CAIRO: Egypt’s biggest-circulation daily Al Ahram claimed in a front page article published Sunday that former Egyptian ambassador to Iraq Ihab Al-Sherif was killed by Iranian intelligence in 2005.
The front page article cited “diplomatic sources who said that Iranian intelligence “stood behind the kidnapping and subsequent disappearance of Al-Sherif with the aim of preventing Egyptian interaction in Iraq.
The article continued that Egyptian, Jordanian and Gulf support for the new American plan in Iraq is justified because of this claim, explaining that Egyptian support for the plan did not come from nowhere, but rather came to “save Muslim brethren being subjected to sectarian cleansing, especially in Baghdad at the hands of armed militias whose loyalties are known.
But Nabil Abdel-Fatah, an expert from Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told The Daily Star Egypt, that the newspaper report should be dismissed because it relies on unnamed sources.
Abdel-Fatah added that “this is a dangerous accusation, not only because of the two countries involved, but also because it displays the insidious intervention of [Iran] in the affairs of [Iraq]. An accusation like this must be verified before publication and more information is needed on the circumstances surrounding the death of Al-Sherif. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry did not comment on Al Ahram’s claims, as the article did not specify that the said diplomatic sources were Egyptian.
“This article also seems to offer some sort of political justification for alliances with the US in the region, Abdel-Fatah said.
Ambassador Al-Sherif was abducted July 3. 2005 and his kidnappers declared they had killed him four days later. His body was never found.
Abdel-Fatah said “Iran has replaced Egypt concerning its role in the region and now it is the biggest player in the region alongside Turkey and Israel.
He added “there is turbulence between certain political aides in Egypt and Iran, and we are in a cold war through the media.
Al-Sherif was kidnapped while en route to a meeting with the Association of Muslim Scholars, the leading Sunni organization in Iraq.
Last week, a worker for the Egyptian embassy in Baghdad disappeared in what some analysts say could be related to Egypt’s position regarding the violence in Iraq.
Foreign Ministry Press Spokesman Alaa Al Hadidi had said Egyptian security officials were in contact with their Iraqi counterparts to ascertain the circumstances of the disappearance.
In addition, Al Hadidi said, the Foreign Ministry contacted the Iraqi delegation in Egypt in an attempt to ensure the safe return of the embassy worker.
The worker’s name has not been released.
Mohammed Abdel-Salam, an Iraq expert at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told The Daily Star Egypt that “the situation is not yet understood. Is it related to Egyptian support for the recent change in US policy towards Iraq, or is it just part of the everyday violence and kidnappings that occur in Iraq? It is not known, but it being due to the former is very plausible.