Although we last wrote on Saudi/US relations as recently as 2 June, three unrelated news stories this week call for an update. First, and bearing directly on one of the key irritants in the relationship which we flagged on 2 June, CIA chief John Brennan has said that he expects the 28 classified pages of the Congressional report into the 11 September 2001 attacks to absolve Saudi Arabia totally.
Yesterday’s post noted progress made against IS in Fallujah, and referred to urgent UN appeals for humanitarian assistance to Iraqis. In northern Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has made a similar call, requesting international aid for those fleeing the fighting with IS in Manbij.
Many of the individual targets may prove overambitious and key details, such as on tax plans, remain vague, but the level of transparency and accountability is a remarkable development.
The anniversary passed quietly in Egypt following a renewed security crackdown. Religious clerics, newly elected parliamentarians, state-appointed trade union leaders, mainstream media figures and even the meteorological authorities came out to warn about the dangers of going on to the streets.
UK parliament votes tomorrow on airstrikes against IS in Syria. Legality settled but effectiveness questionable and political consequences unknown. No long term plan.
El-Sisi reigns supreme, unopposed except IS. Opposition remnants call for early elections and warn of a coup or chaos. The Egyptian people are the wild card.
Oman has been hit hard by the oil price drop, so this week the government has been holding crisis meetings to consider ‘major reforms’ to plug the deficit. The fiscal crunch comes at a time of growing political uncertainty.
Polls closed Monday night in the first round of the Egyptian election for the House of Representatives, with voters casting their ballots in 14 regions including Alexandria. There were no major security incidents. Exceptionally low turnout has widely been interpreted as a sign El-Sisi’s personality cult is diminishing, something Egyptian authorities have been quick to deny.
Western concern at Russia’s unexpected military intervention in Syria grows; Putin’s ‘true’ motive(s) are not straightforward.
With elections looming, the European Council on Foreign Relations Working Group on Egypt addresses a letter to European leaders urging them not to accept the “new normal” with Egypt