Rafik Hariri Center Nonresident Senior Fellow H.A. Hellyer writes for Al Arabiya News on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s visit to the United Kingdom:
Cairo has not had the best of weeks. It was supposed to be a showcase week – Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, had his official visit scheduled to the UK. It was supposed to be a reconfirmation of the international recognition already provided to Sisi’s political dispensation. Instead, the week began with political controversy, continued with diplomatic catastrophes, and ended with media cataclysms on plane crashes and civil rights activists. Cairo isn’t fazed, though – because it is everyone else’s fault. Quite.
Let’s put a few things into context. When Sisi decided to go to London, he wasn’t going to a hostile capital to defend Egypt’s reputation or engage in aggressive diplomacy. That’s wholly unnecessary. London stood to gain exceedingly little from the visit – it was looking to strengthen relations with Cairo, on issues of what it saw as mutual interest. During the visit itself, Downing Street minimized the amount of critical engagement Sisi would get in public – whether from Prime Minister Cameron himself, the media, or other parts of British society. If Cameron had wanted to give Sisi a hard time, it would have been very easy to do so. He didn’t. On the contrary.