt, especially with regard to the Nile’s water.
Therefore, the Egyptian intelligence service intervened to conclude agreements to defuse the crises in the south. We succeeded in this. An agreement was signed between the conflicting parties and Egypt is the observer for the implementation of the agreements. This indicates the full approval of a strong Egyptian presence there.
15. Why did we move away from Africa for so long?
In the era of Abdel Nasser, we had a long-standing and strong recognition in Africa due to a history of support known to everyone. This was very good for us during the 6 October 1973 war, as all African countries boycotted Israel and the West.
One of the negative consequences of the peace agreements and the approach to the West is the neglect of Africa and its wealth.
16. Have we ruled out the military option to an exaggerated extent in dealing with the file of the Renaissance Dam?
It is not exaggerated, but it is unlikely. We have many cards to wave. And unfortunately, the reaction toward Africa concerning the attempt to assassinate Mubarak was exaggerated. We in the intelligence service were aware of this and worked to stop it.
17. Why was the visit of the Ethiopian prime minister to Egypt postponed from December to January and what are the facts about the negotiations?
The visit was postponed for protocol reasons and not because of the failure of negotiations. The negotiations did not fail, but they faltered and will return again.
The assessment company proved that the Egyptian position is correct. We finally proposed the entry of the World Bank as a party in negotiations because it can stop the construction of the dam if the damage is proved.
18. Do you see a change in the global balance of power?
Of course, we are in the era of American withdrawal. Trump is collecting money to retreat to America and to stay away from the region except with regard to Israel.
China and Russia fill the empty space that America leaves behind. Russia has begun to establish bases in the region. What is coming will be different.
19. Are there any crises between us and certain countries?
Of course, with a clear plan. As the gas finds emerged and cooperation with Italian companies started, the Italian Regeni story was plotted. As tourism revived, the Russian airliner was hit.