A new wrinkle in the drama unfolding in Syria popped up this past week when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi severed relations with Syria and withdrew the Egyptian ambassador. He has also opposed the entry of Hezbollah in the civil war. Assad in turn condemned Egypt’s actions saying that he was only trying to draw attention away from his own crises unfolding in Egypt.
The truth is Morsi does face serious issues across Egypt. His initial promises to turn the country around and treat the West with indifference have not worked out. His image is definitely sinking in Egypt and he faces growing opposition. Morsi’s move against Syria would gain more support from Egypt’s Salafists and Sunni Muslims. His hope is that America will close their eyes to the crumbling situation in the country.
Constant rioting and rebellion have only worsened the already bad economic situation. Egypt is running out of hard currency. Finding adequate gasoline and diesel for power stations hasn’t worked out. Long lines continue at the gas stations and electric cuts off are common. To make matters worse, the weather conditions have not been on Morsi’s side either. Recently, Cairo faced a 20 degree rise in temperature above the usual level with the heat reaching to as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Complicating the shift in temperature, Ethiopia is proposing a hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile which would reduce the water supply in Egypt. Egypt’s 85 million population get 97 percent of their fresh water from the Nile. The hand of Ethiopia is definitely tightening the water faucet . Morsi warned that Egypt would not allow their water supply to be threatened. Possibly, Egypt may have few other options than to attack Ethiopia. Of course, a military conflict could only worsen Egypt’s economic situation.
The truth is that Morsi’s government has been a huge disappointment for many Egyptians. He came to power partly because many voters overlooked this Moslem Brotherhood connection and voted against his opponents because they reflected the Mubarek era. That tolerance has come to an end. Currently a petition is being circulated across Egypt calling for Morsi’s resignation and has garnered 10 million signatures so far.
What’s next? Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote that Egypt needs a genuine revolution. In Friedman’s opinion, Morsi and his opponents have only been playing a game of musical chairs that hasn’t worked. Friedman sees a crucial need for a peace process among the various factions that are at war with each other. He points out that Egypt has talented young people who understand the need for long-term sustainable national renewal. Until the various groups start cooperating, little forward progress is possible.
The problem in countries like Egypt is that they have dug such a deep hole for themselves that as they sink deeper they can’t see over the edge and matters only spiral downward. Let’s hope Egypt recognizes that withdrawing from Syria is certainly the right thing to do, but they can’t camouflage their other problems and come out on top.
I believe Freidman is right. They need a revolution of cooperation.