In an outrageously ill-timed visit, British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Cairo to meet with the new military ruler, General Tantawi—the defense minister and head of the ruling military council—on a mission to sell arms.
Yes, Cameron actually flew to Cairo to see if Egypt’s armed forces, sans a president, might be willing to buy weapons from the UK.
He arrived, reported the Financial Times, with a “36-strong entourage of businessmen, including representatives from some of Britain’s biggest defense and aerospace companies.”
They included “Ian King, chief executive of BAE Systems, Alastair Bisset of Qinetiq, Charles Hughes of Cobham Group, Victor Chavez of Thales UK, Andy Pearson of Babcock International and Richard Barrett of Atkins.” In particularly, Cameron was intent on selling the Eurofighter Typhoons. Cameron is headed to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf next. No doubt his visit to Bahrain will be interesting, if indeed he makes it there.
Meanwhile, the State Department’s No. 2 official, William Burns, is in the midst of an extended stay in Cairo, too, where he huddled with Amr Moussa, the retiring head of the league of Arab States, who is a candidate for president in to-be-scheduled elections. You’d think US officials wouldn’t want to meddle, but you’d be wrong.
Here’s the full text of Burns’s statement from Cairo:
“Thank you very much. I'm delighted to be back in Cairo. I have just finished a very interesting and comprehensive conversation with Secretary General Amr Moussa about developments in Egypt and around the region. As always I learned a lot.
“This is a moment of extraordinary promise for Egypt and for Egyptians. It's a moment when Egypt has only just begun its historic transition to democracy. It's a moment when the voices, the courage and sacrifice, and the remarkable peaceful determination of Tahrir Square have been heard around the region and around the world.
“Americans deeply respect and admire what Egypt has already achieved, but we know that the road ahead is not going to be easy. We also know that it's a road that can only be navigated by Egyptians themselves. The United States has great faith in the capacity of Egypt to navigate that path successfully and to set an example for the rest of the region. We want to do everything we can to help as Egypt builds an open, inclusive process aimed at producing real political change, economic recovery, and long-term economic modernization.
“I look forward with my colleague David Lipton over the next couple of days to listening to the priorities of Egyptians inside and outside government, to understand better how we can connect our resources to Egypt's priorities and to be as helpful as we can in this process. Along the way, we'll continue to encourage concrete steps to build confidence and to sustain the momentum of the transition, ranging from the constitutional amendments that are being considered, through careful preparations for elections, to the further release of political detainees, to the lifting of the Emergency Law.
“In this process of democratic transition, as in the process of tackling many other regional and global challenges, the United States looks forward to remaining a very strong partner of Egypt and Egyptians. Thank you very much once again.”
Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is making a grand tour of the Middle East, too, focusing on the gulf states.