The unlikely hero of Egypt?
Egypt is a wreck of a country, so unable to feed itself that the Muslim Brotherhood foundered on the rocks of economic reality after winning the country's first democratic election by a bare majority. At a distance, Americans fail to perceive the stark near-starvation that is the lot of a huge percentage of Egypt's population. Morsi's MB governance strangled foreign tourism, the one major source of the hard currency Egypt needs to be able to import enough wheat and fuel to avoid mass starvation.
So how will a post-Morsi government avoid the same fate?
David P. Goldman (aka, Spengler), in an insightful and fact-filled essay on Egypt, nominates the unlikelist of heroes: Saudi Arabia, and more specifically, Prince Bandar, chief of intelligence for the past year, and for 22 years, Saudi's ambassador to the United States:
Egypt's people embraced the military because they remember that the military used to feed them. In fact, the military probably can alleviate the food crisis, because - unlike the Muslim Brotherhood- Egypt's generals should be able to count on the support of Saudi Arabia. Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz congratulated Egypt's military-appointed interim president on Wednesday night, while the United Arab Emirates expressed "satisfaction" at the course of events. Only the crazy emir of Qatar, the patron of al-Jazeera television and an assortment of Islamist ideologues, had backed the Brotherhood - and his son replaced him last week. The Saudi monarchy hates the Brotherhood the way Captain Hook hated the crocodile: it is the only political force capable of overthrowing the monarchy and replacing it. (snip)
The Saudis have another reason to get involved in Egypt, and that is the situation in Syria. Saudi Arabia's intervention in the Syrian civil war, now guided by Prince Bandar, the new chief of Saudi Intelligence, has a double problem. The KSA wants to prevent Iran from turning Syria into a satrapy and fire base, but fears that the Sunni jihadists to whom it is sending anti-aircraft missiles eventually might turn against the monarchy. The same sort of blowback afflicted the kingdom after the 1980s Afghan war, in the person of Osama bin Laden. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been fighting for influence among Syria's Sunni rebels (as David Ottaway reported earlier this week at National Interest). Cutting off the Muslim Brotherhood at the knees in Egypt will help the KSA limit potential blowback in Syria.
Egypt probably can be kept on life support for about $10 billion a year in foreign subsidies, especially if the military regime can restore calm and bring the tourists back (although that is a big "if" - one of President Morsi's last acts was to appoint as governor of Luxor province an associate of the Islamist terrorists who massacred 62 tourists in Luxor in 1997). With about $630 billion in foreign exchange reserves, Saudi Arabia can carry Egypt for a couple of years while the Syrian crisis plays out. Saudi Arabia also has covered a good part of Turkey's huge payments deficit during the past couple of years, which means that Ankara will dance to Riyadh's tune.
I gag at the concept of Saudi Arabia being heroic in any way. But among the bad actors of the Middle East, they are among the least bad, probably because the royals enjoy power so much, and are so good at political maneuvering that they dose their Islamic fundamentalism with a dollop of pragmatism. The Muslim Brothers, accustomed to life as underground revolutionaries, are more prone to impractical rigidities, the kind of thing that gets one overthrown.