Behind the Headlines Anti-sadat Offensive by Moscow

The Soviet Union is mounting a major propaganda offensive against Egypt’s President, Anwar Sadat, following his abrogation of the 15-year treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

Soviet and East bloc newspaper articles and radio commentaries monitored here have been growing in intensity since Sadat tore up the Soviet-Egyptian pact in Cairo March 14. After suffering Sadat’s taunts in relative silence for the past four years, the Kremlin has clearly decided to have an open confrontation with him.

A number of distinct themes are emerging in the Soviet propaganda drive. Firstly, Moscow is presenting itself not merely as the only effective supporter of the Arabs but as their leader in the struggle against Israel. Secondly, Sadat is depicted as the betrayer of his predecessor, the late Gamal Abdel Nasser, who in turn is described as the architect of the treaty which Sadat tore up. Thirdly, Moscow claims that Sadat’s policies are weakening Egypt both internally and externally and that the United States will not provide the support Sadat is seeking.

Listeners in the Arab world to Moscow radio were told on March 18, that, following the Sinai disengagement, Israel and the United States were ignoring the Palestine question and that Israel was able to recreate a no-war no-peace situation while continuing to annex “occupied Arab territories.” Moscow radio added: “Naturally, this line of the Egyptian leadership is giving all the patriotic forces in the Arab world much anxiety.”


The day before, Arab listeners to Moscow’s radio were told that “Arab-Soviet cooperation, specifically military cooperation, remains the most important factor in the success of the Arab nation in the struggle against Zionist aggression.” Such arguments, beamed especially at Egypt, are being backed up with copious quotations from anti-Sadat newspapers and magazines in various parts of the Arab world–particularly Syria, Iraq and the Sudan.

Memories of Nasser were whipped up in another Moscow Arabic broadcast on March 20 which contrasted the former Egyptian leader favorably with his successor. For Nasser, collectivization and socialism on the home front had gone hand-in-hand with close relations with the Soviet bloc in the fight against Western imperialism, the radio said. The CIA had frequently tried to assassinate Nasser “under whose leadership Egypt marched on in determination and faith towards progressive changes.”

Sadat, however, had taken steps to undermine and freeze Nasser’s policies, the radio charged. Businesses had been handed back to private owners who could now be seen “living in splendor and extravagance in luxurious hotels and restaurants, spending in a short while what would take a simple worker or peasant a year to earn.”

The Kremlin’s desire to see the end of the Sadat regime was visible in a passage in the March 17 broadcast. Dealing with the proposed sale of C-130 American transport aircraft to Egypt, the commentary said that Israel’s anxiety over the deal could only be justified if Israel remembered that “the corrupt policy pursued by Egyptian reaction” did not enjoy the support of the Egyptian people.

Soviet bloc propagandists have also been trying to embarrass Sadat by quoting criticisms of him by leading Egyptians. Among them is Hassanein Heikal, editor of the Cairo daily, Al Ahram, until dismissed from his post by Sadat. Others include the pro-Communist, Khaled Mohieddin, an original member of the 1952 Nasser junta, and Lufti Al-Khouli, editor of the Cairo magazine. A Tahiyah, ideological organ of Arab socialism.

At present, there is no sign of the anti-Sadat campaign abating, and despite its annoyance with Cairo, the Soviet Union is not revising its over-all posture in the Middle East. Judging from the outpourings of the Kremlin propagandists, therefore, any hope that the USSR will modify her bitter hostility towards Israel is an illusion.