A campaign by Egyptian officials and media figures in response to recent precautionary measures taken by western countries, including the suspension of flights and evacuating tourists from Sharm el-Sheikh, won’t impact any official government decisions made following the Russian plane crash.
These governments are forced to take measures that clear them of legal and political responsibilities in their countries and in front of their voters. If they do not take such measures and another accident happens again, they would be held strongly accountable.
Western government measures to suspend flights, place travel advisories and urge citizens to evacuate have become common practice in the Middle East ever since terrorism became rampant.
Recent measures are therefore neither directed against the Egyptian government nor are they a result of Muslim Brotherhood oppositional activity. Western governments are obligated to warn their citizens and businesses, even if those warnings are based on weak justifications, such as bogus calls or security reports relying on weak sources. These governments have political considerations that worry them when they see spreading chaos and war and when they know that their citizens and interests are targeted.
If the Russian plane crash is a result of terrorism, the situation here can be resolved within political and security contextsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
It’s true that no one yet knows for a fact whether the Russian plane crash was a result of a deliberate act or not, but it’s a matter of time before the entire truth comes to light. Other countries do not have the time to wait for the investigation results as they fear the crash is a result of a terrorist act and worry there will be more to come. They will therefore not accept the reassurances of the Egyptian government regardless of what they are.
Let’s take a look at the bigger picture here if it turns out to be an act of terrorism. The entire region, and not just Egypt, is continuously threatened and targeted. Terrorist organizations deliberately target western interests, transportation and tourist sites because they harm Arab governments’ vital incomes and shake their image. These terror groups want to lead these Arab countries to chaos and consequently topple their regimes.
So long as we’re in a war against terrorism, political and media solutions are not supposed to be based on denial and on attacking others, but they must begin by bearing responsibility, adopting transparency and fixing defects if there are any.
If the Russian plane crash is a result of terrorism, the situation here can be resolved within political and security contexts. Resolving the situation will also require transparency, even if the crash was not an act of terrorism.
What Egypt needs to not do
Egyptian officials’ criticism of other governments does not affect the latter at all, and it rather weakens the stance of their own government at a time when it needs someone to support it. Egyptian media outlets’ criticism of others and resorting to conspiracy theories make them lose their credibility, and we must keep in mind that the final verdict regarding these incidents is that of investigators.
Before these incidents in Egypt, several Arab countries, such as Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia suffered similar tragedies and were harmed a lot when terrorists targeted foreigners and touristic sites. For example, Tunisia passed through a more difficult phase as a result of attacks against its touristic cities, which are considered the country’s primary sources of income.
Despite that, Tunisian officials did not criticize governments who boycotted their tourism. They rather voiced their full understanding and took extra measures to prove their concern over the safety of foreign tourists, and tourism finally flourished there once again. Of course this does not fortify the country from another terrorist attack that may once again ruin the situation; but transparency and bearing responsibility helped the government gain trust and sympathy from others. No one sympathizes with bombing a plane or attacking tourists who came along with their children to our countries to spend their vacations.
Talk of holding onto sovereignty when it comes to services, like flights and tourism, is futile. It is in each country’s interests to allow airliners and the latter’s countries to take the measures they need to be reassured over the safety of their flights and citizens, and this includes the additional security search of passengers and luggage.
Those who travel through the airport of the Emirati capital, Abu Dhabi, to the U.S. do not feel sovereignty has been harmed due to the presence of American security personnel or employees at border controls, prior to departure. If countries want tourists, visitors and booming economic activities, they must take initiative and implement required measures to reassure other governments even if that requires including the latter in their inspection procedures as this does not detract from sovereignty, but instead enhances trust.
This article first appeared in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 9, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.