Creating new perspectives since 2009

Was Gamal Abdel Nasser aware that his son-in-law was an Israeli spy?

September 11, 2023 at 5:00 pm

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser adresses the Egyptian people during a radio speech to announce free elections to elect a new Parliament and the liberalization of the regime 31 March 1968 [STF/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel’s Mossad spy agency published a book recently that includes historical documents and a photograph that it claims is of Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Marwan is pictured with a Mossad officer, “Dobby”, suggesting that he was the most important spy for the occupation state. According to Israeli newspapers, the Mossad is, for the first time, revealing documents and quotations from many sources and agents who were recruited and operated by the agency in Arab countries and who served in various positions in the military and political leadership in Israel’s enemy states.

Israel timed the publication of these documents to coincide with Egypt’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the October War next month. They confirm that Ashraf Marwan informed the occupation state about the Sixth of October War one day before it actually started, but the fact that it occurred on the Yom Kippur Jewish holiday delayed the call up of reserve Israeli soldiers. Some politicians in Israel were sceptical about the ability of Egypt and Syria to launch a war, as Egypt had made a great effort to hide its military preparations.

The Zionists believe that the leaking of the information three decades later about Ashraf Marwan spying for them led to his death when he fell from his fifth-floor flat in London in 2007. However, Egypt gave him a national hero’s funeral. There was no official statement from Cairo denying that he was spying on his country, nor was the Israeli narrative refuted officially. Claims that he was a double agent were responded to by Mossad on Sunday; the agency apparently ruled out this possibility years before working with him.

READ: British Foreign Secretary to visit Israel, Palestine

The importance of these official documents for Israel lies in the fact that they refute the claims made by some of us that the Israeli book about Ashraf Marwan — The Angel — was pure fiction. The irony is that if it was fictional, then why did an Egyptian military court sentence publisher Khaled Lotfy, whose company translated the book, to five years in prison on charges of divulging military secrets and publishing false news? Meanwhile, an official denial of the newly published Israeli documents has not yet been issued by Cairo.

The late journalist Musa Sabry was the first to call Ashraf Marwan a child prodigy, mocking his young age and the enormous wealth he had amassed, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars, and the power and influence that allowed him to remove any official who obstructed him or felt threatened by his status. It is well-known that there was a close relationship between Sabry and the late President Anwar Sadat; he was his journalist and his spokesman, so the “child prodigy” tag could not have been given without Sadat’s approval.

This was followed by a fierce attack by senior journalists in the Egyptian media against Marwan; his suspicious behaviour; his questionable deals; and the bribes he received in the Mercedes car deal for the presidency; his commissions in the arms trade, such as the suspicious aircraft deal with Boeing; and his undeclared relationship with the head of the Saudi intelligence agency at the time, Kamal Adham. This was a time when the relationship between Egypt and the Arab countries was cut due to Sadat’s visit to Israel, and King Fahd was launching a violent attack on the Egyptian president. This suggests that the campaign did not come out of a vacuum, or that it was a campaign that aimed to expose official corruption in the state. It was an expression of Sadat’s anger at Marwan and that his decision to engineer his fall from grace, and remove him from the decision-making circle was just around the corner.

Marwan’s star shone during the Sadat era, not his father-in-law’s, even though he worked as a secretary in Abdel Nasser’s office. It occurred specifically after what was called the Corrective Revolution on 15 May, 1971, when Sadat appointed him as the secretary to the head of information affairs and gave him powers that surprised and confused many, as the decision included the following powers:

  1. Ashraf Marwan represents the president personally in front of all the presidents and kings of the world.
  2. Ashraf Marwan represents the Egyptian intelligence agency to all intelligence services in the world.
  3. No actions can be taken by the Egyptian Armed Forces without [Marwan’s] personal consent.
  4. Marwan oversees the work of the State Security Investigations Service, the general intelligence, and military intelligence regarding the security and safety of the president.

These were absolute powers that were no less than the powers of the President of the Republic himself. The question here is why did Sadat give him such a position and authority that no one had ever had before him?

READ: Israeli children attack Christians in Jerusalem

Much was said about this mysterious man during his life and even after his death. For example, it was said that he stole Abdel Nasser’s safe after the president’s death and took it to Sadat before any of those around Abdel Nasser could get to it. It has also been said that he was the first to inform Sadat of the activity taking place against him and the conspiracy to overthrow him, giving him the recordings to prove this. This is how Sadat took immediate action and beat them to it by arresting them all on the night of 5 May, 1971, eating them for lunch before they ate him for dinner, as the Egyptian saying goes. On 15 May, President Anwar Sadat established his regime and the pillars of his rule.

Let’s go back to the child prodigy who earned a doctorate overnight and became known as Dr Ashraf Marwan. He became more powerful than any state official after Sadat. He used to give orders and instructions to government ministers, and they obeyed him in everything. They gave him what he asked for and carried out all of his orders. However, the question that remains unanswered to anyone’s satisfaction is, where did Ashraf Marwan get all of this power and influence, and why were these absolute powers given to him?

I will attempt to answer this in tomorrow’s article.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.