July 14, 2013 – Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi escalated a fight with Ethiopia this week over a dam on the Nile River. Beware the desperate politician seeking foreign adventures. Ethiopia is building a dam upstream from Egypt and expects to start filling in a 74 billion cubic meter reservoir in 2015. Egypt fears the dam will choke off its main supply of water.
Speaking to hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo Monday, Mr. Morsi said that Egypt was ready “protect every drop of the Nile water,” for which it was ready to spill “our blood.” Conjuring up a conspiracy by domestic and foreign “enemies” to impoverish Egypt, he called on Egyptians to face up to the “threats to the country.”
The combative speech turned up the volume on bellicose noises from Cairo. Last week, the president held a meeting with opposition figures who, unaware they were being filmed live, said that Egypt may need to act militarily in Ethiopia to stop the construction of the dam. The video went viral.
Ethiopia dismissed the Egyptian threats as “psychological warfare” and said it will continue to build the dam.
The Egyptian government can barely secure its own cities and borders, and the powerful military gives no indication of being willing to accompany Mr. Morsi on his Ethiopian campaign. Which makes all this noise look more like an attempt to change the subject at home.
The Islamist leader has a bleak record in his 12 months in office. None of the rosy promises to make the streets safe or revive the economy have been realized. As the young in particular are unable to find jobs and the government’s foreign currency reserves have been depleted since the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak’s regime, Egypt now has to depend on handouts from friendly nations such as Qatar and Libya to buy fuel and food.
Cairo hasn’t seen large anti-government protests since February, but it could be just a lull in Egypt’s political storm. The opposition has called for mass rallies across the country on June 30 to mark the first anniversary of Mr. Morsi’s election. They say they’ve collected over 7 million signatures calling for the 62-year-old president to step down.
Feeling the pressure, Mr. Morsi has turned to conspiracy mongering and nationalistic posturing. Former President Mubarak and the generals who replaced him for a year and a half had done the same in similarly tight political spots. The tactic didn’t work for them, but that’s not stopping Mr. Morsi from stirring up his own Abyssinian crisis.