Last month, a 400-metre-long container ship ran aground and closed the Suez Canal for a period of six days, from 23 March-19 March. This resulted in communication disruption between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea through the canal causing a traffic jam on both sides. And the Egyptian administration or government initially had no initiative to resolve the crisis. With the closure of the Suez Canal, another example of the inefficiency of the Sisi government in Egypt is being discussed around the world. This history of the Egyptian crisis over the Suez Canal is as significant as it is central to world political history.
When a 35-kilometre stretch of the Suez Canal was unveiled six years ago, a variety of banners hung on the streets of the Egyptian capital, Cairo. The banner read, "This extension of the Suez Canal is a gift from Egypt to the whole world." Following the inauguration, Egyptian military ruler Abdul Fattah al-Sisi welcomed world leaders to a resort. Helicopter and jet exercises shook the entire Suez Canal area. Sisi also demanded the launch of the new extension of the Suez Canal as a national achievement of Egypt and the stability of the country, but this time when the Suez Canal was closed, the government, and the administration and even the media were silent.
About two days after the canal was closed, the canal authorities took the initiative to reopen the canal. For a long time, ships plying the Suez Canal complained about navigability, but the canal authorities never took any effective action in this regard. They have traditionally continued to work on increasing innovation.
An investigation into the mysterious silence of the media revealed that the Egyptian administration had called journalists and threatened not to spread any news or rumours that the canal would be closed. This is the first time since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war that ships have stopped travelling to Suez. Egyptian media have claimed that shipping in the Suez Canal is normal despite the closure of shipping.
After two days of such hide-and-seek, the Suez Canal authorities have finally been forced to announce that shipping is completely closed due to the canal's navigability crisis. Egypt's current administration is adept at spreading propaganda and concealing information about politics or the economy. The situation has reached such a stage that even the government officials now do not hesitate to lie against the interests of the country like the ruling military ruler.
This is not the first such incident. In 2015, just 30 minutes after a Russian passenger plane took off from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh, IS troops shot down the plane. The plane was en route to St. Petersburg, Russia. Following the incident, Russia and the United Kingdom cancelled all flights to and from the Red Sea.
Surprisingly, Egypt's civil aviation authorities denied the allegations in a statement. They blamed a technical error for causing the plane to crash. Basically, everyone was playing hide and seek so that Egypt's tourism sector does not face any kind of risk. However, three months later, the Egyptian authorities were forced to admit the incident because the Egyptian authorities could no longer cover up the incident after another IS-affiliated militia, Willian Sinai, shot down another plane.
The crisis over the Suez Canal has ended, but it has sent two important messages to the world. First, everyone understands how important the Suez Canal and Egypt are still in the interests of the world's superpowers in navigating international routes. Any kind of stagnation in Egypt or the Suez Canal actually has an impact on the world economy.
Secondly, everyone is realising the incompetence of the Sisi government as a statesman. The Sisi government has not only worsened the human rights situation in Egypt and created a rule of law crisis, but also the closure of the world's most important waterway due to its lack of foresight. The way the Suez Canal was blocked this time should not happen in the future. If the Suez Canal becomes so uncertain, the oil-rich Muslim countries of the Middle East may be forced to choose Israel as an alternative to the Suez Canal. In the meantime, a number of Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, have normalised diplomatic relations with Israel, threatening the exclusive naval trade between Egypt and the Suez Canal.
The image of Sisi's long dictatorship and the effects of his incompetence is now visible in every case in Egypt. Sisi's other big mistake is that he supported the wrong person in neighbouring Libya. Sisi has played the wrong game of world politics by supporting the rebels there to escape the fear of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, most international trade routes are under threat due to mismanagement and inefficiency.
The crisis has occurred at both naval installations due to lack of control over navigation in the Suez Canal and Nile. Sisi criticised Egypt's then-president in 2012 when he objected to the construction of a new dam in Ethiopia. Sisi later claimed that Morsi's thinking was not correct. Sisi gave the green message to Ethiopia and Sudan to build this dam.
Almost a decade later, Morsi's position has been vindicated. Now the Sisi government is considering a military operation against its neighbour, but Ethiopia has already built the dam. Sisi has repeatedly erred on national and regional issues, focusing too much on building its own image, both at home and in the international arena.
After the 2013 massacre in Egypt's Rubber Square and the seizure of power, the Sisi government hired lobbyists in Washington who were able to raise 260 million dollars through negotiations with the US administration. In all, a huge 1.3 billion package was provided to the Sisi government by the United States at that time. President Sisi hired a lobbyist firm to appease members of the US Congress who were against it. The lobbyist was then paid 2.5 million a month to do the job. Sisi's pet lobbyists have been pushing for people like Senator Lindsay Graham and McCain to come to Sisi's side.
Be flexible about Senator Lindsay Graham Sisi in a relentless effort at Clover Park. Between 2013 to 2019, the Sisi government paid US lobbyists a whopping 13 million, which would have been enough to develop the Suez Canal and the Nile. The face of Egypt might have changed if it had been spent on various aspects of Egyptian civilisation, tourist spots, and youth employment across the country.
Egypt is constantly becoming a failed state under the leadership of Sisi. Egypt is now a country where there is no democracy, the opposition has no chance to do politics, the people have no freedom of speech, and the people of the country are living a life of helplessness despite having innumerable valuable resources. This fragile state of Egypt's economy has had an impact on the country's military, and there is no end to the suffering of ordinary people. Unemployment, rising commodity prices, and inflation have erased people's confidence. The Egyptians may not have the courage or ability to square another Tahrir now. It may take some more time.
Md Tareq Hasan is a student of Rajshahi University who can be reached via email at [email protected].
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.