The US State Department released hundreds of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s private e-mails on Saturday. The release, ordered by US President Donald Trump in an open political move ahead of America’s presidential election, revealed a lot about how the Obama administration handled the Arab Spring uprisings.
Trump told Fox News on 8 October that 33,000 of Clinton’s e-mails were with the State Department. Trump is currently trailing the Democratic Party’s candidate Joe Biden who was vice president in the Barack Obama administration in which Clinton served as secretary of state. The release of Clinton’s private e-mails could negatively affect the image of Biden.
Walid Phares, a former political advisor to Trump on Middle East Affairs, said in a TV interview on Sunday that “Hillary Clinton’s private e-mails should be of a particular importance to the Arab world because they reveal a lot about her policies in the Middle East and the Arab world while she was the Obama administration’s secretary of state.
“I think many people in the Arab world suspected that the Obama administration had a hand in fuelling what came to be known as the Arab Spring revolutions, and that it played a significant role in helping political Islam movements — particularly Muslim Brotherhood — reach power in a number of Arab countries, but they lacked concrete evidence,” said Phares. “Now there is evidence, in the form of Clinton’s e-mails which show that the Obama administration was deeply involved in preparing the ground for the Arab Spring revolutions and doing everything possible to spread chaos in the region.”
In one e-mail Clinton asked Qatar to fund the Arab Spring uprisings through “the Clinton Foundation” in order to help overthrow Arab regimes, particularly that of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The Clinton Foundation received $1 million from Qatar without informing the state department of the donation.
Another e-mail, dated September 2012, revealed that Clinton visited Doha, the capital of Qatar, and met a delegation from Al-Jazeera channel and Muslim Brotherhood activists.
The e-mail shows Clinton supporting the Brotherhood’s demand that Qatar fund “a Muslim Brotherhood TV channel” to be the voice of political Islam in the Arab world and the Middle East. Qatar was ready to donate $100 million to fund the proposed channel with the stipulation that Khairat Al-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide, take charge. Clinton also discussed the possibility of Qatar funding a Muslim Brotherhood newspaper in Egypt.
The e-mails also show that Clinton met in Qatar with the former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani and promised that the Obama administration would give every possible support to Al-Jazeera and Muslim Brotherhood media outlets.
Wadah Khanfar, the former director of Al-Jazeera channel, was in close contact with Clinton during the days preceding the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Khanfar asked Clinton to intervene when the Mubarak regime decided to sever Internet connections and close Al-Jazeera’s office in Cairo. Clinton responded by issuing a public statement demanding Internet be restored.
E-mails from late 2010 reveal Khanfar urging the Obama administration officials, particularly Clinton, to intervene to change the regimes in Egypt, Libya and Syria. It was revealed that Homa Abdine, the daughter of a Muslim Brotherhood family and Clinton’s top aide, played a central role in facilitating contacts between Clinton and the Qataris, Khanfar and other Muslim Brotherhood activists.
Other e-mails, released on Monday, reveal that Clinton was in constant contact with Egypt’s former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.
A TV programme on MBC Masr TV channel on Monday showed e-mails purporting to show Clinton cooperating with Morsi to “dissolve” Egypt’s Interior Ministry and judicial system. Since coming to power in July 2012, Morsi had been at loggerheads with judges and the Interior Ministry and appointed a Brotherhood minister of justice to rid the judicial system of Mubarak loyalists.
Other e-mails show Clinton rebuking Morsi and complaining that Egyptian security forces did nothing to protect the American embassy from protesters riled because of a YouTube video deemed critical of Islam and the Prophet Mohamed.
Morsi also complained to Clinton $1 billion of US economic assistance to Egypt had gone to the Egyptian army.
Other e-mails show that after winning more than 50 per cent of seats in the People’s Assembly in 2012 the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, moved to forge an alliance with the Salafist Nour Party. To facilitate this, the group chose Saad Al-Katatni, a Brotherhood leader close to the Nour, as parliamentary speaker.
Most Egyptian commentators said the e-mails came as no surprise, and contain little that is new. Abdel-Moneim Said argued in an article in Al-Masry Al-Youm on Tuesday that Washington’s desire to get rid of secular regimes in the Arab world and replace them with Islamist ones dates back to the George W Bush administration.
“After the 11 September attacks, America’s think tanks came up with the theory that it was the repression of political Islam in the Arab world that pushed radicals like Osama bin Laden to attack America,” wrote Said. “Bush’s secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was the one who adopted this theory and pushed it forward.
“When Obama came to office in 2008 he espoused this theory and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton put it into effect.
“The e-mails shed a lot of light on how Clinton used the Arab money and TV channels to pave the way for the Arab Spring and help the Brotherhood reach power in Egypt and change the regime in Libya. While Egypt was able to boot the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013, Libya fell into chaos from which it has yet to escape.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly