CRF Blog

A Pragmatic President in Arabia

by Sophia Khan

In a somewhat surprising visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s newest president-elect Mohamed Morsi demonstrated that pragmatism now ruled over ideology in his country’s global affairs. The National Interest’s Paul Pillar discusses the importance of having Egypt’s revolutionary president involved in Arabian politics.

Morsi evidently said enough to put his hosts at ease and to keep his brief visit cordial. The trip suggested that what is more important to him than anything religious (although he did perform the Umrah, or minor pilgrimage) or ideological are pragmatic considerations, especially economic ones. Saudi investment and remittances from Egyptian workers in Saudi Arabia are important ingredients in trying to come anywhere close to meeting Egyptians’ inflated economic expectations. There also is a wider foreign-policy dimension to the trip. Despite much talk lately about how an Egypt under Morsi rather than Mubarak will move toward better relations with Iran, the trip demonstrated that Iran is not Morsi’s first choice of partners among competitors in the Persian Gulf. A further pragmatic consideration was no doubt involved here, too, with an awareness of how dyspeptic Washington would get over anyone improving relations with Tehran. [more]