Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Not Exactly Watergate
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The latest so-called scandal of audio leaks from the Egyptian presidency is fit to be taught in media studies classes as a model of a failed campaign. It’s also proof that, regardless of how strong the media thinks it is, it cannot influence or change anything so long as it doesn’t have a concrete cause, or lacks credibility.

If I hadn’t known the background to the leaks and the motives behind them, I would have thought they were a product of the Egyptian presidency itself in an attempt to convince us of its good intentions.

For those who haven’t been following these events, the whole story began with a campaign preparing Arab public opinion for a scandal that included leaks of confidential recordings of phone calls purportedly showing Cairo’s bad intentions towards the Gulf countries and the Egyptian people. We feared we’d hear about military scenarios being prepared behind closed doors against the Gulf, or conspiracies with Tehran, or secret plans being prepared with the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). As it turns out, the leaked material was mere chatter even less controversial than what is said in public gatherings and coffee shops. The real scandal was therefore the attempts to expose one.

What is the problem when the Egyptians say that Gulf countries “have as much money as they have grains of rice”? First of all, this is true, and, secondly, people say this in the Gulf every day without any embarrassment. The so-called leaks about the intentions of then-army commander Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to run for president were also neither a secret nor a surprise—that is, assuming that the recordings were genuine in the first place. The phone calls or meetings did not include contacts with Israelis and Americans planning, commanding or forbidding courses of action. There is also nothing interesting or new in the fact that Sisi’s office informed its allies that Sisi intends to run for president. Nor did the secret recordings expose any details of any personal financial affairs, and we didn’t hear any scandals pertaining to anyone in person.

After listening to these alleged leaks, I realized they are actually a good advertisement for Egypt and the Egyptian presidency. These so-called leaks seem more like a malicious attempt aimed at driving a wedge between Egyptians and the Gulf and inciting people against the Egyptian president and government.

However, whoever leaked the recordings ended up unintentionally presenting a positive image of the Egyptian leadership, which comes off as as credible any beyond doubt and completely unlike the image its rivals would have us believe is the true one.

We were afraid we’d hear about a conspiracy to damage the Gulf’s security and stability, or about a two-faced policy regarding serious regional affairs. If the content of what has been (allegedly) leaked so far really represents the most important of the recorded material available, then Gulf countries allied with Egypt actually have nothing to worry about.

Relations are not established on the basis of whispers and gossip, but on those of mutual interests and positions on serious issues. Egypt’s stability is an issue that is vital to the security and stability of the Gulf countries and the Arab world.

Therefore, attempts to harm stability, such as tampering with political relations, will backfire on everyone, and it is something that Arab regimes who are aware what pursuing their security and interests requires will never accept.

As for the issue of financial support from the Gulf, the country’s involved are convinced they are not presenting it to Sisi but to Egypt itself, as an investment that serves 90 million Egyptians, who, in the event we let down or allow others to destabilize their country, will become a burden on everyone.

However, we can be certain that money alone is not the solution to Egypt’s crises as some think. First of all, the regime must be extended some trust; secondly, there must be guidance on how to use and invest these funds in a way that benefits Egypt in the long term. The funds must not be conceived of as being “aid” either, which just evaporates when the last dollar is spent.

This is the challenge which countries who support Egypt, like Said Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, are currently confronting. The main issue lies insupporting productive Egyptian projects and ideas. Gulf support grants Egyptian citizens confidence in their regime and attracts local and international investors.

It is because of their conviction alone that Gulf countries stand behind the Egyptian government against those calling for chaos. We are all going through a tough and dangerous phase in the region, and no one can survive unscathed if Egypt, the pillar of the Arab world, falls.

Wise men across the region, from its east to its west, understand all this very well, and all Arab countries—except for one—agree it is necessary to support Egyptian stability. As such, any propaganda targeting the regime is unlikely to succeed, if it is the product of premeditated campaigns and not spontaneous, popular moves. Truth be told, this malicious campaign of leaks is the lamest I have yet seen in this genre, and has quickly backfired into one of solidarity with Egypt and Sisi, and strengthening relations with the new regime via reassuring phone calls.