By : Jamal Khashoggi
It is out of love for Egypt that we call for an end to restrictions on the only influential Arab media – Saudi or Saudi-backed outlets – when covering developments there. I do not expect an article or a statement to provide the wisdom needed to mend the troubled path, but they can end the delusion that Egypt can do what it wants while Saudi Arabia bears the consequences.
Until now, we have taken Egypt’s circumstances into consideration because we are keen on its success. This is why we keep silent as we hope it achieves stability and peace. Also, so as not to serve the government’s enemies.
It is time the Egyptian situation is seen as it is, not as we want it to be.
Nevertheless, the low parliamentary election turnout is a clear sign that something is not right in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood and other parties did not call for an election boycott. Some gave fancy justifications for the low turnout, which proved false when we check archival photos of Egyptians lining up in long queues under the rain in previous elections. No one was convinced with the official turnout of 26 percent, but even if it was true, it is very low for a crucial parliamentary election following two popular revolutions.
I recently met Egyptian leaders who do not belong to the Brotherhood, and who supported the revolution that toppled former President Mohammad Mursi. They are all frustrated. The least pessimistic describe the situation as stable; since he is a novelist he described it in a cynical sentence “who ever used to get steady supply of water before the revolution, still gets it. And who ever didn’t, still doesn’t get it.” But the most pessimistic believe Egypt is heading towards disaster; an economic crisis, a deficit in the balance of payments, and a continuous decline in foreign-exchange reserves.
This is not according to an opposition source, but the governor of the Central Bank of Egypt. These reports were published in Egyptian newspapers. There are no real economic reforms, and an atmosphere of recrimination prevents dialogue to solve the crisis.
Bloomberg has described the new Suez Canal as Egypt’s unneeded gift to the world, adding: “If the world needed this project, benefitting countries from the Canal and fiscal institutions would have stood in line to offer loans or their participation in the project implementation. It is a waste of scarce money that won’t be available another time in such circumstances.”
The Egyptian opposition is growing steadily abroad, and is no longer limited to the Brotherhood. The opposition’s words are politicized, but Saudis are not opponents when we discuss Egypt’s affairs, but brothers who want what is best for it. We consider Egypt another wing in the journey of freedom in the Arab world, and we want it to remain strong and honorable. We give advice to Egypt because we care, yet the Egyptian press criticizes the kingdom continuously.
Let us discuss the conditions of Egyptian factories that have stalled because of fuel shortages or striking workers. Let us try to figure out why the Egyptian stance on Syria contrasts with that of the kingdom, and why Cairo favors President Bashar al-Assad and Russian strikes.
Why does Egypt not fear an Assad victory leading to Iranian hegemony over Syria? How can Egypt let Syria fall into Iranian hands? Why can it not see through the eyes of Saudi Arabia? No other capitals consider Syria as part of their strategic security more than Riyadh and Cairo.
We do not serve Egypt or its leadership with our silence. It needs a word of truth. It is time the Egyptian situation is seen as it is, not as we want it to be.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi
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