Gulf-Egyptian military and economic cooperation

There is enthusiasm in most Gulf countries to support Egypt on all levels

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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There is enthusiasm in most Gulf countries to support Egypt on all levels. This stance has restored trust in Cairo, and restored Egyptians’ confidence after a dangerous crisis that almost brought their country to the point of collapse. Gulf states are aware of Egypt’s importance to them and to the region, and want to be a partner in its successes, not a victim of its crises.

There is talk of establishing a Gulf-Egyptian military force. This is logical considering the spread of war in most of the region, but it is unrealistic. Gulf countries must not assume they are a superpower capable of changing the world around them.

Their financial capabilities are massive when spent right, and they are capable of negatively or positively leading the region. However, their fortunes can easily evaporate through unproductive political and military projects, like what happened to Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Economic support

Regarding Egypt, Gulf states’ one urgent option is to support it economically. This must not be limited to providing grants, loans and funds, but must include giant projects that alter Egyptians’ future. This means the Gulf must help Egypt implement projects outside the context of corruption and bureaucracy, which have obstructed the country’s capabilities for decades.

If Egypt succeeds economically, its politics will be more stable and its army more capable. It will thus become a country that can be depended on to meet the needs of the entire region’s stability.

Egypt’s weakness during the past two decades was due to economic deterioration, which weakened its political capabilities until it became incapable of curbing small foreign powers such as Hamas in Gaza and Omar al-Bashir’s regime in Sudan. Egypt also became weak domestically, to the extent that the Muslim Brotherhood played the game of social support and managed the economy of poor neighborhoods.

There is talk of establishing a Gulf-Egyptian military force. This is logical considering the spread of war in most of the region, but it is unrealistic

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The Egyptian leadership at this difficult transitional phase can grant Gulf investors, and whoever works with them from international institutions, free space to develop major sectors such as agriculture. Some 30 million Egyptians work in this field, which represents the country’s soul and does not get affected much by politics or terrorism.

If the government had granted this field the concern it deserves decades ago, it would have had time today to develop other productive sectors. Agriculture is a major industry in big countries, and is considered a permanent guarantee in times of war and peace.

If it does not yield results, Gulf investors can get involved in specific industrial and services projects that have operational and productive value and longevity, on condition of guarantees from Cairo such as being provided with an atmosphere free from bureaucracy and political greed. This will support Egyptians for the next 100 years, and will raise the rate of employment.

Relations and cooperation with Egypt are extensive, but we must think outside the box and alter an approach that failed during the era of Hosni Mubarak. Egyptians do not need supporters and charities, but partners. It is best for Gulf countries to participate with Egypt in building giant companies in the private sector. These companies can be established with government support, then gradually owned by the Egyptian private sector.

The army is one of the best institutions in Egypt as it is the most efficient and disciplined, and it can be a partner in giant developmental projects but via its executive role, not through its political or military role.

Military cooperation

As for establishing a regional military force, whose pillar would be Egypt and some Gulf countries, this would only work after meeting the needs of urgent circumstances such as economic ones, as it will be difficult to financially invest in more than one field simultaneously. Such a military establishment will also take a long time, and will be obstructed due to details that everyone will realize cannot be resolved.

The alternative to a joint military force would be strengthening military and security cooperation, which already exists but is largely unannounced. Cooperation can be expanded in disturbed countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, and can be improved in other areas that are sources of tensions. An example would be altering the Sudanese regime, which continues to be a source of trouble for Egypt and the region.

However, the priority is to invest in Egypt’s economy in a manner that benefits everyone, achieves stability and proves to the region’s peoples that old, moderate political regimes are more capable of serving them than alternative chaotic ones.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 4, 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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.