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Egypt This week's headline " Riots in Cairo " is chiefly significant because it tells of trouble which had scarcely any counterpart in the rest of Egypt. Alexandria— usually the scene of violent exchanges whenever there is trouble about—has been extraordinarily quiet, and the length and breadth of the country at large has shown little sign of disturbance at all. In short, the riots have taken place where foreign propaganda and not natural national feeling most easily gains influence. The "average " Egyptian is probably only dully conscious of trouble; he is rather more concerned with the sudden increase Intrade, which the fuelling and provisioning of ships and armies has brought
to his land. And it is fairly safe to assume that the current disturbance is an exaggeration of the bulk of popular feeling.
It was remarked as early as May of this year that propaganda ultimately supported by Italy was becoming active, and this fact caused little surprise to those who were familiar with the Near East. Italian propaganda has long been active in
Palestine and Arabia. The war a few years ago between Ibn Saud and the Imam of Yemen was recognised in wellinformed circles as the clash of two rival interests of European origin. The situation in Palestine, also, has for some time been complicated by Italy's attempts to ingratiate herself with the Palestinian natives.
The present difficulty, then, is no surprise to those who appreciate the interplay of forces in the eastern Mediterranean. The trouble is credited to the Italian government, which knows well enough the folly of a direct attack upon any dependency of Great Britain, and which also knows clearly the futility of expecting to set up a durable " Latin " empire in Ethiopia all the while communications can be challenged from Egypt.
The internal position of Egypt, however, has given Italy an opportunity, which she hastened to exploit by ordering three divisions of troops to Lybia and moving them into position along the Egyptian
Ls-bian frontier. The landing of these forces may not be a serious military threat to Egypt, but they have at least made a brave show of force to those Egyptian nationalists, the Wafd, who now hope in Italy. By encouraging trouble in Egypt it seems to have been the naïve conception of Italian diplomacy that it might force Great Britain to go slower and easier with the League and the Abyssinian issue. Still more naive appears to be the reasoning behind the propaganda which encouraged the Wafd to agitate now for a revision of Anglo-Italian relations.
If ever Great Britain needed an excuse for the concentration of force at Alexandria, Italy has provided it by her incitement of disorder. And if the British public was mystified about the reason for bargains over the Italian troops in Lybia, it now has a plain answer. More than that. Those doubts which have been expressed abroad about our naval concentration in the Mediterranean are now answered as well.
These facts explain the unusual calmness displayed in official circles. But official calm is an understatement of the real attitude in London. Relief might be a less politic but more accurate term. For the outburst of violence, regrettable enough in itself, nevertheless gives this country the chance of taking a more decisive part in Egyptian affairs, which for some time has been inevitable but impeded by certain obstacles.
The present prime minister, Nessim Pasha, has suddenly lost what support he had in Wafdist circles and he has lost it because at this moment the Wald has submitted to Italian pressure to push demands to which he cannot accede. He has, therefore, to rely pitifully upon the support of the Residency, upon which King Fuad is also, to some extent, cornpelled to lean.
In 1930 King Fuad set up what amounted to a palace dictatorship by
modifying the constitution. The result was the so-called 1930 Constitution. The preyious constitution, of 1923, had been a failure—handing Egypt over to the mercy of the worst kind of unstable popular misrule, whereby one Wafd cabinet followed another in utter confusion. To that 1923 Constitution neither Great Britain nor the king will ever return. But for all that the royal dictatorship is unsatisfactory too, being approved by only a minority of Egyptians. The Wald expects political emancipation, and King Fuad evidently desires a more autocratic government centering in himself. The unpopularity of his rdgime makes it doubly necessary for Nessim Pasha to rest for support on the Residency which he so heartily dislikes in public.
would undoubtedly demand British intervention, and now there comes the excuse for it.
The need of the moment, however, is for a common vehicle for the translation of British guidance and popular support into a political reality. Nessim Pasha is in a weak position, distrusted by the King and by the Wafd. The Wafd has no man strong enough to be acceptable to the king and to stand up to him. Those persons acceptable at the Palace are one and all disliked by the Wafd.
The most likely compromise in the event of a cabinet reshuffle is therefore a coalition under sonic neutral person like Mohammed Mahmud Pasha with one or two moderate members of the Wafd, all enjoying the support of the Residency and the toleration of King Fuad.
Further ahead, it is hardly likely that an Anglo-Egyptian treaty could he concluded; there have been repeated efforts to do this since 1922, and they have all failed. A more likely solution would be a wide economic agreement whose durability should outlast any merely political instrument. In the end, our interests in Egypt are economic, and Egypt has much to gain from British assistance in the economic and military spheres.
It is clear that an utterly new phase of Anglo-Egyptian relations is at hand wherein those relations are more likely to be defined in terms of economics than political alliance, while the Nationalists, after a period during which the Residency has in fact been relatively non-interfering, may welcome the protection of Great Britain -so long as trade is secure. But for the inauguration of this phase the king or his successors will have to co-operate in working out a fresh constitution which avoids the pitfalls of oriental parliamentarism and assures the Egyptian people of this final authority while hedging it with sufficient safeguards against abuse.