Tuesday, June 03, 2014


"Saudi Arabia has called for a donor conference to assist Egypt as the Gulf’s Arab superpower seeks to muster regional support for its vital regional ally against what it regards as the threat of political Islam. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud called on states to support Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was elected president with nearly 97 per cent of the vote on a low turnout. Mr Sisi faces severe economic challenges, such as low tourism revenues and poor investor confidence as government wage bills soar amid large state subsidy costs. Concerned at the rise of political Islam in the aftermath of the Arab spring, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have led Gulf support for Mr Sisi, who deposed the elected Islamist Muslim Brotherhood government last year. “I urge you all to attend a donors’ conference to help Egypt overcome its economic difficulties,” he said. King Abdullah said any country that did not contribute to Egypt’s future would “have no future place among us”.... Egypt’s Gulf allies are mulling various schemes that could be used to support the Sisi government’s finances. Bankers are working on ideas including Gulf states guaranteeing Egyptian bonds or buying Egyptian bonds guaranteed by western powers. Egypt, bankers add, has asked Gulf states for additional financial help, including as much as $2bn in immediate aid to allow the north African state to pay energy bills."
Simeon Kerr, "Saudi Arabia calls on region to assist Egypt". The Financial Times. 3 June 2014, in www.ft.com.
"The net result of the last five months has been to bring Egypt to the verge of anarchy. The present Egyptian Government is the best we can possibly hope for. Its position is precarious and its continuance in power depends on...some helpful move by us, and it needs it soon."
Anthony Eden to Winston Churchill, 10 March 1952, PREM 11/91. PRO, Kew (copy in my possession).
The mots uttered by then British Foreign Secretary to Churchill still hold to-day. Whatever one feels or indeed believes about the new military regime in Egypt, the fact of the matter is, that it is indeed at the present time: 'The present Egyptian Government is the best we can possibly hope for'. No end of castigation will conjure up a Democratically-inclined and secular, responsible and peaceful government in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, unfortunately proved to be abysmal in the art of government. And while a moderate, peaceful and not overtly Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood government would have been ideal for Egypt, circumstances were not favorable and accordingly the previous government was racked with chaos and soon enough was overthrown. I for one am not in the least optimistic about the chances of things coming up trumps in Egypt anytime soon. The performance of the Army in the past sixty-two years leaves very little room for optimism. With that being said, there does not appear to be at the present time, any viable alternatives available. And as the late, great Fürst von Bismarck aptly put it: 'politics is the art of the possible'. And one may add, not the impossible. Which is perhaps what man bien-pensant liberals in the West are expecting from the Near and Middle East. Hence, notwithstanding my less than favorable views of the Saudi regime and its allies in the Gulf, they and not the Americans have a correct or should one say, 'more realistic' view of what is on offer in Egypt and what needs to be done to shore up a crumbling position. Au fond, the Sisi regime is politically speaking the ultimate faute de mieux.


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