Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (pictured above) seems to know how to get things done.
Under his leadership, Egypt has experienced economic growth–and foreign investors have returned to the country. Last week, a 35-kilometer long second Suez Canal was inaugurated after more than 9000 workers must have established a new world record in canal digging. The building of the canal took only one year instead of the expected three. The old 164 kilometer-long Suez Canal, which was built 146 years ago, took more than 10 years to complete. One could say that the speedy completion time made the new Suez Canal a wonder of the modern world as the pyramids were a wonder of the ancient world.
The new canal is expected to double the number of vessels passing through Egypt and is expected to nearly triple the revenues from the Suez Canal to $13 billion a year.
The $8 billion project was launched in August 2014 and was overseen by the army after President al-Sisi ordered the construction to be completed in one year.
The building of a massive international industrial and logistics complex near the new Suez Canal is expected to deliver a further boost to the Egyptian economy.
The revenues of the canal and the new projects are scheduled to count for up to one third of GDP in the near future.
The Egyptian government succeeded in financing the huge project without being totally dependent on large foreign investments. A substantial amount of the construction costs were covered by donations from Egyptian citizens and companies. The rest of the money came from government bonds and loans from banks. Egypt received money from the Gulf States, among them Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The inauguration of the canal took place during the same week when Saudi Arabia and Egypt signed an agreement to enhance military, economic and political cooperation.
President Al-Sisi and Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed Bin Salman issued the so-called “Cairo Declaration,” a six-point document that outlined the strengthening of the cooperation between the two countries as follows:
1. Development of military cooperation and working towards establishing the Joint Arab Force. 2. Enhancing the joint cooperation and investment between the two countries in the fields of energy, electricity, and transportation. 3. Achieving economic integration between the two countries and working on making them a key focus of the World Trade movement. 4. Intensifying mutual investments between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, aiming to increase joint projects in both countries. 5. Strengthening cooperation in the fields of politics, culture, and media in order to jointly counter the dangers of the current regional destabilisation. 6. Defining the maritime borders between the two countries.
The signing of the agreement has everything to do with the continuing turmoil in the Middle East–the rise of Islamic State as well as Iran’s regional hegemonic aspirations. Both countries feel threatened by Iran and its involvement in the wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. The establishment of a Joint Arab Force must be regarded as the Arab answer to the activities of the Iranian Al-Quds brigade of the IRGC.
The signing of the agreement doesn’t mean the two countries are on the same page in every aspect of Mideast politics.
For example, the recent reconciliation between Hamas and Saudi Arabia, after Hamas leader Khaled Mashal visited the Saudi capital of Riyadh last month, drew the ire of al-Sisi, who is engaged in a continuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian branch (Hamas.) Egypt isn’t exactly thrilled either by the Saudi effort to establish a Sunni-axis that includes Turkey in order to oppose the Iranian-led Shiite axis. Al-Sisi doesn’t trust Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and won’t forgive him for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
So the strengthening of the ties between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is a matter of ‘realpolitik’. Since the retreat of the United States as the sole superpower dominating the Middle East and the rise of Iran and Islamic State, Arab countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are looking for new partners.
China and Russia are partly filling the gap the U.S. left behind, and even cooperation with Israel is now suddenly no longer taboo.
The IDF and the Egyptian army are cooperating in the battle against Hamas and Wayilat Sinai–the Islamic State offshoot in the Sinai Peninsula–and al-Sisi sent a new ambassador to Israel after former Egyptian President Morsi severed ties with the Jewish State in November 2012.
In addition, President al-Sisi recently met with a delegation of the American Jewish Committee and has started to battle widespread anti-Semitism in Egypt. He became the first Egyptian president to embark on a campaign to change Egyptian attitudes toward Jews. During Ramadan, the historical TV drama ‘Jewish Quarter’ was broadcast on Egyptian state television. The program depicted the Muslim Brotherhood as a greater threat to unity in Egypt than the Jews–and even the ‘Zionists.’
As Western Journalism has reported, Egypt is regarded as one of the most anti-Semitic countries in the world. Even President al-Sisi was the subject of anti-Semitic rants when respected commentators suggested on TV that he was a Jew who was trying to implement a Zionist conspiracy to turn Egypt into a province of Israel.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth