Inside Egypt – The Suez Canal & Parallel Realities

“The bitter reality many Egyptians find impossible to admit is, that a country that is not in full control of its own territory cannot aspire to play a regional role”  – I quoted a recent argument [adapted I guess]  representative of the critical politically left-aligned movement in Egypt in an ongoing  battle over ideological superiority.- However: it lacks convincing power, as the reality is and has been already proving otherwise.

I didn’t assume the Egyptian government started building the Suez-Canal in solitary self-celebration. I saw the project more like a ‘partnership with society’. But that Egypt’s New Suez Canal conjoins the Chinese Silk Road has been good news to me.

On inauguration day we saw on the state-run Ahkbar newspaper a hand painted picture of president El-Sisi steering a boat, wearing a tie in flag-colors, behind him a few cheering people, passing by uninspiring high-rise buildings, overflowing by a merry peace-dove, carrying an olive-branch in its beak. I found the painting very intimate plus it reminded me on a time, when Egypt -still in the 90-ies -had ‘hand-painted- advertisement billboards; the foto-billboard-hype came way later. That picture had been placed in the NTY.  On a London‘s canary wharf, one could read [provided it hasn’t been photo-shopped] ‘The world thanks Egypt for boosting the economy.’ Part of the #Suezcanal hash tags, were used on Twitter by journalists & their followers who tried to promote reservations, if not downright belittlement about the whole endeavor. They were outnumbered from Shipping-companies & experts on freight navigation, plus Egyptians who wholeheartedly celebrated, what is rightfully theirs. A lot of pictures showed the festivities around the Suez Canal, some of them sharp aerial  shots, some focused on the people attending, some spotlighted El-Sisi, some ..   – Like a professor of economy from the American University said that day “Our culture can be very sentimental & this was the 1st time Egyptians have been so galvanized, it was a brilliant idea by El-Sissi – the Egyptians now own the canal”

The New Suez Canal celebrations were criticized by mostly foreign press and/or think tank representatives. Some elegized it as overly nationalistic; others ‘The Suez Canal inauguration ceremony, estimated = $30 mil (Bloomberg) could have paid the salary of: 400 full professors or 2176 public doctors for ten years’ – In case you didn’t  know: the celebrations had been fully paid for by private companies, as the president had said early on, there won’t be spend one single Pound from the state-budget for the inauguration of the Suez-Canal. The arguments of politically left aligned activists, following the slogan  ‘social justice before national security’, are appealing to the humanist gut. However: the activists still fail to let the Egyptians know how to generate sustaining state-revenues.

In addition opponents predominantly and mono-causally blame the terror attacks, Egypt is exposed to after Morsi had been ousted on, what they call ‘an oppressive regime’. “Egypt faces terrorism in the northern Sinai peninsula, but also in near Suez and on Egypt’s mainland as well as acts of sabotage on electricity towers and assassinations of public figures such as the Chief Prosecutor, the late Hisham Barakat.  In the Sinai, Egypt’s military had to cease cooperating with the limitations prevailing under the Camp David Accords by which only civil police are to operate in zone C.  While these restrictions are lifted now, that insurgency has longstanding roots going back to 2003-2004.” [Read: https://sherifazuhur.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/interview-with-sherifa-zuhur-on-counterterrorismcoin-in-egypt-and-beyond/%5D

While political scientists & think-tank analysts explain to the world outside how Egypt is a failing state, Campas, Egypt’s institute for statistics, has published that within the last 5 months, 4776 companies have set up shop. And while now, after the inauguration, new cranes with a height of 52 m and a reach of 72 m, serving vessels of up to 18,000 teu capacity, are being installed, one might be inclined to substitute ‘might bring success’ with ‘will be successful’..  Still we read articles debating on why the New Suez Canal is trivial auxiliary rather than a necessity. The answer is: ‘No, it is solely made to help pundits write and earn a living!’

The bitter reality is, that the whole Middle East is enwrapped in terror threats, and, coming back to the Suez Canal, that Egypt managed to deliver a celebration free of attacks, as many had anticipated, is owed to the strategic and tactical approach, the Ministry of Defense together with the Ministry of Interior chose to apply. While I’m not a security specialist in any way I can see that terror violence has been curbed tremendously. I’m aware that the means to efficient security operations aren’t always in line with what appeals to a mentality,  used to a social environment, in which is no room for vile intended destruction of the very same. “If the Egyptian government had fought as ruthlessly as possible, then it’s possible the conflict might be a shorter one, but as Pres. Sisi himself noted, the public concern for human rights limits the use of tactics which might eradicate such groups.” As part of his program, which El-Sisi has announced after being  inaugurated as president of Egypt, a thorough reform of the Ministry of Interior was expected to happen. Until now, we have seen a few shuffles within the ministry, the biggest one had been the replacement of the Minister himself. I keep wondering: how can a reform take place while ‘facing an enemy using extremely brutal tactics towards [the government] and civilians who are thought to be cooperating with the Egyptian military and police.’, when 90% of the assaults are being directed at state-facilities, police officers and vital institutions, while citizens are being agitated by activists through hammering ideologically distorted ‘reports’ into their heads on social media, to attain a negative attitude about controversial safety measures, finally leading to a political apathy and frustration in those, who expected fast victories.

“Security” has to be seen holistically – it also concerns preserving the safety and security of citizens and their government.   Terrorists attack civilians and symbols of the state to try to sway other citizens into treating them as a pseudo-state (thus, the very name, Islamic State).  The Egyptian government has much to overcome, but the employment of many Sinai residents in the new Suez Canal project is a boost to security, as is the awarding of reparations to those forced to leave Rafah during the buffer operation.” ‘The detachment between Egypt’s intellectual elites and the overwhelming numbers of simple minded inhabitants seem to be a constant in the struggle for change of institutions.’ President El-Sisi repeatedly pointed out, that the Muslimbrotherhood of Egypt is can be seen as the originator of the Jihad terror, which dominates the headlines in the Middle East since it culminated into, what they call a ‘Caliphate’ with a Caliph, in summer last year. – ‘Elimination of terrorism’ is, what El-Sisi aspires as a political goal, with regard to terrorism. This is very different from ‘elimination of terrorists’. Presidents El-Sisi’s holistic approach as he often elaborated – political, social and military measures – will produce results over time, some of which are already showing as the majority of citizens notices that despite the emboldened announcement of the Muslim brotherhood cadres from abroad and  inside the country, none of the Million-people-support marches for ex-Islamist president Morsi ever materialized, nor did they succeed to drag Egypt into the bloodshed, most ‘Egypt-specialists’ henchman bank on and some petty souls even hope for, as their fantasy of what a revolution is requires tens-of-thousands people dead, the countries cities burned to the grounds.

Opponents, who observe El-Sisi, will have to admit: this man never makes a promise he can’t keep.- I call this integrity. A rare, a very rare streak these days. I just read that ‘The opposition will not boycott parliamentary elections’ – that’s a piece of good news, so many people have been waiting for. May the soon to  be elected parliamentarians engage as well in this ever so complex “intellectual war on terrorism [which] has also faltered because we cannot promote freedom – freedom of thought and civil responsibility by accepting a vision of an Islamic society which is not free, but which merely eschews (rejects) violence against the state. For example, the large Salafiyya Jihad movement in the Sinai are not all involved in terrorism, but they promote a conservative social vision which is unfair to some members of society (for ex. women).”

For Egypt: the parliament won’t suffice to mediate grievance & accelerate remedial action. To get a majority of people engaging into social projects that will predominantly serve the poor & underprivileged people with little to no means to help themselves will be another pyramid to be built.

For the world outside: ‘when will the interpretative authority of Middle East issues be withdrawn from the left-wing intelligentsia oligarchy and given focus on facts on the ground?’

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3 thoughts on “Inside Egypt – The Suez Canal & Parallel Realities

  1. Pingback: November 8th casts its shadows on Egypt – miskelayla | Mark Geoffrey Kirshner

  2. Pingback: November 8th casts its shadows on Egypt – miskelayla

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