The "people's coup" that ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood from power received a twin boost Tuesday as three oil-rich Gulf Arab states pledged a total of $15 billion to help stave off economic collapse and the military-backed temporary president appointed a veteran "free market" economist as Egypt's interim prime minister.
The developments came in the wake of the deadliest single day of violence since more than 20 million people poured into the streets throughout Egypt last week to demand that Morsi resign.
Over 50 people were killed Monday in a protest near a mosque outside of the Republican Guard headquarters where ousted president Morsi is being held. Spokesmen for the Brotherhood said that as many as 650 Islamists had also been arrested.
There were other signs today that the Brotherhood and their Islamist allies who narrowly squeaked out election victories a year ago are unwilling to accept what they regard as an illegitimate seizure of power by the military from Egypt's first freely elected president.
In statements Tuesday, Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen called upon soldiers not to fire on protesters and to disobey their officer’s order to restore stability by using tear gas, bird shot pellets, and other crowd control measures to reopen blocked streets and squares.
David Schenker, a former Pentagon official now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he remained concerned that that the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to return to power by splitting the ranks of the military. "The brotherhood still thinks that it can win," he said. "Egypt is far from out of the woods."
But the temporary government received welcomed direct and indirect support today as the military struggled to transfer power to the new interim civilian leader it has appointed — President Adli Monsour and the economist he designated Tuesday as prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, a well respected economist
Dr. Beblawi, who served as finance minister after President Hosni Mubark was forced from power in 2011 and the army ruled in an unpopular transition government. A strong advocate of free-market liberalism, he resigned his post in 2011, accusing the army of taking Egypt in the "wrong direction."
Meanwhile, Egypt received much welcomed pledges of relief today from three wealthy Gulf oil states that were critical of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political and economic stewardship of Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country of over 85 million people.
Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf told Reuters that the kingdom has approved $5 billion in aid to Egypt — $2 billion central bank deposit, $2 billion in energy products, and $1 billion in cash.
Kuwait, another oil-rich Sunni-led sheikhdom, has pledged as much as $7 billion, and the United Arab Emirates, has pledged at least $3 billion in loans and grants.
In an interview last April, Dr. Beblawi said that Egypt then had less than its officially claimed $13.5 billion in hard-currency reserves (versus $36 billion before the revolution).
"Egypt imports roughly $60 billion worth of goods and services," he says. "It exports under $25 billion."
Since Egypt must borrow between $12 and $15 billion a year simply to import enough food and fuel for its people, the aid could not come at a better time.
Meawhile, the United States, which provides about $1.5 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid a year, has said it would not cut off funding to Egypt despite the fact that American law requires the suspension of assistance to nations whose democratic process has been interrupted by a military coup.
Judith Miller is an author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter formerly with The New York Times. She also is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of its magazine, City Journal. Read all of Judith Miller's columns on Pundicity.com. Read more reports from Judith Miller — Click Here Now.
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