A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Egypt's Grassy Knoll: Reopening the Sadat Assassination?

The Middle East is somewhat notorious for its fondness for conspiracy theories (the "Byzantine" part of "Byzantine plot," of course, is from the region). Perhaps it was inevitable that, nearly 30 years after the event, the Anwar Sadat assassination that made Husni Mubarak President would be a subject of debate after Mubarak's fall. Zeinobia rounds up some of the recent claims and allegations (her post is in English but many of her embedded TV clips are in Arabic). Lately various members of the Sadat family have been reviving old rumors, and the release of long-imprisoned conspirator ‘Abboud al-Zumur, who has hinted at conspiracies beyond those arrested, has sparked new speculation suggesting Mubarak somehow was involved, or was at least aware of the plot.

Personally, I'll take a lot more convincing. Most versions of some sort of top level plot involve both Mubarak (who despite being next to Sadat got a minor finger wound) and then-Defense Minister Field Marshal Abu Ghazala (who had a bullet through his uniform hat but wasn't even grazed). Mubarak, after years of depending on him, fired Abu Ghazala in 1989 and he was later disgraced in a sex scandal his friends thought was trumped up by State Security; he died a couple of years ago or so. I think if he had knowledge of a plot involving Mubarak and himself he'd have taken more people down with him. The old cui bono or "who benefits?" suspicion has led to theories that Andrew Johnson was involved in Lincoln's assassination or Lyndon Johnson in JFK's, and absent any actual evidence I think the rumors about Mubarak are just paranoid speculation. But read Zeinobia's piece anyway, especially if you can watch the videos in Arabic.

Personal note for full disclosure: I was in Cairo just a couple of weeks after the assassination and interviewed Abu Ghazala on that visit and on other occasions, so I may have some biases.

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