President Hosni Mubarak
Interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave, UPI's editor-at-large
September 17, 2001
QUESTION: How do you view the enormity of the tragedy that has befallen the
US, or indeed the world?
ANSWER: It's so huge. It defies imagination. But the whole world is now involved.
The casualties are from many nations. It's a wake-up call for all of humanity.
We've all read intelligence reports about terrorist groups and their plans to
do this and that, but absolutely nothing prepared US for hijacked civilian airliners
plowing into the twin towers of the world trade centre and the pentagon, the
very nerve centers of America's financial and military might. The White House
itself narrowly escaped total destruction. It's a science-fiction nightmare
QUESTION: How is this going to affect the world?
ANSWER: Finally we're going to get really serious about transnational terrorism
by decisive action rather than lip service. But we must be careful not to embark
on the wrong course of action. The bush administration's plans for a coalition
of nations would simply divide the world between those who are part of the coalition
and those who are not--and thus fail to reach the objective.
QUESTION: So what do you think is the right course?
ANSWER: An international conference at the highest level, held at the UN to
sign a solemn treaty on counter-terrorism, a document that must be well-prepared
beforehand, leading to a strong binding resolution, with no wiggle room, to
be implemented by all the countries in the world. This is a prerequisite if
we want to live safely on this planet.
QUESTION: But you had a counter-terrorism summit that you chaired at Sharm El
Sheikh in 1997, with lots of tough language.
ANSWER: And not implemented.
QUESTION: what was decided then and not implemented?
ANSWER: It was a stillborn agreement because (Israeli Foreign Minister) Shimon
Peres lost the elections and (former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
came to power). He had no intention of following through on anything. Then Ehud
Barak became (Israel's) Prime Minister, and I had high hopes, but I think he
was ever mindful of what happened to Yitzhak Rabin.
QUESTION: But did you not decide then on counter-terrorist measures that were
binding to all nations present? Even Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister was there
with the Israelis for the first time.
ANSWER: Nothing came of it, many key nations were absent. This time every nation
has to be present to make sure that terrorists have no place to hide.
QUESTION: And now what practical measures do you see emerging at the global
counter-terrorist summit you are recommending?
ANSWER: Those nations who ignore resolutions agreed to at such a summit, big
or small, should be isolated, ostracized, boycotted.
QUESTION: What kind of resolutions with what practical effect?
ANSWER: How to deal with transnational terror.
QUESTION: But how would you deal with it?
ANSWER: Starting at the technical level and moving on to foreign ministers,
(the counter-terrorism agreement) should be meticulously prepared for a UN Summit
of Heads of State and Government.
QUESTION: That's still rather vague. What does your imagination tell you as
to what practical steps could be taken?
ANSWER: Not a single country would be allowed to hide terrorists who committed
acts of terrorism in other countries. These terrorists now move freely from
country to country with impunity, making contacts, picking up money,coordinating
through encrypted e-mail messages. Even your director of the National Security
Agency (Gen. Mike Hayden) said (last February on CBS-TV's "60 minutes II"
program) that Osama Bin Laden`s organization had managed to outplay your vast,
global electronic resources.
QUESTION: But how does one remove Osama Bin Laden from Afghanistan?
ANSWER: When all the nations of the world agree that no safe haven for terrorists
will be tolerated, Afghanistan will have to extradite him or face a total cutoff
from the assistance it is now getting from Pakistan. The three nations that
now recognize the Taliban government would have to sever all ties.
QUESTION: A summit resolution is still only words. can we come to grips with
practical measures that will eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, the
ANSWER: There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. Any country that doesn't
implement a solemn global treaty will face sanctions imposed by the Security
Council. No sympathy and no exceptions.
QUESTION: What motives lie behind the kind of all-consuming hatred of the US
demonstrated by such acts of barbarism?
ANSWER: The feeling of injustice--and the root cause--is the Middle Eastern
crisis. Muslims everywhere see America giving arms to the Israelis to kill Muslims,
and America not putting any conditions on the arms it gives free to Israel.
Muslims see the media taking the side of Israel whatever it does. Public opinion
is seething against America which continues to support Israel irrespective of
Sharon's policies that are designed to prevent the Palestinians from having
their own state. Go to all the so-called moderate states in the region, from
Jordan to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. Their leaders have told me that
their streets are on the verge of boiling over.
QUESTION: So what is to be done in the immediate future?
ANSWER: Both sides in the Palestinians-Israeli crisis should start implementing
the US-sponsored Mitchell report, gradually but quickly, withdrawing Israeli
tanks and troops from the occupied Palestinian territories. The increasingly
desperate Palestinians are encircled. They cannot send their children to school.
They cannot feed them. They cannot send them to hospital. They cannot earn a
living. They cannot...cannot...cannot. So to recruit suicide bombers in such
dire circumstances is not difficult.
QUESTION: Specifically, what should the US do to defuse the situation?
ANSWER: The US must abandon its posture of diplomatic neglect that has led us
to this impasse, and get Sharon to implement the Mitchell report with no further
QUESTION: How does one use military muscle to combat the international terror
ANSWER: First you need genuine real time intelligence sharing--for example,
between the Pakistani service and US agencies. They know a lot of critically
important things. Secondly, you should bear in mind that spectacular precision
bombing and Tomahawk missile attacks make nice headlines but are counter-productive.
We need special forces to go in and kill the snake's head, not its tail, and
QUESTION: You mean US special forces?
ANSWER: No. from other countries. American forces would be seen in the Muslim
world as evidence supporting the worst paranoid suspicions of the fundamentalist
extremists. Some countries are much better suited than the US for such operations.
QUESTION: But who would get the job of clearing out such (terrorist) groups
as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbollah and other extremist groups that supply and
train Kamikaze human bombs?
ANSWER: (Dismissive wave of the hand). They are nothing, small fry on the world
stage. As soon as the Palestinians get a viable independent state with all of
East Jerusalem as their capital, you will see them fade away.
QUESTION: And what about countries like Libya and Iran that also harbor terrorist
ANSWER: In Libya, I can assure you they are all gone and that Colonel Moammar
Gaddhafi considers fundamentalist extremism as much of a threat as we do. As
for Iran, I don't know.
QUESTION: Iraqi TV hailed the world's most devastating terrorist attack as "the
operation of the century."
ANSWER: Iraq is a special case.
QUESTION: But you can't dismiss the possibility that one of Iraq's intelligence
services, Iran's revolutionary guards, Hizbollah and so forth bring aid and
succor to the transnational network? US and British fighter bombers have spent
the best part of 10 years bombing Iraqi anti-aircraft facilities. Wouldn't (Iraqi
President) Saddam Hussein be interested in cooperating with bin Laden`s network
to get back at the US, his arch enemy?
ANSWER: I don't think Iraq was involved. (Saddam) has no wish to unleash the
wrath of the US.
QUESTION: So by process of elimination, you, too, have focused on Osama Bin
Laden`s al Qaida (the base) terrorist network. What do your intelligence services
know about him?
ANSWER: That he is very wealthy and spreads his money around Afghanistan.
QUESTION: The best estimates are that he has now run through his original family
inheritance of some $ 200 million, and that's why the Taliban regime now regard
him as more of a nuisance than an asset.
ANSWER: "Don't you believe it. He's worth at least one or two billion dollars.
QUESTION: How did his terrorist kitty grow so large?
ANSWER: The opium trade. But don't forget that Bin Laden's organization was
America's creation after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in late 1979--along
with the recruitment of Afghan Arabs from all the Arab countries. After the
Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, America lost interest in Afghanistan and abandoned
the Afghan Arabs. I think we know the rest of the story.