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.
This is the background to the Saudi monarch’s enthusiastic statement of congratulations to the Egyptian military, released almost immediately after the takeover was announced:
In my own name and on behalf of the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I congratulate you on assuming the leadership of Egypt at this critical point of its history,” said the king in a cable carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). “By doing so, I appeal to Allah Almighty to help you to shoulder the responsibility laid on your shoulder to achieve the hopes of our sisterly people of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
At the same time, we strongly shake hands with the men of all the armed forces, represented by General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who managed to save Egypt at this critical moment from a dark tunnel God only could apprehend its dimensions and repercussions, but the wisdom and moderation came out of those men to preserve the rights of all parties in the political process.
Please accept our greetings to you and deep respect to our brothers in Egypt and its people, wishing Egypt steady stability and security.
I expect Saudi Arabia to offer Egypt subsidized oil as well as cash for urgent food purchases, allowing the military to appear as national saviors — at least for the time being. It is not clear what the Muslim Brotherhood will do, but apart from seeking martyrdom, there is not much that it can do.
In the Beltway, to be sure, the same folk on left and right who thought the “Arab Spring” would usher in a golden era of Muslim democracy are wringing their hands over the tragic fate of Egypt’s first democratically elected government. These include Republicans as well as Democrats, whom I qualified as “Dumb and Dumber” in a May 20 essay for Tablet. The sequel — call it “Dumb and Dumberer” — is still playing on CNN and Fox News. No matter: the important matters are now in the competent hands of Prince Bandar, whose judgment I prefer to that of John Kerry or Susan Rice or John McCain any day of the week. The best-case scenario would be for the grown-ups in the region to ignore the blandishments of the Obama administration as well as the advice of the Republican establishment, and to do what they have to do regardless.
Americans who want to conduct a great experiment in democracy will have to take their laboratory somewhere else.