Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The role of the military and the rulers of the Gulf States in stabilizing or de-stabilizing Egypt

by Henelito A. Sevilla Jr*

The ouster of the first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi, puzzled many analysts and made it hard to predict the future of Egypt. People from the beginning of the revolution have been asking for economic and political reform. Instead, Morsi’s government first step was to amend the constitution, giving himself more power. These conflicting priorities gave rise to massive demonstrations across the country.

The military coup that removed Morsi from power and replaced him with a transitional president raises many questions about the place of the military in Arab societies and the role of wealthy Gulf Arab countries in regional politics.

For long, the Egyptian people have held high regard for the Armed Forces of their country. In fact, all previous presidents of Egypt had some military background. Because of social and economic diversity within Egyptian society, some think that only the military could effectively control and manage the country.

The Egyptian Armed Forces understood that their credibility depends on how the majority of the people look at them. Leaders of the Armed Forces  wanted to project themselves as the protectors of the revolution. Thus, while the country struggles for unity, the Armed Forces continue to play a crucial role in securing the country. It is likely that the Armed Forces will continue to play the role of the guarantors of political freedom and economic emancipation.

Reacting to the removal of President Morsi from power, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate (UAE) have both offered an economic package to the new transitional government. The Saudi monarch pledged $5 billion in grants and loans to Egypt’s new government. UAE, too, pledged $3 billion. It should be recalled that both Saudi Arabia and UAE were
leading critics of the Muslim Brotherhood. In January of this year, UAE arrested members of the Muslim Brotherhood and charged with espionage. While Saudi Arabia helped Morsi’s government with almost $2 billion, Qatar was his main backer, giving his government nearly $8 billion during his term in office.

The Gulf States' support for the new regime in Egypt can be explain on several grounds.

First, some see the aid as a humanitarian gesture. Total collapse of the economy will definitely have deleterious impact on the lives of the Egyptian people and therefore if the economy is not saved, there will be a humanitarian crisis that could affect the stability of the Gulf States as well.

Second, these Arab countries want to see a stable Egypt and not a country marred with unending chaos. Stability in Egypt is important for Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait. All these countries are interested in stopping the spread of the Arab Spring to their own lands.

Lastly, rulers of these countries prefer that Egypt is governed by any other political entity but the Muslim Brotherhood. They are threatened by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and they will do all it takes to keep them out.

Ultimately, Egypt will need sustainable reform and stability in the country for it to survive this crisis. To achieve that, Egyptians must rely on themselves, not on outside forces.

*Henelito A. Sevilla, Jr is an Assistant Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines, Diliman. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Tehran, a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Shahid Behesti, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran and Bachelor of Science in International Relations at the King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies, Mindanao State University, Marawi City, Philippines.

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