Sunday, September 15, 2013

Osama al-Baz, R.I.P. Allah yirhamu

Dr. Osama was a longtime foreign policy and political advisor to Husni Mubarak.  He died in Cairo on September 14, 2013, at the age of 82.

He has been off the political stage for the past decade, but in his day he was one of the most influential figures in the regime, and arguably the most respected Egyptian official in foreign circles.  I had the occasion to meet with him on several occasions, including an extended one-on-one discussion about Egyptian politics.  I will dust off those notes, and share some memorable comments in the coming days.

Osama al-Baz was unfailingly polite and thoughtful.  I remember a meeting in Vienna many years ago.  The occasion was a rather elaborate conference following the 1990-91 Gulf war.  I had organized a session on political reform with speakers such as 'Ali al Din Hillal, Ghassan Salame, Salim Nasr, and Saad Eddin Ibrahim.  Osama was enthralled by the topic and behind his interest was clearly an interest in changing the terms of reference in Egypt. However, he understood how the army lurked behind the stage of Egyptian politics and how intent the generals were on stifling any challenge to the regime's authority.  

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