Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Returning Daesh can profit from Arab despair

    Homeless Egyptian play in front of a poster of President El Sisi
    Homeless Egyptian play in front of a poster of President El Sisi

    Egypt's President, Abdullah Fattah El-Sisi, and Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, are at loggerheads over how to deal with an entrenched Syrian regime and an ascendant Iran, with the Saudis ratcheting up anti-Shia rhetoric as the Egyptians adopt a more pragmatic and conciliatory tone.

    As far as Daesh is concerned, though, the two countries are still joined firmly at the hip.

    And in a stark reminder of the threat posed by Islamist militants to President Sisi and Prince Mohammed, this week, dozens of foot soldiers from the Daesh-affiliated group Sinai Province were referred to stand trial in a Cairo court on charges of planning to assassinate both of them.

    The alleged assassination plots were likely only the opening salvos, for with Daesh fast losing ground in its former Iraqi and Syrian strongholds, thousands of fighters will soon trek back to their places of birth, intent on opening up new fronts in their murderous insurgency.

    In Egypt and Saudi Arabia especially, they will be hoping that dramatic economic downturns result in the widespread sense of hopelessness and despair needed for Islamic radicalism to find fertile ground.

    Egypt and Saudi are ending years of food subsidies

    In that context, a recent report from the International Monetary Fund highlighting how Middle East economies have dramatically nose-dived since the Arab Spring makes for extremely sobering reading.

    The bloody wars and dead-end revolutions that have convulsed the region have, according to the IMF, cost it hundreds of billions of dollars.

    Even relatively stable Egypt and Saudi Arabia are now in the midst of implementing unprecedented austerity measures, which will most adversely affect their large, impoverished underclasses.

    This is a necessary, but politically high-risk, strategy, aimed at doing away with decades of buying the loyalty of their people with bloated state bureaucracies and massive food and fuel subsidies.

    The problem, of course, is that loyalty bought is not loyalty earned, and only a fool would discount the nightmare scenario that popular uprisings will erupt before the new economic models - based on long-term economic investment and broad taxation - becomes a reality.

    Watching all this with glee is Iran, which, by contrast, has managed to stifle all expressions of discontent at home as its post-sanctions economy goes through the roof.

    This month, the Islamic Republic's oil exports for the first time reached pre-sanctions levels; and the country is expected to attract tens of billions of dollars in direct foreign investment over the next few years.

    With senior Middle East advisers to US president-elect Donald Trump strongly hinting that his pre-election pledges to scrap the Iran nuclear deal will be replaced by calls for closer monitoring, Iran's glee, as always, signals Israel's despair.

    As it navigates yet more uncharted territory, the Jewish state, now enjoying unprecedented links with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, must at least be hoping that the people of both countries adhere to the Hobbesian maxim that even tyranny is preferable to a permanent state of chaos and conflict.

Analysis

No Fidelity: Castro's complex relationship with...

Colin Shindler

No Fidelity: Castro's complex relationship with...
Analysis

Israel faces up to complex challenge

Nathan Jeffay

Israel faces up to complex challenge
Analysis

Israel eyes opportunities - cautiously

Anshel Pfeffer

Israel eyes opportunities - cautiously
Analysis

Mosul has been freed before - ask Jonah

Lawrence Joffe

Mosul has been freed before - ask Jonah
Analysis

The Chief Rabbi is walking a tightrope

Simon Rocker

The Chief Rabbi is walking a tightrope
Analysis

Will these men make world safer? Not likely

Jason Burke

Will these men make world safer? Not likely
Analysis

Castro supported Cuban aliyah

Jordan Lancaster

Castro supported Cuban aliyah
Analysis

Row over Democrats' Muslim hopeful

Jonathan Cummings

Row over Democrats' Muslim hopeful
Analysis

The President's right-hand man should not be a ...

John Podhoretz

The President's right-hand man should not be a ...