CAIRO: In a segment filled with unanswered questions, late Egyptian billionaire and intelligence agent Ashraf Marwan was the star of CBS News’ “60 Minutes on Sunday, as correspondent Steve Kroft tried to unravel the mysteries surrounding the life and death of one of Egypt’s most controversial figures.
Nearly two years after he was found dead outside his London apartment in June 2007, Kroft asks whether Marwan, who was also the son-in-law of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, was Israel’s perfect spy, or whether he was a double-agent central to Egypt’s successes during the 1973 war.
While this question is puzzling to most viewers, it was less so for Kroft’s Israeli and Egyptian interviewees, each of whom unequivocally regard Marwan as their goldmine and hero.
For Aharon Levran, then one of Israel’s highest ranking intelligence officers, Marwan was “worth every penny the Israelis paid him to divulge Egypt’s military secrets and provide an early warning of an enemy attack on Israel.
However, Abdel Moneim Said, an Egyptian national security expert, said Marwan’s involvement with the Israelis was part of Egypt’s plan for the 1973 war. According to Said, it was Marwan who deceived the Israelis about the timing of the war and bought Egypt the few hours it needed to cross the Suez Canal.
Levran confirmed Israel’s reliance on intelligence provided by Marwan. “We were subjugated to this source, and we put aside information from the observation posts. We were dependent on him to give us the last verdict, he said.
However, Marwan’s confirmation was provided only 12 hours before the attack, when most Israeli soldiers had already gone home to their families for the Yom Kippur celebrations. Marwan also told the Mossad that the attack would be at 6 pm, but the fighting actually began four hours earlier.
“He gave us a number of hours before the Israelis started to mobilize and come to the front. And that was enough for us to cross the Suez Canal, Said said.
But Major General Aharon Farkash, Israel’s former director of military intelligence, is convinced that Marwan actually saved Israel. Farkash believes Marwan did not find out about the plans until the last minute, and that his warning gave Israel just enough time to mobilize their reserves.
Marwan’s death, first ruled a suicide but now being investigated as a murder by Scotland Yard, reflects the same controversy. While Marwan’s son, Gamal, said the Israelis had the biggest motive to kill his father, Levran made the same accusation against the Egyptians.
In the final analysis, the mysteries remain unresolved and the questions unanswered: “Who did Ashraf Marwan really betray? And who finally killed him? Kroft asks. “If the truth wasn’t buried with him, it is most likely buried somewhere in a top secret vault.