David Ignatius on the Arab World

Laura Kandle
Staff Reporter

The Dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP), Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, interviewed Washington Post associate editor, columnist and novelist David Ignatius, on Oct. 31 at the Tahrir campus’ Oriental Hall for an event titled “What Does America Think of the Arab Spring?”

David Ignatius has worked for the Washington Post since 1990 as foreign editor and later as assistant managing editor for business news.

The Washington Post was established in 1877 to serve the Washington D.C. area, and today it is the sixth most widely circulated newspaper in the United States.

Before the interview began, Ambassador Fahmy remarked that this event was particularly special for him due to his friendship with Ignatius. He also commented on how Ignatius’ coverage of news and events, which often focuses on the Middle East, “makes the articles actually useful for the reader.”

The first question Ambassador Fahmy addressed, in accordance with the title of the event, was that of how America views the Arab Spring. Ignatius replied by saying that the American response to the Arab Spring was one that has gone though “different phases.”

In terms of policy, Ignatius said that President Obama decided that the Egyptian revolution was “just a revolution with a good cause” and it could not be stopped especially after the Egyptian army sided with the protestors.

Ignatius also commented on the fact that one of the top US analysts asked his staff at the newspaper to call the new movement of revolutions in the Middle East “The Arab Transition,” due to the unknown nature of the movement’s future.

Ambassador Fahmy also asked questions about US policy and involvement in the Arab uprisings, specifically mentioning his opinion on how he did not feel that “(the American government and its policy makers) realize how important their investment is here (in Egypt).”

While Ignatius noted the fact that he thought people still believed Egypt was the most important country in transition in the Middle East, he also commented on the fact that “(Washington) focuses on the crisis of the moment.”

He also remarked that, “it is important to bear in mind that it is a core belief of Obama that the Egyptian people have to write this story. In order for this change to be real, the Arab people have to write this story themselves.”

The interview then shifted to focus on America’s role in the Palestine-Israel conflict and the ways in which the US might handle a rise of political power of Islamist movements in the Middle East.

Ignatius noted that, “the United States’ commitment to Israel and Israel’s security won’t change. It is one of our national interests and commitments and it is important to understand that.”

During the open questions session during which the audience was able to address questions directly to Ignatius, he remarked that, “In practice, the US understands that it is important to work with Islamist parties when they are elected by the people” such as the current ruling party in Turkey.

At the end of the interview and open question session, the sparse yet interested audience, mostly made up of Arab and Egyptian members, met Ignatius and Fahmy with a round of applause.

“I think that he is the kind of journalist you want to have in the US reporting on the Arab world,” said study-abroad student in attendace Erin Biel.