Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1290, (7 - 13 April 2016)
Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Issue 1290, (7 - 13 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Obituary: Sameh Seif Al-Yazal — Political intelligence

Major-General Sameh Seif Al-Yazal died in the intensive care unit of a Maadi hospital at the age of 70. His passing came as no surprise. His long battle with leukemia had involved regular travel to the US for tests and the administration of prescribed protocols.

Seif Al-Yazal was born into an upper class Egyptian family in 1946. His father, a career diplomat, was one of the signatories of the 1959 Nile Water Agreement. His brother, Samir Seif Al-Yazal, is assistant secretary-general of the Arab League for financial and administrative affairs.

Seif Al-Yazal began his career as an army officer. After graduating from the War College in 1965 he served on the eastern front in Sinai. In 1973 he travelled to Russia to attend an artillery course. He also undertook training at the Higher Military Academy in Brno, Czechoslovakia and following his return to Egypt served as an instructor in the Artillery Institute. He was soon transferred to military intelligence, where he served for a year before being moved to the General Intelligence Service (GIS), his base for 12 years.

Following his move to the secretive world of intelligence he attended training programmes in military and general intelligence and a course on conflict management and counter terrorism in the US. He went on to earn a graduate diploma in Strategic and Political Science from the Institute for National Strategic Studies in the US, and was awarded a fellowship at the Institute of Leadership & Management in Britain.

During his time at GIS Seif Al-Yazal played an important role in the agency’s special operations abroad, moving between European capitals and North Korea. Eventually he became responsible for the European desk, operating out of London where he was posted as a minister plenipotentiary. He was closely connected to operations involving Rifaat Al-Gammal, the Egyptian mole based in Israel.

When Seif Al-Yazal left GIS in the 1980s and turned his attention to business he continued to maintain close ties with former colleagues. He also developed a media profile, becoming the Saudi-owned Orbit TV’s strategic and security affairs analyst. By 2007 he had become a fixture of the independent and national press, establishing himself as a highly regarded commentator on Egyptian security affairs.

Following the 25 January Revolution some of his positions stirred controversy, with some dubbing him the official spokesman of GIS and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Seif Al-Yazal was a member of Hosni Mubarak’s inner circle and never concealed his view that Mubarak’s son, Gamal, should succeed his father.

The media helped pave the way for Seif Al-Yazal’s entry into politics. In 2010 he became head of the newly established Al-Gomhouria Centre for Security Studies, a body that appears to have been tailored around him and which has made no obvious academic contributions. He also held several honorary positions within the business community, serving as chairman of the Egyptian-British Business Association, the Egyptian-Korean Friendship Association and the Egyptian-American Business Council.

By 2014 Seif Al-Yazal was dedicating himself full-time to politics.

In the post-Mubarak period he had supported Omar Suleiman’s bid for the presidency. When Mansour Hassan announced his own intention to run for president he chose Seif Al-Yazal as his vice-president.

As a member of the committee charged with restructuring the police Seif Al-Yazal’s statements and political analyses triggered the animosity of the Muslim Brotherhood which at one point attempted to sue him.

Following the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood rule Seif Al-Yazal emerged as a major political player. When the attempts of Murad Mowafi, a former director of Egyptian Intelligence, to build a political front supportive of the regime failed Seif Al-Yazal stepped. He established the “For the Love of Egypt” coalition, which later became the “Support Egypt” bloc, the largest political grouping in parliament.

In the last months of his life Seif Al-Yazal was engaged in two battles. The first was against critics who charged that he was attempting to engineer a return to the rubber-stamping parliaments that had existed under Mubarak, accusations he adamantly denied. The second battle was fiercer, against that implacable enemy, cancer.

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