Despite Human Rights Violations, Extraordinary Relationship between UK and Egypt’s Military Regime

The Huffington Post has highlighted how deep the relationship is between Egypt’s military rulers and the United Kingdom, as the UK approaches the 60th anniversary of the British invasion of Egypt which is known in polite circles as the ‘Suez crisis’.

Huffington Post has published an article titled: “Britain and The Military Rulers of Egypt-Another Extraordinary Special Relationship”, confirming that the UK’s new relationship with the autocratic military government in Egypt is worrying.

Since the military coup led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi against Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, “Egypt has once again become a nasty, repressive regime,” said the Huffington Post.

The military regime has launched a massive crackdown against human rights: torture, deaths in detention, forced disappearances, restrictions on civil society, the imprisonment of journalists and restrictions on freedom of expression.

Almost 40,000 Egyptians have been arrested by the regime since the military coup for opposing the regime and their participation in protests. During the first days of the coup between July and August, more than 1,000 people were killed” when the new regime conducted clearing operations to remove Muslim Brotherhood protesters from sit-ins in Cairo,” said the post.

But despite all these non-humanitarian policies adopted by the bloody coup, for Britain, “this all represents a new opportunity.”

According to a press release last month, the Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with the military coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and “discussed a new chapter in bilateral relations between the UK and Egypt”. “This is no understatement since it follows a series of extraordinary meetings and extreme British apologias for the nature of the Egyptian regime,” as reported by the HP.

Britain policy has stepped on the democratic values and codes for its economic and security needs.

When Defense Secretary Michael Fallon paid one of several recent visits to Egypt in August 2015 stating that the government” discussed support for security and for economic progress and democracy in Egypt, as a vital element of restoring stability in the region’.

These words are code and surely well-understood on both sides: “what was meant was that Mr. Fallon discussed Britain’s support for the pro-Western regime (‘security’) and for British commercial interests (‘economic progress’) and authoritarianism (‘democracy’) as a vital element of maintaining repression (‘stability’) in the region” said the HP.

The following month, September 2015, Fallon reassured the interest pact with the Egyptian military regime when he received the head of Egypt’s military, General Mahmoud Hegazy, in London and stated once more than the British government “with growing instability in the region it more important than ever that the UK cements the already strong ties with Egypt.”

Moreover, al-Sisi was welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron last November who said that he was “delighted to welcome al-Sisi to Downing Street”and that Egypt was a”‘vital partner for us’ for economic and security ties.”

In response, al-Sisi noted that the UK was a “friendly country”. Cameron gave what was named by the post as” vague mention” of the “need for political progress in Egypt “but he acted with a blind eye to the human rights violations in Egypt as he didn’t want to upset his visitor. Cameron didn’t give any comments on just what was happening in daily life in Egypt.

On the other hand, strengthening ties between both countries were enhanced the following day when a meeting was held between the two leaders, Michael Fallon and al-Sisi when they discussed military cooperation while then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond signed a memorandum of understanding with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

This will “launch a new stage in our British-Egyptian partnership for stability and reform involving a regular strategic dialogue”, said the British government.

The government also said that “the UK enjoys a strong security partnership with Egypt”and holds regular discussions with the Egyptian military.

In the same context, UK didn’t hesitate to arm the military regime in Egypt. In 2015, UK approved £84m worth of military equipment to Egypt, including guns and ammunition. In addition, Britain is also forming a “small military operations team’ in Egypt to improve combating Islamic State in Libya,” as reported by HP.

The question that should be raised what makes the British government eager to enhance its relations with the military regime in Egypt?
First, al-Sisi-repressive rule- is creating good conditions for furthering British investment. Britain has long been the largest investor in Egypt, with deals worth over $ 5 billion, but “We are hungry for more”, said the British ambassador John Casson.

In July 2016, a UK trade envoy to Egypt, the MP Jeffrey Donaldson, and the head of UK Export Finance, Louis Taylor, visited Cairo to discuss expanding trade and investment ties.”

The past few months have seen many inquiries from British companies wishing to do business in Egypt and their interest highlights the significant opportunities that are available across a range of Egyptian commercial sectors,” said Donaldson.

Moreover, Louis Taylor stated that his organization, which is the UK’s export credit agency, had finance available for projects in Egypt worth “hundreds of millions”- in other words, the British taxpayer will subsidise British companies investing under the al-Sisi regime.

A trade delegation has visited Egypt before in March 2015 by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accompanied by big investors such as BP, Vodafone, Barclays and BG Group.

The visit was a triumph for Britain as they signed a massive $12 billion investment deal by BP for an oil and gas project in the West Nile Delta offshore Egypt. The agreement is the single largest investment deal in Egypt’s history.

At the same time, Hammond “met President al-Sisi to discuss a range of issues, including regional security and the global coalition’s fight against ISIS,” said HP.

Britain has perceived Morsi’s government and the Muslim Brotherhood as a serious obstacle for oil and gas deal. The BP-led consortium had been haggling over the terms for the West Nile project for years and was seeking direct ownership over the resources and accrual of 100% of the profits that Morsi government and with some leading figures objecting BP’S demands.

Indeed, by mid-2013, just weeks before the coup, the Morsi government was engaged in talks with BP demanding far better terms.

However, when al-Sisi captured power all this has changed and now a new deal under the military regime” offers BP exceedingly generous terms and, most importantly, has moved Egypt away from a long-used production-sharing model in which companies and countries typically split profit 20:80, to a tax royalty scheme that essentially privatizes Egypt’s gas sector and hands control and oversight of natural resources to private companies,” said the Huffington Post.

Surprisingly, Britain has achieved these deals while Whitehall has been fully aware that repression in Egypt has increased every year since al-Sisi seized power.

The British government didn’t also care about the deteriorating human rights conditions in Egypt as recorded by the Foreign Office in April said that “In 2013, the human rights situation in Egypt deteriorated’.

In 2014, it noted that “the human rights situation in Egypt remained poor and deteriorated in some areas, particularly with regards to freedom of expression and association.”

In the same context, as recent report was released by the Foreign Office’s Human Rights for 2016 stated that “in 2015, reports of torture, police brutality and forced disappearances increased and that restrictions on freedom of expression also increased.”

But on the other hand, despite his knowledge with all these crimes of the regime, “Michael Fallon offered a stunning apologia for repression by writing in an Egyptian newspaper that Egyptians have rejected both extremism and authoritarianism in August 2015,” reported HP.

In the time being, Britain’s ambassador in Cairo John Casson,” has apparently convinced himself that Egyptians “are building a more stable, more prosperous and more democratic country”.  Casson even went much further when he quoted in the Egyptian media in June 2015 approving Egypt’s “tough security measures”.

According to HP,” Whitehall does not support repressive regimes despite their being repressive but precisely because they are repressive and promote a pro-Western foreign policy and provide an attractive investment climate. “

Britain has only sometimes protested Egypt’s lack of human rights under al-Sisi, such as by expressing concerns “at the Egyptian Court’s passing of 183 death sentences in 2014.

However, nothing has been allowed to upset military and commercial relations. The Foreign Office has once analyzed of al-Sisi’s seizure of power which notes that al-Sisi was “elected “to power in May 2014 with 96% of the vote “(a proportion that would have impressed Stalin), which ‘in some respects… fell short of compliance with the principles set out in… international standards for democratic elections’. Indeed, “reported HP.

The Huffington Post also said described the silence on the part of the British media, especially the BBC, on this level of support for repression is stunning.

It’s shocking that everyone knows of China’s crackdown on Tiananmen square in 1989 which killed hundreds of people, perhaps up to 2,000, while “how many people are aware of the Egyptian security forces Killing more than 817 people n Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo in August 2014?” “The difference, of course, is that one was perpetrated by an official enemy, the other by an official friend,” reported HP.

If these media reported the truth, and what their government is doing, “it is likely that British governments would not be able to get away with lending their support to tinpot dictators around the world.”

The online news aggregator and blogger shed the light on the double standard policies of the western countries in supporting dictators who are acting against the democratic values and norms, while they launch war against other leaders who are acting in the same violent actions or even less than the al-Sisi regime.