Monday,23 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Monday,23 July, 2018
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

All the president’s men

Al-Ahram Weekly

At a press conference held on 18 June 2012 Mohamed Morsi appeared surrounded by several figures. They were there to congratulate Morsi on becoming the first elected president since the 25 January Revolution. They included leading Muslim Brotherhood official and People’s Assembly speaker Saad Al-Katatni, Shura Council speaker Ahmed Fahmi, press spokesmen for the Morsi campaign Ahmed Abdel-Ati and Yasser Ali and campaign officials Khaled Al-Kazzaz, Asaad Al-Sheikha, Salah Abdel-Maksoud, Osama Yassin and Essam Al-Haddad. The same men still surround the president today and count among his most trusted aides.
Amany Maged profiles some of the most influential of Morsi’s advisors.

Ayman Ali
The president’s advisor on the affairs of expatriates Egyptians, Ayman Ali was largely unknown outside Islamist circles. He acquired prominence as a member of the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting the constitution in which he served as a representative for Egyptians abroad. He was nominated to the assembly by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). A few months later Morsi appointed him to his team of advisors.
As secretary-general of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, Ali had built ties with Egyptian expatriates. A firm believer in the Islamist project, Ali was active in spreading centrist Islamist thought in Europe. Since becoming the president’s advisor on the affairs of Egyptians abroad he has struggled with the problems of Egyptian prisoners in Saudi jails and closely monitored cases of Egyptians arrested in Kuwait.
Having emerged as a powerful political operator Ali’s functions soon extended beyond his designated role as advisor on Egyptian expat affairs. Following Yasser Ali’s resignation as official presidential spokesman Ayman Ali stepped in to supervise presidency’s media office. As a close advisor to the president he has played a role in all the crises the presidency has experienced, from Morsi’s constitutional declaration in November to the recent kidnapping of Egyptian soldiers in Sinai and the lead-up to 30 June demonstrations called for by the Tamarod (Rebel) campaign.
Ahmed Abdel-Ati
On 11 October 2012 the Director of the President’s Office Ahmed Abdel-Ati stood before television cameras in the presidential palace to announce that Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud had been dismissed as prosecutor-general and appointed as Egyptian ambassador to the Vatican. It was a decision the president would soon be forced to retract owing to enormous pressure from the judiciary.
It was the first time Abdel-Ati, a pharmacist by trade, had spoken on behalf of the president in a press conference. He hadn’t appeared before the cameras since Morsi’s victory was announced in June. Making official announcements was not part of his job description and he did so only because Morsi’s official spokesman Yasser Ali was abroad at the time.
Abdel-Ati was one of 26 Muslim Brotherhood leaders who fled Egypt during what became known as the Al-Azhar militia case. He returned in February 2011, following the downfall of Mubarak. When Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat Al-Shater announced his intention to field himself for the presidency Abdel-Ati’s name emerged as one of his campaign coordinators. After Al-Shater was disqualified Abdel-Ati became a coordinator for the Morsi campaign.
Abdel-Ati joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1988, the same year he joined the Faculty of Pharmacology.

Essam Al-Haddad
Morsi is unlikely to take any decision on foreign policy matters without first consulting Essam Al-Haddad, the presidential advisor on foreign affairs and international relations often referred to as the president’s right hand.
Before becoming the president’s foreign affairs advisor Al-Haddad, like Ayman Ali and Abdel-Ati, was virtually unknown outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau. Since then he has become familiar to the press and in Foreign Ministry circles where stories abound that he has sidelined Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, has access to all memorandums presented to the foreign minister, and holds meetings with diplomats that Kamel Amr knows nothing about. Al-Haddad denies the rumours and insists foreign affairs are handled through appropriate institutional channels.
During the Israeli attack against Gaza last autumn Al-Haddad played a key role in defining the position of the presidency and in the initiative that resulted in a truce between Hamas and Israel. He is reported to be on good terms with Washington and with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Before any presidential visit abroad Al-Haddad travels to the designated country several days in advance to prepare for the visit.
Al-Haddad, who is from Alexandria, is the brother of Midhat Al-Haddad, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s office in Alexandria. One of his five sons, Jihad, is a member of the Freedom and Justice Party’s Nahda (Renaissance) project.

Asaad Al-Sheikha
When Mohamed Morsi took his oath of office in Tahrir Square the man holding the microphone for the president elect was Asaad Al-Sheikha. He was with the president during the electoral campaign and he has remained by his side since. When you see President Morsi in almost any public appearance you are likely to catch a glimpse of Al-Sheikha somewhere in the background. The relationship between the two men is close. Al-Sheikha is the number two man in the president’s office after Ambassador Mohamed Refaa Al-Tahtawi.
Like most of the Muslim Brotherhood businessmen around the president Al-Sheikha is a protégé of Khairat Al-Shater. Tried in absentia in the Al-Azhar militia case — Al-Sheikha had gone into hiding to evade arrest — he received a five-year prison sentence. Recently he was acquitted of the charges by a military court. Although his job in the presidency rarely brings him into contact with the media Al-Sheikha is said to have a good relationship with the press.

Yasser Ali
No longer officially a member of the presidential team, Ali served first as the official spokesman for the Morsi electoral campaign and went on to become presidential spokesman before being appointed head of the Information and Decision Support Centre. He remains close to Morsi, a friend of more than two decades.
 Trained as a physician, Ali abandoned his medical career many years ago. Before the Egyptian revolution he worked as a consultant for a multinational company in Saudi Arabia where he lived for several years avoiding the security clampdowns that dogged Muslim Brotherhood members under the Mubarak regime.
While serving as presidential spokesman Ali developed relationships with the press. The president continues to value his opinions.

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