BLOG 299 April 18, 2016
The pot continues to boil. The Middle East remains the hot spot and important for us to understand. Peace talks to end the Syrian war remain shaky. Sporadic fighting between rival groups, the Kurds, and the government threaten the entire process. Russia has sought to reassure Israel over the meaning of its withdrawal of airplanes and troops from Syria – but Israel is still scratching its head, trying to figure out what’s really going on.
Meanwhile, politicians screaming at each other grab the American headlines. More for entertainment than insight, Americans watch everyday as a new truckload of crazy is unloaded. Unfortunately, their attention is diverted from the Middle East where updated insight is far more important. Take Egypt for instance. How long has it been since you read anything about the Sisi government and struggles in Egypt?
Here’s a quick catch up.
ISIS forces and their affiliates operating in Sinai along with Hamas dominance in Gaza have created an important positive relationship between Israel and Egypt. The government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recognized the danger that the Muslim Brotherhood brought against the established state and overthrew Morsi government to stop the armed chaos. Of course, the Israeli government was highly encouraged by these actions and supported General el-Sisi’s shift to a civilian politician and becoming the president of Egypt.
The honeymoon has not stopped.
However, the larger Egyptian public continues to view Israel as their enemy and see the Israelis as a hostile force. Sisi is caught in the pinchers between what is militarily positive and negative public opinion. He knows Hamas continues to aid jihadist groups in Sinai that attack Egyptian soldiers and personnel. Egypt stood with Israel in rejecting the lifting of restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip. The world recognizes that the 1.8 million Gaza inhabitants are on the verge of a serious humanitarian crisis, but Egypt and Israel also recognize the danger that underground re-armaments could produce.
Sisi’s problems are not with Israel but at home. Only financial aid from Saudi Arabia and their Gulf State allies kept Egypt from going bankrupt. A $30 billion grant kept Egypt from sinking. Today, growing unemployment and the devaluation of the Egyptian pound is profoundly affecting spiraling prices. Only a draconian law prohibiting demonstrations and curbing free speech has kept rioters off the streets. The backlash has produced a growing anger at Sisi and his government.
The continued warfare in Sinai (even with Israeli help and backing) is taking a toll at home with Egyptians increasingly resentful with the bloody fighting. Growing socioeconomic hardships deepen public frustration and fuel the arguments that Sisi has failed to control their problems. The revolution in Egypt is far from over and the future is covered with depressing clouds. No one is sure of where it’s all going.