Egypt and the West’s hostilities are only for show
While it may appear that political misinterpretation always exists between Egypt and Western nations, this is in fact a misconception that only citizens of these respective nations believe. In reality, the Egyptian state and key Western governments see eye-to-eye completely. The unwritten deal between the two parties entitles the West to occasionally express some sort of criticism of Egypt, upon which our government fires back spontaneously — but this brief unpleasant dialogue does not impact their well-established relationship.
Every now and then, the West issues a statement denouncing human rights abuses in Egypt, to which the Egyptian government responds immediately, stating that the West does not understand the country’s political dynamics and, in essence, that it should not interfere in its domestic political affairs. In fact, Western nations comprehend Egypt’s domestic political affairs better than many native Egyptians do, knowing how to “pick and choose” issues that could place political pressure on Cairo at the desired time.
Egypt shapes its politics in black and white, while the West forms the same in shades of color. Nevertheless, a number of effective common channels keep the relationship between the two parties alive. Egypt wants the world to strongly and blindly support its core mission of fighting terrorism, while Western nations want Egypt to break down its terrorism challenges into categories and provide tailor-made solutions for each problem — a proposition that Egypt rejects completely and to which it doesn’t even have the capacity to apply.
The West often claims that its foreign affairs relationships are shaped by national interests, moral values and political leverage. But its economic interests serve Western citizens perfectly; thus, they are often given top priority, while claims to moral values can easily be made through occasional announcements backed by assertions that the West doesn’t have the power to fix the political defects of other nations.
In fact, Western citizens decide to keep or to remove their respective governments based on economic performance, not on the ability to transform other nations.
Egypt wants the world to strongly and blindly support its core mission of fighting terrorism
Meanwhile, the Egyptian state has long known that privileging Western nations with more economic opportunities will eventually quieten down their accusations. Western nations’ eagerness to realize economic growth through autocratic developing nations is the main force that keeps their international policies revolving at the level of routine declarations. Since the West does not want Egypt to collapse under its pressure, issuing occasional gentle reminders that won’t cause any real harm is sufficient.
The recent report revealing that the French government has expanded its supply of weapons and surveillance equipment to Egypt, from €39.6 million ($45.7 million) in 2010 to €1.3 billion in 2016, symbolizes the relationship between the two parties. These supplies could be used toward domestic repression and, while France is obviously happy to expand its export of equipment, it may, in parallel, condemn their misuse. In this case, the Egyptian government may reply “we are only testing your weapons” and the argument will be promptly settled. Obviously, France is not selling these weapons for them to be used, but to test Egypt’s manners.
US President Donald Trump is a clear exception to this hypocrisy: He has categorically stated that he won’t interfere in any nation’s domestic affairs, genuinely implementing his policy of “America first.” Thus, his position was very clear when he froze part of the US aid to Egypt due to its relations with North Korea. The freeze on aid was eventually ended after the Egyptian state met the US’ political demands. Trump works to serve his citizens’ interests and is not keen on masking them with ethical values.
Trump’s political proposition has empowered the Egyptian state to overreact in many instances when it faced accusations. Egypt is no longer in a position where it is willing to accept Europe’s interference in its domestic political affairs. The difficulties many Western nations encounter with establishing governments, along with the spread of political scandals in other nations, have strengthened the Egyptian state, encouraging it to maintain its internal political stance. Nevertheless, knowing that it is only for public consumption, both parties are happy to occasionally engage in this hostile dialogue.
- Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir