February 5, 2023
Post after post, Twitter debates, and underlined messages. Thus, the media and digital space in Egypt and Saudi Arabia turned into an arena for raging verbal exchanges, in which media professionals close to the authorities in the two countries exchanged accusations, in addition to recalling the “favors” of each country over the other.
Although the two countries are officially silent about this war of words, it has raised many questions and speculations about the existence of tension between Cairo and Riyadh.
In the midst of the continuous exchange between writers in the two countries, some went out to reduce the importance of these speculations, considering what is happening as mere “individual statements that do not reflect the reality of relations between the two countries.”
On February 4, the Emirati academic, Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, published a tweet in which he affirmed “the strength of relations between the two countries.”
Abdel-Khalek’s tweet came in response to an article published on the “Cairo 24” website and the Egyptian newspaper “Al-Gomhoria”.
The author of the article launched an attack on countries he “did not name,” denouncing “the abuse that affected Egypt and its army by media personalities in those countries,” as he described it.
Although Al-Jumhuriya newspaper’s website later deleted the article, some commentators republished it, saying, “It contained clear hints of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.”
The Emirati academic, Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, described what came in the article as “a base slander,” calling on the Gulf media to ignore it.
While those interacting with Abdel-Khaleq’s tweet saw that the article comes in the wake of “criticisms made by Saudi writers of the Egyptian government and the role that the Egyptian army plays in the economy.”
How did the controversy start?
In late January, the Saudi academic, Turki Al-Hamad, published seven tweets in which he touched on the economic conditions in Egypt.
The Saudi academic listed a number of factors that, in his opinion, caused “Egypt to fall captive to the International Monetary Fund.”
Among the factors mentioned by Al-Hamad is “the army’s control over the state’s departments and joints,” in addition to what he called “the aging Egyptian bureaucracy that is resistant to change.”
These tweets were met with mixed reactions. Some commentators saw that the writer succeeded in diagnosing the situation in Egypt, and some of them criticized his tweets and considered them full of fallacies and unacceptable interference in Egyptian affairs.
It seems that the Saudi writer was later forced to delete those tweets, contenting himself with one tweet in which he denounced “some people’s sensitivity to any critical opinion that comes from outside their country.”
Al-Hamad’s recent tweet also prompted the Egyptian businessman, Naguib Sawiris, to respond to him and confirm his acceptance of criticism.
Similar to Al-Hamad, the Saudi writer specialized in political sociology, Khaled Al-Dakhil, published a tweet about the dimensions of the political and economic scene in Egypt.
Al-Dakhil said, “What is happening to Egypt in recent years is rooted in the fact that it has not left the mantle of the military since 1952.”
That tweet was harsh criticism of the intruder, and he followed it up with another in which he emphasized the importance of Egypt, adding that “criticism of any government’s policies is not criticism of the state.”
These comments and the wide reactions that followed are still receiving the attention of a sector of the pioneers of communication sites, especially as they come weeks after criticism directed by Egyptian media professionals against their colleague Amr Adib, presenter of the “Al-Hekaya” program on the Saudi-owned MBC Egypt channel.
In early January, the Egyptian journalist, Mohamed El-Baz, attacked Adeeb, due to the latter’s criticism of the economic and living conditions in Egypt during the last period.
Al-Baz considered his colleague to be promoting the Saudi project, whether it was “sweet or a monster,” as he put it.
While some view that scene as “one of the repercussions of the crisis in Egyptian-Saudi relations,” others describe it as “transient media statements.”
Despite some denying the speculation being circulated about relations between the two countries, bloggers see the continuation of the comment war as indications of a disagreement at the official level.
To prove their words, these bloggers rely on foreign press reports that had talked about the absence of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from the summit hosted by the UAE earlier this month, while Egypt and Jordan were among the attendees.
There are those who link the controversy to foreign aid to Egypt and the International Monetary Fund.
Some talk about new rules and conditions set by Saudi Arabia to define its relations with its allies and brothers. These conditions relate exclusively to foreign aid and grants, which tweeters see as the basis for that war of words between Egyptian and Saudi media professionals.
Here, some call for statements by Saudi Finance Minister Muhammad Al-Jadaan.
During his participation in the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 18, Al-Jadaan revealed that his country’s strategy in providing aid to its allies has changed, in terms of providing direct grants and deposits without conditions.
The Saudi minister’s speech came in a general context and did not refer to a specific country, but many linked it at a later time to the statements of Al-Hamad and Al-Dakhil.
Some analysts have even gone so far as to point out that some Gulf officials have rejected recent calls from the International Monetary Fund to help Egypt.
On the other hand, some say that “the hidden dispute between the two countries is due to the Egyptian side’s delay in handing over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.”
Cairo attributes this delay to technical reasons related to the details and procedures of the delivery process, according to a report by the American website Axios.
In all of these data, some find evidence of a change in the equation and balances that governed relations between the two countries.
Over the past decades, Egyptian-Saudi relations have gone through ups and downs. Therefore, many expect that these verbal battles between media professionals will remain locked up on digital platforms.
There are those who describe the Egyptian-Saudi relations as the backbone of the Arab region.
Some say that regional security challenges and global economic pressures will keep relations between the two countries resilient. “Egypt needs Saudi investments to get out of its economic crisis, and Riyadh needs a player of Egypt’s size to confront Iran and its allies,” they said.
Tweeters also accuse some opposition political parties of exaggerating the issue.
To confirm the stability of relations between the two countries, some are circulating pictures of the fifth round of the “Egyptian-Saudi Follow-up and Political Consultation Committee,” which was held a few days ago in the capital, Riyadh. It is a committee that convenes periodically to enhance prospects for bilateral cooperation between the two countries in all fields.