Saudi Arabia Promises to Aid Egypt’s Regime

 

 

Saudi Arabia blamed the United States and other allies for failing to support Mr. Mubarak in 2011 when Egyptians took to the street provoking his ouster. But their criticism was mostly in private, and low-key. Even after the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mr. Morsi was elected, the kingdom responded quickly to keep the treasury solvent with a substantial $5 billion in aid.

By July 10, one week after the military takeover, the Saudis had put together a package of aid totaling $12 billion: $5 billion from the kingdom, $3 billion from the United Arab Emirates and $4 billion from Kuwait.

Unlike American aid, much of the Saudi assistance goes directly into Egyptian coffers with no strings attached. Much of it is cash transferred directly to the Egyptian Central Bank, with the rest grants of free or subsidized oil products, which free an equivalent amount of money for Egypt to budget as it wishes.

By contrast, American and European governments have insisted — often for legal reasons under their own laws — that aid is monitored and often channeled through nongovernmental relief groups.

There is a strong rivalry between Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies of the Egyptian military, on the one hand, and Qatar and Turkey, on the other, both of which are big supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar has often outspent even the Saudis in pursuit of its foreign policy goals, and has put much of its money into Arab Spring causes like battling governments in Libya and Syria.

The Saudis, on the other hand, have championed shoring up the established order, which in Egypt is represented by the generals.

“The Saudis feel they need to create a diplomatic and economic bloc to support Egypt, or it will collapse,” said Hussein al-Shobokshy, a Jeddah-based Saudi columnist who often writes on Egyptian-Saudi relations. “Prince Faisal is taking the pole in championing the cause right now; he is carrying the banner for Egypt,” he said.

Anwar Majid Eshki, the chairman of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, a Saudi-based research center, said Saudi officials were buoyed by what they perceived as Prince Faisal’s success in France. “We are getting that message out to the friends of Saudi Arabia, in Europe and the United States, this is our assessment of the situation,” he said.

Over the weekend, however, the European Union officially condemned the violence and blamed the military regime for doing little to stop it.

Ordinary Egyptians have long had something of a love-hate relationship with Saudi Arabia. Some 1.5 million to 2 million Egyptian guest workers are employed there, but many come back soured by the experience.

Last year, rioting outside their Cairo embassy forced the Saudis to close it; protesters were angry at the decision to sentence an Egyptian human rights lawyer, Ahmed al-Gezawi, to prison and 300 lashes. The Saudis claim he was a drug smuggler; Mr. Gezawi’s supporters say his lawsuit against King Abdullah, challenging human rights violations against Egyptian guest workers, was the cause of the prosecution.

Now, however, on the issue of financial aid, at least among the sizable anti-Muslim Brotherhood camp, there is plenty of applause for the Saudi stance. “I would lick the floor rather than take that aid from America,” said Mahmoud Salama, a businessman in Cairo and a recent returnee from Australia.

“I don’t agree with many things in Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis know that Egypt is their back, their biggest neighbor, and that they should support us when we need support.”


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