Mohamad Bazzi writes: In Sisi, the House of Saud found a new strongman for Egypt. Sisi had served as an Egyptian military attaché to Saudi Arabia, and as he led the crackdown against the Brotherhood, the kingdom became his most important sponsor. The Sauds provided more than $12 billion to keep the Egyptian economy afloat, and they pressed two other Gulf monarchies, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, to pledge more aid. Since the coup, Sisi’s regime has received over $30 billion in support from the three Gulf monarchies.
A series of leaked audio recordings of Sisi and other top generals showed that the Emirates had provided funds to the Egyptian military to finance the protest campaign against Morsi. “Sir, we will need 200 tomorrow from Tamarod’s account—you know, the part from the UAE, which they transferred,” Sisi’s chief of staff, General Abbas Kamel, tells another general, later clarifying that he means 200,000 Egyptian pounds — about $30,000. At the time, the group that led the popular protests, Tamarod (Arabic for “Rebellion”), was portrayed in much of the Arab and Western press as a grassroots campaign that emerged spontaneously to agitate against Morsi’s misrule. After the coup, one recording captured Sisi instructing Kamel to keep billions of dollars in Saudi and other Gulf aid in accounts controlled by the defense ministry, rather than the civilian government. On other recordings, Sisi and his fellow generals can be heard snickering at their Gulf patrons and how easy it is to demand large sums from them. “Why are you laughing?” Sisi asks his chief of staff. “They have money like rice, man!”
In another recording, Sisi sounds incredulous of the sums he and the generals have received from their Gulf allies. “No, no, no! It’s not $8 billion in six months, no!” he says, before one of his deputies convinces him they have received a total of over $30 billion. “May God continue providing!” Sisi responds.
Today, Sisi’s regime can continue its crackdown with impunity partly because the United States and other world powers made clear that they favor stability over democracy. Much of the West accepted the coup and has remained largely silent about the sham trials and mass death sentences being handed down by the Egyptian judiciary. The United States provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid each year, but it has been reluctant to use that as leverage against the Egyptian regime. Neither President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry has substantively criticized Sisi’s dictatorship. [Continue reading…]
An editorial in the New York Times says: Viewing its alliance with Egypt as too crucial to fail, the Obama administration has done too little to confront the Sisi government’s expanding authoritarianism. Congress has continued to award Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid each year, despite ample evidence that its armed forces commit human rights abuses with impunity. The Obama administration and other Western governments have sought to nudge the Egyptian government to protect civil liberties with gentle public admonishments.
That approach is clearly not working. Egypt desperately needs international investment and deeply values its military relationship with the United States. Trade and military aid should be conditioned on clear signs that the government will respect freedom of expression and what’s left of the country’s civil society. [Continue reading…]