In a dazzling display of monetary muscle, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates poured $8 billion in a single day into the coffers of Egypt’s army rulers in cash, grants, loans without interest and gifts of gas, a dizzying life-saving infusion into its tottering economy. Forking out sums on this scale in a single day – or even month – is beyond the capacity of almost every world power – even the US and Russia – in this age of economic distress. The Arab oil colossuses managed to dwarf Iran’s pretensions to the standing of regional power.
Tuesday, July 9, just six days after the Egyptian army overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, a UAE delegation of foreign and energy ministers and national security adviser landed in Cairo. They came carrying the gifts of $1 billion as a grant and $2 billion in long-term credit.
In well-orchestrated moves, Saudi Arabia then stepped forward with a $5 billion package, of which a lump sum of $2 billion was drafted to Egypt’s state bank that day, followed by another $2 billion as a gift of Saudi gas, and a further $1 billion for propping up the sagging Egyptian currency.
The delivery by two Arab governments to a third of financial assistance on this scale and on a single day is unheard of in the Middle East, or, indeed, anwhere else.
As they celebrate Ramadan, 84 million Egyptians can start looking forward to a square meal at the end of their month of fasting.
This river of largesse was the outcome of a development first revealed by debkafile last week: The Egyptian military high command was not working alone when its operations headquarters put together the July 3 takeover of power from the Muslim Brotherhood; it was coordinated closely down to the last detail with the palaces of the Saudi and UAE rulers and the operations rooms of their intelligence services.
The last DEBKA Weekly issue 594 (July 5) carried details of the military-intelligence mechanism at work between the three governments.
The coming issue, out next Friday, July 12, offers further revelations of how this mechanism is designed to shore up Egypt’s post-coup regime and restore the strife-torn country, the most populous in the Arab world, to its traditional eminence. Cairo is assigned a lead role in a Sunni Muslim bloc stretching from the Gulf to Cairo (with room for quiet collaboration with Israel) to withstand the challenges posed by the alliance of Russia, Iran, Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah.
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The petrodollar shower for Egypt did not end with the $8 billion from Saudi Arabia and the UAE: Kuwait has pledged another $5 billion – later amended to $4 billion – in a secret communication to Riyadh. It will be released after the sheikhdom's parliamentary elections on July 27, and so raise total Gulf Arab bounty to Egypt to the staggering total of $12 billion.
Friendly assistance on this scale tends to diminish the relevance of Washington’s dilemmas over the continuation of its $1.3 billion aid package to Egypt after a military coup, of which $700 million is due this year.
The suggestion that US aid may be used to hasten Egypt’s “swift return to a democratically elected civilian government” loses its force when Saudi Arabia and the UAE have both guaranteed to make up any shortfalls in US aid to Egypt.
On June 26, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Kadri Jamil boasted that Moscow, Beijing and Tehran were contributing half a billion dollars per month to Syria’s war chest. “It’s not so bad to have Russia, China and Iran on your side,” he gloated.
Egypt can now boast to have far outstripped Syria in foreign support – $12 billion in a single month, compared with a mere $6 billion in a year.