Supporters and rivals of the deposed Egyptian President continue to throng the streets, but behind the scenes the military that brought down Mohamed Morsy seems to be consolidating its power, benefiting from the hefty financial and political support from Saudi Arabia and some other oil-rich Gulf neighbours.
Anti-Morsy campaigners, who had rallied millions of their supporters before the military mounted a coup on July 3, have virtually taken over the capital’s Tahrir square, which became the icon of the Egyptian uprising that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak more than two years ago. On Friday, anti-Morsy demonstrators, who had assembled in their thousands, were effusive in their praise for the military, imparting a distinct nationalistic flavour.
As helicopters and planes, marking the fortieth anniversary of Egypt’s war with Israel in 1973, carried out celebratory aerobatics above the venue, the organisers of the rally sought to convey the message that Mr. Morsy’s removal, with the support of the army, was an equivalent political accomplishment as the perceived victory over Israel 40 years ago.
But not far from Tahrir Square, spirited counter-rallies were being staged by the Muslim Brotherhood— Mr. Morsy’s parent organisation — bemoaning the assault on democracy by a military clique led by Defence Minister, Abdel Fatah El Sisi.
While the hiatus between the secularists and Islamists remains largely unbridged, Gulf heavyweights, keen to turn their petrodollars into geopolitical heft, are strengthening the military-backed interim leadership. Central Bank governor Hisham Ramez said on Thursday out of its $5-billion pledge, Saudi Arabia is set to transfer $2 billion as an interest free deposit over the next few days. Reuters also reported on the same day that the Egyptian Central Bank has already received a $3-billion aid package from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Besides, Kuwait has promised to transfer $4 billion dollars to the interim government.
Analysts point out that with the Gulf countries committing $12 billion, the Egyptians had been liberated from relying on the elusive $4.8 billion loan that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had offeredprovided Cairo subscribed to its harsh conditionalities, which included steep subsidy cuts.
Blow to Turkey
The assertion of a Saudi-led regional group that has caught the West on the wrong foot has meant that two countries — Turkey and Qatar — the main supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as well as in the region, including Syria, have suffered a blow after the Egyptian military coup.
Late on Thursday, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan hectored ambassadors from the West and Arab countries, invited for a Iftar dinner in Ankara, about the pusillanimous response shown by their countries regarding the Egyptian coup.
“Countries which embrace and care about democracy should not behave with double standards towards these kinds of events and should say something is wrong when it is wrong,” asserted Mr. Erdogan as quoted by the Egyptian website Al Ahram. “Those who extol democracy when they meet with us, saying ‘one must not compromise on democracy’, we want to see their backbone.”
Observers say the leadership change in Qatar, where the former Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has abdicated in favour of his son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has badly hurt the Muslim Brotherhood regionwide. Following the change of guard, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the pro-Muslim Brotherhood former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister has been shown the door. The high-profile Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has also disappeared from the limelight following Sheikh Tamim’s accession to the throne.
Saudi Arabia is apparently displacing its frequent rival, Qatar in the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) battling President Bashar Al Assad.
The Lebanese daily, Al Akhbar is reportingreported that Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan has handpicked Ahmad al-Jarba as the new SNC head, ahead of an attempt to escalate fighting in Syria.