The more that we view it, the humiliating display of Egypt’s president boarding that Saudi Arabian aircraft with solemnity and bowing to kiss the head of King Abdullah Ibn Saud before sitting opposite the Saudi monarch seems more and more like a comedy. I was reminded of a drive-thru customer whose order is brought all the way to the car door.
Saudi Arabia has, of course, invested large sums of money in support of the coup, as the Washington Post reported shortly after the takeover; King Abdullah forked out $1bn so that it could be completed. Only God knows whether this is actually the full amount given to the coup leader or if it is merely the amount allowed to be made public.
The aircraft scene was preceded by another no less humiliating event in Moscow; the common denominator in both was the presence of Saudi Arabia. Russia Today reported that Bandar bin Sultan, the former head of Saudi’s General Intelligence, offered Putin $15 billion to visit Egypt, but this offer was rejected. This means that the terms of the proposed deal must have changed, because Putin received the coup government’s Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi instead of going to Cairo himself. The Russians were careful to seat the now Egyptian president and his foreign minister with their backs to the door so that the set-up would be acceptable to Putin, who obviously did not believe that they were his equals.
When Putin entered the room, the two Egyptians stood to greet the Russian president; Al-Sisi kept his head bowed in his presence, with his hands resting politely on his lap. Some have likened this to a shy girl sitting before her father while he asks her opinion about a suitor who has proposed for her. When Putin walked around the coffee table to take his seat, Al-Sisi and his colleague remained standing until the Russian president signalled for them to sit down. Putin stared impatiently at the table for five minutes before returning to watch the Winter Olympics. The ex-defence minister was clearly impressed to be given an audience by Putin. The humiliating meeting ended with Al-Sisi wearing a jacket belonging a Russian bodyguard and then standing before Putin in a military fashion and saluting him.
The humiliation did not stop there, but continued when Algeria’s President Bouteflika sent the head of the National Assembly to receive Al-Sisi at the airport, instead of going himself. Consider also the fact that the Algerian government hid the news of Al-Sisi’s visit out of fear of possible protests, which had been mooted by Algerian activists in their Tweets expressing their clear discontent at the fact that the government hid this news. They even launched a social media campaign under the banner, “No to the killer in the land of the struggle”.
Although the president of Egypt always used to sit in the front row at African Union Summits, Al-Sisi was placed in the third row behind the delegation from Botswana. His Gulf sponsors had paid a lot of money to have Egypt reinstated to the AU, following its post-coup suspension. The organisers were obviously embarrassed not only at his presence but also at the financial inducement to have him there. Other African leaders took advantage of his speech to take a nap and selfies on the phones. Truly, “He who is humbled by Allah has none who can raise him to honour.”
Translated from Arabi21, 27 June, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.