Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt and Saudi Arabia: The real story | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The current crisis between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt is not the first of its kind, and due to the nature of the relationships between the two countries, it will not be the last. Therefore, it is necessary for us to put all “crises” between the two countries in context as soon as they happen. What is happening today in Egypt is a strikingly different situation compared to the crises of the past, as Egypt continues to experience a state of prolonged labor to move on from a state of revolution to the post-revolutionary phase. In the former state of revolution, a state of exaggerated “fluidity” prevails whereby people in general, and the revolutionary youths in particular, try to let off steam at every opportunity, as a result of the long decades of disappointment they experienced since the military coup back in 1952.

It will be of no use to review the history of Saudi-Egyptian relations and the key points of agreement and disagreement, in order to see how such disagreements were resolved. This is because the relationship between two countries as weighty as Saudi Arabia and Egypt must transcend minor differences and focus on the greater considerations of respect and mutual trust, and so anything that impacts upon these relations must be addressed immediately and decisively.

Since the eruption of the revolution there has been a state of public acceptance, whether on the part of the Egyptian leadership, the media or the street, towards the false accusations launched against Saudi Arabia and the Saudi people, and the allegation that Saudi Arabia was applying pressure to keep Mubarak in power. Later on, Saudi Arabia was also accused of lobbying to end Mubarak’s trial, and of using the Salafis as a “scarecrow” to terrify Egyptian society, which was largely horrified by the Salafis’ extremist discourse. Finally, the Saudis were accused of standing behind campaigns launched by the “remnants” of the former ruling party.

Of course, this was all nothing more than cheap slander consisting of lies and exaggerations, which moved from corridors and streets to newspaper columns and television screens. The argument ultimately gained “confidence” because those who made such claims had high standings and credibility, and as a result, the offensive against Saudi Arabia further intensified. This all happened amidst the strange silence of the Egyptian government, which argued that it too was on the receiving end of criticisms and insults. Yet such an excuse is not acceptable, for all what was expected from the Egyptian government was to ensure the protection of the premises and diplomats of the Saudi diplomatic mission. Of course, the Egyptian security apparatuses’ ability to control the streets and the people during the recent parliamentary elections was clear for everyone to see. Yet, what matters is the government’s inactivity regarding Saudi Arabia in particular. Following the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, the revengeful and selective targeting of some Saudi investments in particular, and Gulf investments in general, was sorrowful. This has impacted upon the economic relations between the two countries, whilst, for example, Libyan, Lebanese or European investments have remained unharmed!

After the former president relinquished power, The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a statement emphasizing its respect for international treaties and agreements, aiming to reassure the West, the US and Israel over the peace agreement. We were hopeful that a similarly strong and clear statement would be issued to emphasize that relations with Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, still hold a strategic dimension and that the Egyptian authorities would not allow them to be harmed or jeopardized. We would also have liked to hear that the Egyptian judiciary would be looking into the false claims made by some people against Saudi Arabia and its symbols on more than one occasion. This is because leniency, with regards to this particular issue, has served as a green light for others to carry on with their manner of conduct. Here a question arises: Who was behind the false story about the arrest of the “human rights activist and lawyer”, while on his way to perform the Umrah [minor pilgrimage], under charges of insulting the king, and the claim that he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and 20 lashes as a punishment?

Reviewing the tweets on the Twitter website that broke the news initially, there was one popular revolutionary trend that Iran in particular sympathized with, as reflected by its local media reaction, namely that the “dignity of the Egyptian people comes before all other considerations, and no one is allowed to insult this.”

Saudi-Egyptian relations are significant and vital, yet the appropriate atmosphere must be ensured for them to remain safe and secure, a situation that does not exist today. The measures taken by Saudi Arabia are the minimum required in view of this overclouded climate of mistrust.

Al-Gizawi is not the story here, as he has already confessed to his crime of attempting to smuggle drugs, refuting the story circulated in Egypt and exposing the lies that spread like wildfire. The real story is that important relations between countries must be safeguarded.