The cost of a coup

Amidst tragedy, there's also an economic cost.

Consequences of Egypt’s summer coup will be, and already have been, devastating. That is one thing most people, apart from the Egyptian military, agree on. However, while commentators view consequences through the lens of religious clashes, political views and death tolls, a thought must be given to the economic consequences because, after all, a coup isn’t cheap.

Take a quick look at the figures:  A graph showing Egypt’s stock market looks like the course of a turbulent plane. Before it was forcibly closed under a state of emergency, the plane was about to crash – it was down 1.7 per cent. The Egyptian pound has also fallen 2.35 per cent since Morsi was over thrown.

Things look even worse according to the FT: General Motors, Toyota, royal Dutch Shell and Electolux have closed their factories. "Yesterday we just felt it was a bit too messy in the streets" commented Electolux. Banks are also closed, including Citigroup and HSBC as they express concern over a "further significant deterioration in the security situation".

Things look bad now, but will be even worse if the game of political check-mate continues, and blacker still if the US cuts all aid to Egypt, as argued by Senator John McCain. "The law is very clear that if there is a coup that aid is cut off", he said to the BBC.

So who will pay the bill for the 3 July coup? There are more lenders than you may think. Critically, $12bn has already been secured by the military backed government from coup-supportive Gulf countries, notably Saudi Arabia. Then there are always the Wonga’s of the world: the IMF and World Bank.

But a third source of funding has opened up: China. Trade volume between China and Arab countries has surged from less than $36bn in 2004 to nearly $200bn in 2011. An article this week in Your Middle East explains how: "The ravages of unrest in MENA [Middle East and North Africa] have enabled China to tap into major infrastructure projects because supply routes have been disrupted and electrical installations have been dilapidated".

The consequences of Egypt’s summer coup could well be shaped by economic choices as much as political.

The Egyptian pound has also fallen 2.35 per cent since Morsi was over thrown. Photograph: Getty Images

Oliver Williams is an analyst at WealthInsight and writes for VRL Financial News

Photo: Getty Images
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Bomb Isil? That's exactly what they want

The government appears not to answer the nature of its enemy, warns Maria Norris.

As MPs are set to vote on further airstrikes in Syria, it is difficult to shake off the feeling that the government does not fully appreciate the complexity of the problem Isil poses. Just a cursory glance at its magazine, the pronouncements of its leaders and its ideology reveals that Isil is desperate for Western bombs to fall out of the sky. As Martin Chulov argues, Isil is fighting a war it believes was preordained since the early days of Islam. Isil’s obsession with the city of Dabiq, in Northern Syria, stems from a hadith which prophesises that the ‘Crusader’ army will land in the city as a precursor to a final battle where Islam will emerge victorious. Dabiq is also the name of its magazine, which starts every issue with the same quote: "The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify -- by Allah's permission -- until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq". Isil wants a war with the West. If we don’t negotiate with terrorists, then we also should not give them what they want.

Further, bombs are indiscriminate and will inevitably lead to the suffering of those trapped in Isil territories. Isil is counting on this suffering to swell their ranks. Civilian suffering from airstrikes only underline the narrative that the West is at war with Islam, which plays directly into Isil’s hands. And despite misleading headlines and the genuine government concern with individuals fleeing to Syria, Isis is supremely unpopular. It is no wonder that its magazine is filled with glossy adds begging people to move to its territories.  You cannot be a state without people. Terrorist attacks such as Paris thus have a two-pronged purpose: they provoke the West to respond with its military, and they act as a recruitment drive. The fact that fake Syrian passports were found around the sites of the Paris attacks is no coincidence as Isil are both seeking to stem the flow of refugees from its territories and hoping to provoke an Islamophobic backlash. They hope that, as more Muslims feel alienated in the West, more will join them, not just as fighters, but as the doctors, nurses and teachers it desperately needs.

In addition to this, airstrikes overlook the fact that Isil is a result of what Fawaz Gerges calls a severe, organic institutional crisis in the Middle East. In a lecture at the London School of Economics earlier this year, Gerges pointed out the dysfunction created when a region that is incredibly resource rich also is also deeply undemocratic, riddled with corruption, food insecurity, unemployment and poverty. This forms an institutional vacuum that is filled by non-state actors as the population does not trust its political structures. Further, the civil war in Syria is also the site of the toxic soup of Middle Eastern state dysfunction. Iran supports Assad, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, fund anti-Shia groups in Syria. Throw in the Kurdish conflict, Turkey’s ambiguous position and Russian bombs, it is difficult to see how airstrikes will solve anything.

Finally, it is crucial that Isil is seen as a direct result of the Iraq war. The American-led invasion destroyed the institutions, giving the Shia majority power almost overnight, creating deep dissatisfaction in the Sunni regions of Iraq. On top of this thousands of foreign fighters flooded Iraq to fight the invaders, attracting disenfranchised and angry Sunnis. The result is that since 2003, Iraq has been embroiled in a sectarian civil war.  It is in civil war, inherently connected to the Iraq War, that you find the roots of Isil. As even the Prime Minister concedes that ground troops are necessary, albeit it regional ground troops with its own set of problems, it is important to consider what further monster can arise from the ashes of another ill-thought out military intervention in the Middle East.
We have had decades of military intervention in the Middle East with disastrous consequences. Airstrikes represent business as usual, when what we actually need is a radically new approach. Who is funding Isil? Who is buying its oil? How to curb Isil’s recruitment drives? What can be done about the refugees? How to end the conflict in Syria? What happens to Assad? These are questions hopefully being addressed in talks recently held in Vienna with Russian, Ira, the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states. Airstrikes do not answer any of these questions. What airstrikes do is give Isil exactly what it is asking for. Surely this is reason enough not to bomb Syria. 

Maria W. Norris is a PhD candidate and a teacher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her PhD is on the UK counter-terrorism strategy since 9/11 and its relationship with identity. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.