On Wednesday July 10, debkafile reported: In a dazzling display of monetary muscle, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates poured $8 billion in a single day (Tuesday 9.7) 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 on one day – or even one 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.
This extraordinary transfer of funds to Cairo was originally planned for a later date, DEBKA Weekly reveals. But it was moved up in response to an urgent appeal made by Egypt’s coup leader, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, to the palace of Saudi King Abdullah on Monday July 8, just hours after a bloody clash in Cairo left 53 supporters of the deposed Mohamed Morsi dead.
Gen. El-Sisi explained that he must have a hefty injection of funds without delay to restore the people’s faith in the country’s institutions and trust in the military, at a time of extreme transitional turbulence.
Beblawi refused the job of premier without working capital
Answering questions, the Egyptian strongman explained to the king that he was racing ahead with moves to restore political government in Cairo: Elections to parliament were scheduled for eight months hence in late February, 2014, followed by presidential elections soon after. But, he said, efforts to name a provisional prime minister for the interim had run into a snag: The candidates approached had all declined, saying it was an impossible job.
Finally, the 77-year old economist and former finance minister Hazem el-Beblawi agreed to take it on provided Riyadh put up the capital for keeping the Egyptian economy afloat.
The Saudi monarch said he would get back to the general later that day. Monday evening, Abdullah informed El-Sisi that $8 billion from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi would be available to Cairo the next day, arguably the largest money transfer at government level in the history of international relations.
DEBKA Weekly’s Persian Gulf’s comment that high-speed decisions of this magnitude are a rarity at the court of Abdullah, ever since 1991, when King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud decided after pondering for one day to permit US troops to land in Saudi Arabia and mount a campaign to recover Kuwait from Iraq’s invading forces.
In general, say our Saudi experts, quick thinking is not the strong suit of the crowned heads in Riyadh – especially when it entails parting with large sums of money. But they can be uncharacteristically fast on their feet when confronted with issues affecting the oil kingdom’s national security.
Abdullah most likely smiled to himself when he recalled how angry he was at his predecessor, when Fahd decided to join the US war against Iraq without even informing his crown prince at the time. Abdullah.
Saudi king acts to stall Qatari ambitions
On Monday, the Saudi monarch took a leaf out of Fahd’s book and handed over a vast fortune to the Egyptian strongman, without consulting aides or ministers. The sole exception was his Director of National Intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, whom he entrusted with arranging the initial transfer.
The Saudi-Emirati-Kuwait outlay of $12 billion is, according to our sources, just for starters. More funds will be released to Egyptian military rulers and government as needed.
In the meantime, the transfer has served King Abdullah as a private poke in the eye for the rival Emir of Qatar, who invested a total of $13 billion in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the last two and-a-half years and lost it all.
The Saudis sabotaged Qatari ambitions this week on another front: At a meeting in Istanbul, Syrian opposition leaders elected Ahmad al-Jarba, a close ally of Riyadh, as their president.
The vote was a proxy contest between Saudi Arabia and the Syrian rebels’ main patron, Qatar, whose man who was defeated. Syrian coalition members say Jarba’s victory augurs greater Saudi influence over their decisions on Syria’s future.
Prickly Saudi-US relations
DEBKA Weekly analysts note that this outcome also bears heavily on Riyadh’s prickly relations with Washington ever since the eruption of the Arab Revolt in 2011. From the start, the Saudi king challenged US President Barack Obama’s moves for overthrowing Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Qaddafi in Libya as well as his attempts to get rid of Syria’s Bashar Assad.
By bankrolling the Egyptian coup against the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdullah is hitting back at the United States and acting to stall the tactics Qatar has pursued for downgrading Saudi Arabia in regional stakes.
It took a mighty infusion of petrodollars to push the US and Qatar off the center of the Arab Revolt’s moving stage.
It went through unopposed, partly because the Obama administration opted for inaction and non-involvement in the Syrian and Egyptian crises alike. But many are now questioning whether Washington can afford to detach itself so completely from the Middle East and forfeit US influence in this key world region, however much President Obama may long to stay out of it.