Egypt: an analysis of the current situation
This autumn news from Egypt are little comforting. The killing of Mexican tourists, the Russian plane crash in the Sinai, the interruption of flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh, this Tuesday attack in al-Arish, coastal town in northern Sinai, all contribute to give a sense of turmoil and mayhem.
Ironically, President Abdel Fattah al–Sisi, supported by both Western and Gulf allies, used to be considered Egypt’s strong man! A number of issues about today’s situation in Egypt surface. I will try to assess some of them.
Al-Sisi is currently in a bad position. Critics say he is failing to address troublesome situations like the economic crisis and the issue of security. Egypt’s financial situation is bad. This is mainly due to the collapse of tourism (which made up to 11 percent of the GDP) and to the mismanagement of resources. In particular, the military controls 40 percent of Egypt’s economy and swallows a massive amount of money. So much that foreign currency reserves in the central bank are shrinking fast. According to David Hearst, writing for ‘Middle East Eye’, the Egyptian currency lost 10 percent of its value in just 14 months. Staggering, if one thinks of the dozens of billion dollars that the international community bestowed on al–Sisi.
The economic crisis also relates to the security issue. Concerns about security discourage tourists and keep the army in the streets. Egypt seems unable to control the Sinai, where the Islamic State established its Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province). Between 2012 and 2015, reports Omar Ashour on ‘Foreign Affairs’, jihadist attacks in the region multiplied, causing numerous casualties among the Egyptian forces. The latest attack was carried out in al-Arish and targeted the judges in charge of overseeing the election.
Al-Sisi’s reacts haphazardly. Extra-judicial killings, indiscriminate arrests, deportation, destruction of buildings… However, arbitrary detention is not used in the fight against terrorism, solely. In fact, the President’s hostility toward independent journalism is well-know. So is his hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of former President Mohamed Morsi. Seventeen Muslim Brothers were arrested on charges of sabotage and of indirectly causing the flooding of Alexandria that killed around 20 people.
Many observers foresee President al–Sisi’s twilight. Commentators do not fail to notice the deterioration of the political, social and economic situation. Domestic actors are concerned, too. Opposition leader Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fatouh told BBC Arabic that an early presidential election is now impelling.
THE REGIONAL ACTORS
External actors do not overlook al-Sisi’s troubles, either. ‘Bloomberg View’ reported that Israeli officials think Egyptian security forces are doing everything wrong in their fight against jihadi forces in the Wilayat Sinai.
David Hearst also uncover the position of al-Sisi’s donors in the Gulf. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al–Nahyan reportedly said, “I’m not an ATM!”.
Apparently, he is not satisfied with the earnings of his investment, at all. The Emirates would like to be more involved in the management of Egypt; they would like to exert control over the Country, and, if al-Sisi is not up for the task, someone else could take his place. The Emirates are unhappy with al-Sisi’s broken promises. He did not deliver the economic and administrative reforms they urged him to carry out. He failed to send ground troops to join the anti-Houthi coalition in Yemen. He failed to curtail the media war against King Salman.
Riyadh – which poured money in al-Sisi’s coffers, too – thinks that only the military is able to guarantee Egypt’s stability. However, it does not mean that the Saudis are bound to support al-Sisi indefinitely. In fact, a rival General, Sami Anan, recently visited the kingdom. According to some sources, Anan is one of the candidates to al-Sisi’s office. The other two are Ahmed Shafiq and Murad Muwafi, both close to the Emirates’ interests.