A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hasan al-Tuhami, RIP

Some people prefer the cloakrooms and back channels of history to the front pages. One of these has died recently: Hasan al-Tuhami. His Wikipedia entry in English is as "stub" as they come; his Arabic one is better, if you read the language. It doesn't seem to know he's dead, but apparently he died last week.

I've never gotten Tuhami, and never met him. He was one of those odd, secretive, and seemingly rather eccentric figures who doesn't fit stereotypes. He tended to dress like an Islamist, even like a Muslim Brother, even while being a Deputy Prime Minister under Sadat. His meetings with Moshe Dayan in Morocco set the stage for Sadat's trip to Jerusalem. In the Nasser era he was in the intel business, and is said to have been the man behind the CIA bribe that led to the building of the Cairo Tower. (Link is in Arabic.)

That and other intrigues apparently involved him, the various sources say, closely with Miles Copeland, a legendary rogue (and I think maybe the bagman on the Cairo Tower) who was an early CIA operative (and, trivia buffs, father of Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police). In my younger years and Miles' later years, when he combined a personal fondness for drink and his native Alabamian fondness for talk, I had the pleasure of knowing Miles and of sharing a lot of his conversation, but I don't think he ever mentioned Tuhami. Miles deserves his own post (if I knew more, he might deserve a separate blog), but that's for another time. (The early CIA guys, raised in an age when drinking was a macho thing, tended to get talkative in their later years.)

Don't worry that you've never heard of Tuhami. Ninety percent of his countrymen hadn't either.

RIP Hasan Tuhami. He may be the real father of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, and Google has trouble finding out that he died. Shadowlands. I think there are more pictures of Tuhami in Moshe Dayan's memoirs than in any Egyptian book. Though I gather he wrote one of his own, though I haven't seen it.

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