Rebalancing Relationships: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Patrick W. Ryan | SUSRIS
The July 3rd army coup that removed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was followed by a crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood organization and its supporters and ultimately a bloody confrontation in Cairo and across Egypt on Wednesday. In the aftermath of the military’s seizure of power last month the United States and Saudi Arabia each reacted in a public way with King Abdullah congratulating the new government for assuming leadership of Egypt “at this critical point in history”:
“By doing so, I appeal to Allah Almighty to help you to shoulder the responsibility laid on your shoulder to achieve the hopes of our sisterly people of the Arab Republic of Egypt. At the same time, we strongly shake hands with the men of all the armed forces, represented by General Abdulfattah Al-Sisi, who managed to save Egypt at this critical moment from a dark tunnel God only could apprehend its dimensions and repercussions, but the wisdom and moderation came out of those men to preserve the rights of all parties in the political process.”
President Obama reacted differently. He called for a quick return of authority to a democratically elected civilian government. His statement in the wake of the army’s move noted, “We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution,” while dancing around the use of the word coup which would carry legal consequences for US aid to Cairo.
“The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties — secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts.”
A week later Saudi Arabia approved a $5 billion transfer to support Cairo, consisting of a $2 billion central bank deposit, $2 billion in energy support, and $1 billion in cash according to Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf in a Reuters report. The United Arab Emirates agreed to provide $3 billion in aid. Meanwhile, Washington pondered how to respond to Morsi’s removal. In the end the U.S. stopped delivery of four F-16 jet fighters but sought to retain the leverage of foreign aid by avoiding use of the word “coup” to describe Morsi’s ouster.
This week’s carnage in the streets of Egypt led to both leaders making statements with King Abdullah forcefully backing the government’s action against the Muslim Brotherhood. The people and government of Saudi Arabia, he said, “stand today with our brothers in Egypt against terrorism, extremism and sedition, and against whoever is trying to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs and in its determination, power and legitimate right to deter every spoiler or whoever misleads the people of Egypt.” The Saudi government announced it will send three field hospitals, doctors and technicians to Egypt to show it was, “standing by and supporting the brotherly Egyptian people, and to reduce the pressure on hospitals there,” SPA quoted an official as saying. King Abdullah’s strong statement drew praise from the government in Cairo.
President Obama interrupted his Massachusetts vacation Thursday to talk about the violence in Egypt noting that he appreciated “the complexity of the situation” while strongly condemning the crackdown. Washington canceled an upcoming biannual military exercise between Americans and Egyptians but ignored calls from critics to react more forcefully against Cairo. Obama said he asked his national security team “to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.” However, he did not yield to critics who called for suspension of the $1.3 billion annual aid package to Egypt.
Today we provide a summary of official statements from Washington and Riyadh in response to this week’s violence in Cairo, along with links to related media reporting. You can read King Abdullah’s and President Obama’s statements following the July 3rd coup in Cairo in the SUSRIS Special Report “Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United States.” Also see the SUSRIS exclusive interview with Dr. Jon Alterman, Director of the CSIS Middle East Program, “Rebalancing Relationships: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.“
Statement Issued by King Abdullah Regarding the Situation in Egypt
We have followed with deep sorrow the events taking place in our second homeland, the brotherly Arab Republic of Egypt; events which only please enemies of Egypt’s stability and security and its people, but at the same time pain all those who love Egypt and care for its stability and unity which are, today, targets for all evil wishers.
This attempt to unsettle Egypt’s unity and stability – carried out by the ignorant, the inadvertent, or the mindful of the enemies’ design – will, God willing, be fruitless.
The people of Egypt, Arab and Muslim nations, the honorable Ulema, intellectuals, writers, and all sensible people [are] to stand united with one heart in facing attempts to destabilize a country which historically has always been at the forefront of Arab and Muslim nations; honorable people should not maintain silence on and be heedless of what is going on.
The people and government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stood and still stand today with our brothers in Egypt against terrorism, extremism and sedition, and against whoever is trying to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs and in its determination, power and legitimate right to deter every spoiler or whoever misleads the people of Egypt.
Let it be known to those who interfered in Egypt’s internal affairs that they themselves are fanning the fire of sedition and are promoting the terrorism which they call for fighting.
I hope they will come to their senses before it is too late; for the Egypt of Islam, Arabism, and honorable history will not be altered by what some may say or what positions others may take.
Egypt will be able, with the grace and might of God, to pass into the land of safety; and then those will realize the wrong they committed when it is too late to show regret.
Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Egypt
The White House
August 14, 2013
The United States strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt. We extend our condolences to the families of those who have been killed, and to the injured. We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint, and for the government to respect the universal rights of its citizens, just as we have urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully. Violence will only make it more difficult to move Egypt forward on a path to lasting stability and democracy, and runs directly counter to the pledges by the interim government to pursue reconciliation. We also strongly oppose a return to a State of Emergency law, and call on the government to respect basic human rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly, and due process under the law. The world is watching what is happening in Cairo. We urge the government of Egypt – and all parties in Egypt – to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully.
Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt
August 15, 2013
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I just finished a discussion with my national security team about the situation in Egypt, and I wanted to provide an update about our response to the events of the last several days.
Let me begin by stepping back for a moment. The relationship between the United States and Egypt goes back decades. It’s rooted in our respect of Egypt as a nation, an ancient center of civilization, and a cornerstone for peace in the Middle East. It’s also rooted in our ties to the Egyptian people, forged through a longstanding partnership.
Just over two years ago, America was inspired by the Egyptian people’s desire for change as millions of Egyptians took to the streets to defend their dignity and demand a government that was responsive to their aspirations for political freedom and economic opportunity. And we said at the time that change would not come quickly or easily, but we did align ourselves with a set of principles: nonviolence, a respect for universal rights, and a process for political and economic reform. In doing so, we were guided by values but also by interests, because we believe nations are more stable and more successful when they’re guided by those principles as well.
And that’s why we’re so concerned by recent events. We appreciate the complexity of the situation. While Mohamed Morsi was elected President in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians. We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians were calling for a change in course. And while we do not believe that force is the way to resolve political differences, after the military’s intervention several weeks ago, there remained a chance for reconciliation and an opportunity to pursue a democratic path.
Instead, we’ve seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr. Morsi’s associations and supporters, and now tragically the violence that’s taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more.
The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom, or that might makes right. And today the United States extends its condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who were wounded.
And given the depths of our partnership with Egypt, our national security interests in this pivotal part of the world and our belief that engagement can support a transition back to a democratically elected civilian government, we’ve sustained our commitment to Egypt and its people. But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.
As a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month. Going forward I’ve asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.
Let me say that the Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last several days. And to the Egyptian people, let me say the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop. We call on the Egyptian authorities to respect the universal rights of the people. We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we’ve seen by protesters, including on churches. We believe that the state of emergency should be lifted, that a process of national reconciliation should begin, that all parties need to have a voice in Egypt’s future, that the rights of women and religious minorities should be respected, and that commitments must be kept to pursue transparent reforms of the constitution and democratic elections of a parliament and a President.
Pursuing that path with help Egypt meet the democratic aspirations of its people while attracting the investment, tourism and international support that can help it deliver opportunities to its citizens. Violence, on the other hand, will only feed the cycle of polarization that isolates Egyptians from one another and from the world, and that continues to hamper the opportunity for Egypt to get back on the path of economic growth.
Let me make one final point. America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That’s a task for the Egyptian people. We don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure. I know it’s tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what’s gone wrong. We’ve been blamed by supporters of Morsi. We’ve been blamed by the other side, as if we are supporters of Morsi. That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve.
We want Egypt to succeed. We want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Egypt. That’s our interest. But to achieve that, the Egyptians are going to have to do the work.
We recognize that change takes time, and that a process like this is never guaranteed. There are examples in recent history of countries that are transitioned out of a military government towards a democratic government, and it did not always go in a straight line, and the process was not always smooth. There are going to be false starts. There will be difficult days. America’s democratic journey took us through some mighty struggles to perfect our union.
From Asia to the Americas, we know that democratic transitions are measured not in months or even years, but sometimes in generations. So in the spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect, I want to be clear that America wants to be a partner in the Egyptian people’s pursuit of a better future, and we are guided by our national interest in this longstanding relationship. But our partnership must also advance the principles that we believe in and that so many Egyptians have sacrificed for these last several years — no matter what party or faction they belong to.
So America will work with all those in Egypt and around the world who support a future of stability that rests on a foundation of justice and peace and dignity.
Thank you very much.
Al-Sisi Highly Appreciates Saudi Arabia’s Support to Egypt
Cairo, Shawwal 11, 1434, Aug 18, 2013, SPA — Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Egypt’s defense minister, armed forces commander, and deputy premier has highly valued the support provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a number of Arab countries to Egypt under the current circumstances it faces now, stressing that the Egyptian people will not forget the Saudi support.
This came during his meeting with the soldiers, officers and commanders of the central region in the presence of Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim and a number of police leaders.
18:37 LOCAL TIME 15:37 GMT
The Egyptian Gazette
August 19, 2013
Saudi King Abdullah has given moral support to Egypt during an extremely critical time where the Muslim Brotherhood supporters literary wreaked havoc across the country. More importantly, the Saudi monarch’s statement has sent a clear message to the West to stop interfering in Egyptian affairs. The statement said: ”Those who have interfered in Egypt’s affairs must know that they are causing sedition and backing terrorism which they claim to fight.”
Since the army has unseated former president Mohamed Morsi in response to a massive popular will, the US has reacted in a way that shows either little understanding or deliberate ignoring of facts on the ground, which cast much doubt on its purpose and intention.
What Egypt is facing today is terror in the strict sense of the word and it is not so difficult for discerning eyes to realize it unless they do not wish to see it as such.
By cancelling the bi-annual Bright Star military exercise with Egypt, the US has encouraged Denmark , Germany and the Netherlands to withdraw their small aid to Egypt.
Western interpretation of what is happening in Egypt certainly conforms to the MB’s vision which pictures the ongoing events as a power conflict between a ‘legitimate authority` that has been done wrong and the military. While such a latent conflict might well be part of the current scene, it is not definitely the whole truth nor the crux of the issue.
The Brotherhood with its allying terror groups that claim to hold up Islamic tenants has unfolded their ugly face. So when the flag of Al Qaeda shows up in the heart of the capital declaring responsibility of abhorring acts of arsenal, random shooting of innocent people and attack on security institutions, it is quite unbelievable that the international community is still condemning the Egyptian State handling of the situation.
Despite diplomatic efforts to convey to the world facts about the nature of the retaliating terror war waged by the MB on the Egyptian people and public property, the image regrettably seems still unclear overseas. It is hoped that the presidency, the media and diplomatic channels would redress foreign misconceptions in this respect.
The support shown so far by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan is therefore much appreciated as it would help strengthen the Egyptian stand and enhance domestic endeavours aiming at clarifying the Egyptian viewpoint.
Source: The Egyptian Gazette
- Muslim Brotherhood: A Force Throughout the Muslim World – NPR – Aug 17, 2013
- Saudi Arabia and France agree on giving Egypt’s roadmap a ‘chance’ – Al Arabiya – Aug 19, 2013
- Words of wisdom and courage – Abdulateef Al-Mulhim – Arab News – Aug 19, 2013
- Saudi Arabia warns against pressing Egypt on crackdown – Reuters – Aug 18, 2013
- France urges Saudi, Qatar to help resolve Egypt crisis – AFP – Aug 18, 2013
- Obama Caught Between Polarized Allies in Egypt Crisis – Bloomberg – Aug 18, 2013
- Egypt envoy: King’s statement reflects srong Saudi-Egypt ties – Arab News – Aug 18, 2013
- KSA to send 3 field hospitals to Egypt – Arab News – Aug 18, 2013
- Saudi King Abdullah declares support for Egypt against terrorism – Al Arabiya – Aug 16, 2013
- Arab states declare support for Saudi king’s stance on Egypt crisis – Al Arabiya – Aug 17, 2013
- How American Hopes for a Deal in Egypt Were Undercut – NYTimes – Aug 17, 2013
- Saudi king backs Egypt’s military – Aljazeera – Aug 17, 2013
- Riyadh, Amman back Cairo against ‘terrorism’ – Arab News – Aug 17, 2013
- Egypt is Arena for Influence of Arab Rivals – NYTimes – Jul 9, 2013
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- Fundamentalist Islam at a Crossroads – SUSRIS – Jun 6, 2008