15 APRIL 2013


Anyone who operated at the U.N. for the last two decades would recognize the name or at least the face. Ahmed Aboul Gheit has been as much in New York as he has been in Cairo -- first as member of Egypt's mission to the U.N., then Permanent Representative, before returning to every General Assembly Session from 2004 to 2011 as his country"s Minister of Foreign Affairs. An easy-going, genially smiling connoisseur of international political alleyways, he was a very valuable friend and very tough adversary. Accompanied by Security Chief Omar Suleiman, Aboul Gheit appeared in every Middle East tight spot and every U.N. hotspot while clearly enjoying his way around Planet Earth. He seemed to be a fixture of the Mubarak regime and -- naturally and graciously -- stepped back with the already kidnapped "Arab Spring."

Aboul Gheit (some Arab diplomats mistakenly pronounced it "Ghaith") just came out with a very interesting book about his experience. Entitled "Witness," parts of it were published in pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, while Arab media generally appraised it as professionally well-written and informative. He is certainly not an opportunist who would suddenly jump on the wagon, or denounce his former boss. Clearly in Ahmed Aboul Gheit's case, the real guidance was Egypt, his country, with due respect to its President at the time, which he had loyally and effectively served.

He mentions in stride some interesting inside information: After a surgical operation in Germany, President Mubarak stopped paying serious attention to international affairs. Despite repeated appeals, he refused to make any more visits to the U.N. in New York or, for that matter, to Washington, D.C. Apparently, he did not believe that the U.S. would come to his rescue in time of need. He once told Libya's Qaddafi (remember him?!) an Egyptian slang proverb: "An American blanket turns you naked!" When Washington, D.C. once received Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif as a potential successor, he was dumped for three years as Mubarak apparently suspected that the U.S. was planning to get rid of him. When U.S. President Barack Obama visited Cairo at the beginning of his first term, the American visitor refused to have the Egyptian President join him when making his main speech.

Similarly, Mubarak's regime had special difficulty with two regional leaders: Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and certain senior officials of Qatar. That may explain the close relations that swiftly emerged between those countries and new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. There are very little Public Relations in "Witness." Just straightforward analysis and casually produced by a straightforward man who defends his reputation and values his dignity.