Friday, August 23, 2013
Egypt’s Foreign Relations on Tightrope
By Nicola Nasser*
The internal crisis in Egypt has indulged the country in its most critical foreign relations test since these relations were shaped by the U.S. sponsored Camp David accords and the peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
An indicator is the warnings against travel to
and west, which are exacerbating the rapidly shrinking tourism industry. Stopping
production in Egypt
by industrial giants like General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp. and
Suzuki Motor Corp. is a second indicator. Summons of foreign envoys to Egypt by their governments, which
invoked similar Egyptian reciprocal summons, is a third indicator. A fourth was cancelling the Egypt U.S.
military’s participation in next month’s Operation Bright Star in
and delaying the delivery of four fighter jets to the country. Suspension of
the sale of military equipment used for “internal repression” by the EU was a
fifth. Threats to
cut or suspend aid to Egypt Egypt
and EU was another more important indicator. U.S.
In the immediate proximity, and three days after the ouster of the elected president Mohammed Morsi on July 3, the Peace and Security Council of the fifty – four member African Union decided “to suspend the participation of
in AU activities until the
restoration of constitutional order.” Egypt
On August 20, South Africa, a leading member of the AU as well as the BRICS five – member association, issued a statement to remind the “interim government” in Cairo that its “principled position is based on the Constitutive Act of the African Union, where any unconstitutional change of government – whatever the premise – is specifically rejected” immediately.
So far, the AU reaction is ironically the only concrete international diplomatic measure taken in defense of the western widely trumpeted rule of law and democracy. The African “sphere” is traditionally only second to the Arab one as a cornerstone of
announced the suspension of aid to . The UK Foreign Secretary
William Hague on Monday announced the suspension of all British joint programs
with the Egyptian intelligence services and the export of “some” items to Egypt . Germany’s
development minister, Dirk Niebel, said Monday that Egypt will get “no further
pledges this year” of aid from Berlin and added he has decided “that we won’t
negotiate this year” on any debt relief for the country. A day earlier, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that her country would
halt previously approved arms shipments to Egypt , but as part of a coordinated
EU response. Egypt
Most likely the U.S. allies’ final reaction will wait until the U.S. administration ends its open –ended stance, but while U.S. allies follow in its footsteps, the U.S. rival world powers grudgingly dealt with the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as the leaders of the “Arab Spring” changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya as a fait accompli; the removal of the Egyptian MB from power is a welcome development.
Ahead of their meeting in
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that “no options would be off the
table” at the meeting of his counterparts of the EU 28-member countries.
Presidents of the European council and European commission, Herman Van Rompuy
and José Manuel Barroso, warned jointly on Sunday that further escalation could
have “unpredictable consequences.” The European Union threatened that it will
“urgently review” its aid to Brussels Egypt,
but, like the
threat, it’s just a warning that has yet to materialize. U.S.
The EU and its member states last year pledged a combined 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in loans and aid for
and China are waiting on the
sidelines to invest in what could evolve into a historical turning point in ’s
foreign relations. Egypt
The Kremlin maintained what a writer in “Asia Times” described as a “stony silence,” until August 19 when the foreign ministry in a statement urged “dialogue” among “all” political players “without any foreign interference,” but the Egyptian embassy in
said that Cairo counts on ’s assistance in “this trying
time, as it used to in the past.” Russia
In 2010 the volume of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries amounted to $2.1 billion. The number of Russian tourists visiting
Egypt in 2010 alone was estimated to be
2,855,723, making it the number one country in providing with
remained relatively quiet. On August 15, the foreign ministry in a statement
said the country was following “closely the situation in China ,” urged “maximum restraint”
and “dialogue” to “restore order and social stability.” Egypt
Unofficially, Wang Jilie, an academic with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a State Council affiliated think tank, said that the Egyptian military “had no choice” but to “control the situation,” otherwise “the credibility of the interim government and the military would be undermined.”
In 2011, Sino-Egyptian trade rose to US$8.8 billion, a 30 percent increase from 2010, according to . to US$9.5 billion.
Short of designating the ouster and detention of Morsi a “coup” and short of condemning the dispersal on August 14, by what critics described as an “excessive use of force,” of two MB – led sit – ins in Cairo’s Raba’a al- Adawiyah and al-Nahdha squares, as an Egyptian copy of the Chinese “Tiananmen Square” in 1989, the un-decisive United States has put itself and Egypt in their most testing foreign policy dilemma.
is finding itself swaying between “cutting” its aid to Egypt and “reprogramming” it and because it is
torn between its foreign policy rhetoric of democracy and the more realistic
benefits of stability,
stands now reluctant to proclaim the involvement of the Egyptian military in
the removal of Morsi a “coup.” Washington U.S.
allies are held hostage to this
ambivalent position. U.S.
The bipartisan Working Group on
Egypt, quoted by
the Washington Post on August 15, demanded a shift in U.S. policy towards ; the group considered President
Barak Obama’s “failure” to cut aid a “strategic error.” Egypt
However there is a strategic
asset that successive
administrations have considered an incomparable “vital” interest outweighing
this “strategic error.” U.S. Egypt expert at the London School of Economics,
John Chalcraft, had this explanation: The U.S. military aid “is a strategic
rent that comes to Egypt in
return, above all, for the ongoing Camp David Peace Treaty with . So the
significance of it is political and geopolitical, more than it is economic.” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, on August
21, confirmed this justification for her government’s ambivalent stance, though
indirectly: "We have seen our aid to Israel as something that is vital
for our own national security purposes, for regional stability.” Egypt
No surprise then the United National Security Council (UNSC), in its “emergency” meeting on August 15, which was urged by
Turkey and jointly requested by France, Britain
and Australia, had
nothing to say more than urging the parties in to “exercise maximum
Strategically, the internal crisis in
Egypt has put the strategy of courting “moderate” Islamist political
movements on the brink. U.S.
In his inauguration speech in January 2009, Obama signaled his intention to seek a fresh understanding with Islam and Muslims. Within a few months his “intention” had unfolded as a strategy that culminated in the end in an “understanding” with the MB, the oldest, largest and perceived as the most moderate among the Islamist movements.
On June 4, 2009 in
Obama declared: “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek
a new beginning between the and Muslims around
the world.” A few days later in United
he confirmed: “"The United States is not and will never be at
war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical … Istanbul 's
relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot be based just
on the opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement." America
His allies in
and the Islamist leaders of the ruling Justice and Development party in Turkey joined forces and played a detrimental
role in swaying the
towards this conclusion. U.S.
The MB was born in
. Eighty five years later it has
proved a survival. It developed into an international organization in more than
eighty countries in which the Egyptian Muslim Brethren are still playing the
leading role. With their assumption of power in Egypt’s 2012 elections, their
offshoot ruling now in Turkey, their Palestinian offshoot Hamas ruling in the
Gaza Strip, the leading roles their brethren are playing in the governments of
Tunisia, Yemen and Morocco, the leading roles they are playing in the
opposition in other Arab countries, and with the sponsorship of the financial magnet
of Qatar, the MB has become a power per se to be reckoned with. Egypt
Following the Qatari and Turkish examples, the
perceived in it a potential ally and planned its regional strategy accordingly. U.S.
With the removal of Morsi and the MB from power in
strategy is unraveling now. U.S.
The MB has received a very strong blow in its Egyptian heartland together with a burgeoning MB –
regional “understanding.” U.S.
sponsored Egyptian – Turkish – Qatari axis that could stand rival to the Iran – alliance is at risk of
becoming a past tense plan. Syria
regional allies stand now divided between the pro – MB led by Qatar and Turkey
and the anti – MB led by and the UAE. Saudi
The regional front against
Iran of the U.S.
– sponsored “moderates,” who are united in their efforts to enforce a ‘regime
change” in ,
is weakened as well. Syria
is feeling relief, Iran joined
its regional rivals in Qatar
and Turkey as well as Cuba, Venezuela,
and the EU in condemning “the massacre of the population” according to a statement
by its foreign ministry. The new Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday noted “how
people’s votes are forgotten and downtrodden.” U.S.
Rejecting foreign interference in “
Egypt’s internal affairs,” Saudi King Abdullah,
in a statement read Friday on Saudi television, declared that what was
was “an Arab affair.” His foreign minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal, during
a recent visit to Egypt Paris pledged to compensate
for any cut in western aid, saying: “We will not achieve anything through
Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait,
who contributed $12b to Cairo the second day
Morsi was removed, do not see eye to eye on Egypt
with their strategic allies in the and EU; their position will
for sure weigh heavily in their final stance. U.S.
Some commentators described as “hysterical” the Turkish reaction, which led
Egypt to accuse of interfering in its
internal affairs. On Tuesday Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was
involved in the “military coup” that removed Morsi from power; the White House
denied the accusation. Earlier he accused Israel and the UAE of being
partners to the “Egyptian coup.” He had called on the UN to condemn the
“massacres” in Saudi Arabia Egypt and
described the developments in the country as a “conspiracy against the Muslim
world targeting ”
in particular. Turkey
No Business as Usual
is leading the western
condemnation of the crackdown on the MB and urging an “inclusive” political
process that would make them an integral part of any future restructuring of
the ruling system. U.S.
This line of
thinking is creating an international environment that is fueling the MB
defiance, which would inevitably
perpetuate the violence and the crisis, the interim
This is exactly what leads the
– led west
to a collision course with the incumbent interim government, who accuse Morsi
and his brethren are of leading a year – long effort of exclusion of all the
other political players. The MB exclusion policies are said to be the major
factor that led to the
demise of their rule. The new rulers insist on
inclusion of the MB on their own terms. U.S.
They accuse the world’s condemnation of their “excessive use of force” as a contribution to what some of their commentators say it is a “war of attrition” waged by the MB against the Egyptian state, its interim government and defense forces.
More than 100 army and police officers were among no less than one thousand people killed since July 3rd. Michael W. Hanna, an expert on Egypt from the New York-based Century Foundation, was quoted by AP on Monday as saying: “Sure civil war is a possibility.”
post – Morsi rulers do not share the and European view of the MB as
“moderates” who could be “included.” U.S.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. firstname.lastname@example.org