There are a lot of enigmas in the so-called NGO crisis that has led the relations between Egypt and the US to its nadir since 1985. But so far there is an obvious conclusion: the Egyptian authorities committed a big blunder by creating this conflict, which has severed the relations with its most powerful ally.
To this date, neither the Egyptian press nor the government has provided a convincing answer to the next questions: Why did the Egyptian authorities charge now several American NGOs and its workers for actions they have been doing for many years? Who took that decision: the judiciary, the government or both? Did they have the approval of the SCAF, the Military Junta, the ultimate power in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak?
There are all sorts of theories flying around. Some people argue that the Military Junta would have fabricated the present crisis in order to pander the anti-American feelings of the Egyptian population; or maybe they just wanted rein on the Human Right NGOs, the most critical sector of the Egpytian civil society towards their rule.
Others blame the powerful minister of Cooperation, Fayza Abul Naga, the only cabinet member from the Mubarak era, and well-known for her hostility to the US. Still some others believe that some judges started the process looking for attention.
In any case, having into account the reactions from most politicians and political parties after all the accused foreigners left the country last Thursday, it is clear that the SCAF is the big looser in this crisis. Whether the generals asked for the NGOs to be charged or not, everyone is blaming them for intervening in the judicial process to lift the ban on travel to foreigners due to US pressures, inflicting a wound to Egyptian national sense of pride. It is normal, they are -and want to be- the ultimate source of power in the country.
The miscalculation of the Egyptian authorities in this issue is huge, and serves as an another example of the inability of the army to rule the country. When Washington stepped up its pressures to get their citizens out of the Egypt, the SCAF and the government responded defiantly. “It is a matter of sovereignty, and judicial interference is not possible”, they argued … just a few days before doing exactly that: forcing the judges to recuse themselves from the case, and lifting the ban on travel to foreigners.
Although the NGO drama is not over yet -the trial will re-start on March 8 offering new chances for unnecesary tensions in the US-Egypt relationship-, it seems a boomerang that is hitting back in the head those who threw it.