A New Batch of Leaks for Egypt’s Foreign Minister Uncover Al-Sisi’s Foregin Policy

Mekameleen TV Channel has broadcast a series of leaked audio phone calls from Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, while discussing recent events with al-Sisi, including the bombing of the Coptic Church last December 2016, the meeting between Sameh Shoukry and US Vice President-elect Mike Pence later this month as well as other foreign issues.

This is not the first time that Mekameleen, an Egyptian TV Channel known for being anti-military coup, broadcasts audio leaks for Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and his officials .

Previous leaks were examined and authenticated by the leading British laboratory of forensic speech and acoustic analysis, JP French Associates, which is headed by Peter French, professor of forensic speech science at the University of York. The laboratory provides forensic voice analysis to the British courts, as well as advice and training to international law-enforcement agencies.

The previous leaks for General Abbas Kamel Abbas, al-Sisi’s chief aid and office manager of staff, were broadcast 18 months ago and revealed the Emirati interference in Egypt and how Abdel Fattah al-Sisi controls the domestic media outlets.

Leaked Audio 1: Shoukry discussing his meeting with Pence 

In the first leaked audio phone call, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry was discussing his meeting with US Vice President-elect (at the time) Mark Pence during his visit to the United States last December 2016.

Shoukry said,“I’ve just come back from a meeting with the vice president-elect.”

He continued, “I conveyed to him and through him to the president-elect [Donald Trump] your message of congratulations and interest in working jointly to confront challenges, as well as the importance of restoring strategic relations.”

In fact, the relations between Cairo and Washington deteriorated right after the military coup in 2013 against Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, as Obama’s policy was cautious towards the Al-Sisi regime.

In the beginning of the military coup in 2013, the Obama administration initially maintained a degree of distance from al-Sisi’s government.

The U.S. froze arms deliveries to Egypt in the aftermath of the 2013 coup, but eventually released aid in March 2015, delivering F-16 fighter jets and tank turrets. Recently, Egypt received in May an initial shipment of 762 mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles from the United States, which will be used in army operations in North Sinai.

Later, Obama administration started to recognize the coup in steady moves under the banner of “fighting terrorism”.

The Time wrote once that the change to Obama’s administration toward providing support to al-Sisi regime appeared within the need to “prioritize the immediate needs of the international fight against extremists like ISIS over human rights concerns, embracing an authoritarian regime in Egypt that is battling ISIS-affiliated militants in the Sinai Peninsula and attempting to police a long desert border with Libya, where ISIS managed to establish itself in the chaos of that country’s civil war.”

However, Obama continued to release critical statements every now and then regarding human rights crackdowns in Egypt.

On the contrary, Sameh Shoukry described Pence as “very amicable”, saying he had expressed Trump’s support for “working with Egypt to achieve stability in the region and fighting terrorism to finish it off”.

Sameh Shoukry was the first Arab official to meet US elect official in the new administration which infers how warm the relation between both countries may become.

Leaked Audio 2: Shoukry and al-Sisi’s  attitude toward Hillary Clinton

In a separate audio, Shoukry talked with al-Sisi about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Candidate in the US elections at that time. Shoukry suggested that Hillary Clinton was pressurized to take a hard line toward Egypt.

Shoukry said that despite the former criticism of al-Sisi’s human rights record, Clinton had chosen instead to maintain friendly relations with al-Sisi.

Shoukry also said, “One of Clinton’s assistants, who was in the Obama administration, had proposed an extreme position against Egypt, but she preferred to interact with Egypt,”

He added,“She believed that giving Egypt incentives was the ideal means for dealing with the issue, rather than to put us under pressure.”

Sameh Shoukry said,”She believes that giving Egypt incentives is the ideal means for dealing with the issue, rather than putting us under pressure.”

Shoukry has received this positive impression of Clinton’s stance towards Egypt from one of Clinton’s campaign assistants in New York, which he considered a change from Clinton’s earlier public criticism of Cairo’s human rights crackdown.

Accordingly, the change in Clinton’s position seems to be one month after she met with al-Sisi in New York in September 2016 and highlighted the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. She also called on al-Sisi to release political prisoners and stressed that strengthening the rule of law was crucial for securing Egypt’s “future progress”.

Leaked Audio 3: Sameh Shoukry and Lausanne conference

Shoukry discussed with al-Sisi in this audio Egypt’s participation in Syria Peace which was held in the Swiss city of Lausanne in October 2016.

Shoukry said in the leaked audio that John Kerry told him that Iran insisted on Egypt’s participation in the peace talks,“US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to me about an hour and a half ago and proposed that I attend the Lausanne meeting,”

He added, “He told me clearly that Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif made it a condition that Egypt must attend.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister told al-Sisi that he believes that,”the meeting will further complicate the relations with the Saudi Kingdom and that its better not to attend.” He also added,”Our participation has negative repercussions rather than positive ones.”

Shoukry added that Kerry had earlier excluded Egypt from the meeting,  justifying the decision by saying that the talks were only for “parties that have military impact on the ground, and therefore they did not want to involve Egypt”.

Shoukry also said, “The invitation came after they initially decided not to invite us,” he added, “The Russians proposed inviting us but it was the Americans who initially objected. The Russians then did not insist.”

Egypt’s Foreign Minister said to al-Sisi that he thinks that Iran is taking advantage from the situation(he means the tensions in the Egyptian Saudi relations).

However, al-Sisi has accepted the invitation but he wanted Kerry to announce Egypt’s attendance in order not to uncover Iran’s insistence on Egypt’s participation.

Shoukry said he will “get Kerry to issue a statement in which he stresses that he extended the invitation. He continued, “We will also…issue a statement that I received the invitation from him.”

This new leak matches with the leaked emails revealed by the Guardian which showed that Iran had requested the lobbying for Egyptian officials to attend the talks on the Syrian crisis in Lausanne conference.

The Guardian said that it has seen emails indicating that the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, asked Kerry for Cairo’s team to attend the Lausanne talks. When the US secretary of state proposed six-nation talks to “see if a new reasonableness can manifest itself” in Syria, Zarif replied: “Why not Egypt too?”

Iran agreed to attend the talks only once it had secured places for the foreign ministers of Egypt and Iraq at the discussions, according to the Guardian.

Leaked Audio 4: Talks With the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

This leaked audio was related to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) position towards Egypt’s accusation to Qatar of hosting the attackers responsible for the suicide bomb attack at Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral in December last year that killed at least 25 people.

As a result, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) expressed its discontent with the involvement of Qatar’s name in the bombing of St Peter church in Cairo, considering it as “unacceptable”.

The GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani issued a statement urging Egyptian officials to confirm the accuracy of any information regarding attacks before going to the press.

Zayani said, “Issuing hasty statements without confirming them affects the strong relations between the GCC and the Arab republic of Egypt.”

In the leaked audio recording, Shoukry was heard complaining that Saudi Arabia was intensifying the tensions with Egypt.

He said, “The Saudis exploited it as a means of continuing the tension with us.”

It also revealed the key mediation role played by Kuwait in smoothing a growing rift between Egypt and the Gulf countries.

Shoukry said,“Countries such as Kuwait may have intervened to mitigate the language of the GCC statement to be more balanced.”

Leaked Audio 5 : Kuwait’s  Mediation with Gulf Countries

The fifth leaked recordings highlighted Kuwait’s key role in mediating talks between Egypt and Gulf countries, which have previously backed al-Sisi and poured billion of dollars to his regime after the military coup in 2013.

In the leaked audio, Shoukry told al-Sisi that Kuwait’s foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah, attempted to mend Egypt’s relations with the GCC and diffuse the tensions that had built up over a rapprochement between the UAE and Turkey, and Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut off oil supplies to Egypt in November 2016.

Shoukry said that he was told that Sabah was commissioned by the Emir of Kuwait “to meet with Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubair and UAE state minister Anwar Qarqash to convey to them the necessity of ending the tension in the Egyptian-Saudi relations.”

He said, “The Emir stressed that this is not the time for disagreements and that it is necessary to support Egypt.”

Shoukry continued saying  that Sabah had expressed to the GCC ministers “the importance of resuming oil supplies and supporting Egypt.. due to Egypt’s significance in supporting the Gulf states.”

Shoukry said,“It was obvious that he considered the UAE to be in solidarity with Saudi Arabia.”

Also, Shoukry, as a diplomat, suggested to al-Sisi to call the Kuwaiti Emir as an appreciation for his stance in trying to mediate a reconciliation between Cairo and Riyadh, but al-Sisi refused.

Instead, Shoukry suggested to call Sheikh Sabah to inform him that he told al-Sisi about the recent developments and to tell him about al-Sisi’s appreciation for his efforts.

The Egyptian Saudi relations soared after Cairo voted in favor of a Russian-backed draft resolution in the UN Security Council on Syria, which was opposed by Saudi Arabia.

As a result, Egypt’s stance has angered Egypt’s major Gulf backer which condemned Egypt’s vote and described it with the” painful” stance.

After the voting, the Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abduallah al-Mouallimi, said, “It was painful that the Senegalese and Malaysian stance was closer to the Arab’s consensus than the Egyptian delegation.”

He also said that he feels pity for these countries that voted for the Russian resolution, stressing that his country will continue backing the Syrian people by all means.

Two days following the voting, Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco announced halting oil product supply to Egypt.

In fact, the new leaks could not be immediately verified.

However, the leaks infer a possible conflict of power and interests between security agencies in Egypt as the newly released leaks penetrate al-Sisi’s close circle.