Leaks allege Egypt's Sisi 'despised' and colluded with Gulf rulers
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi privately "despises" Arab Gulf rulers, despite their substantial financial aid to Egypt, and in contrast to his public statements of lavish praise towards the oil-rich states, a number of leaked audio recordings allege.
However, the leaks also allege that Sisi - when he was the head of the Egyptian army – had been too cosy with his Gulf funders, especially the former Saudi monarch, providing them with sensitive information.
The recordings were aired on Saturday night by the Turkey-based Egyptian satellite TV channel Mekameleen, known for its support for former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, the country's first freely-elected president, who was overthrown by the army on 3 July, 2013, following mass protests.
The leaks, which cannot be independently verified, were reportedly recorded early 2014. The voices in the recordings were reportedly of Sisi, who was then defence minister; Brigadier General Abbas Kamil, the manager of Sisi's office; and Mahmoud Higazi, who was then head of intelligence and now head of the army.
Gulf money to Egypt's military, not state
In one recording, Sisi is alleged to have asked Kamil to request 10 billion dollars from each of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, to be transferred to a bank account that belongs to the military institution, which he headed at the time, and not to the state.
Sisi and Kamil were reportedly recorded discussing ways money could be funnelled into Egypt from the Gulf without public knowledge. "They have money like rice," Sisi is heard saying in the leak, suggesting that Egyptians should have a share of that money "like the Americans".
A second leaked recording was reportedly of a phone conversation between Kamil and a Saudi official, Fahad al-Askara, who is an aide to Khalid al-Tuwaijri, the Secretary General of the Saudi Royal Court under the late King Abdullah, before he was ousted by King Salman this year.
The Saudis know first
Only the voice of Kamil could be heard in this conversation, in which he was alleged to be informing the Saudi official of the result of a meeting by the Egyptian military council on Sisi's bid to run for presidency – as the meeting was taking place.
Kamil reportedly told the Saudi official that the Egyptian military council will vote in favour of Sisi's bid to run for the presidential office before the vote took place and before it was announced to the Egyptian public.
According to Mekameleen, the favourable status that Sisi had enjoyed during the reign of the late Saudi king Abdullah would not continue in the same fervour during the rule of the new monarch. The channel suggested that the apparent collusion between Sisi and Saudi Arabia could be reversed by King Salman.
Most of the alleged insulting language was attributed to Kamil, who branded the Gulf countries – particularly Kuwait - as "half-states", who should "pay up" because they "are living a fancy life and have piles of money".
Kamil is also alleged to have said that Kuwait owes Cairo for sending 35,000 Egyptian soldiers to the multinational US-led coalition against Baghdad following Iraq's invasion of its Gulf neighbour in 1990 – "when [the Kuwaitis] were in trouble".
The alleged third conversation appears to be primarily focused on securing money from Gulf donors – while using a tone of "despise" towards them, according to the channel – in stark contrast to Sisi's public statements which claim that Egypt and Arab monarchies have a "shared national security".
"We should have done what the Syrians [in 1990] did. It's a question of give and take [money for stances]," Kamil is alleged to have said.
The leaks come one month ahead of a donor conference on Egypt, where key Gulf states are expected to take part.
The worst insults saved for Qatar
However, the most insulting comment was directed towards the emir of Qatar, who Kamil branded as a "son of a b***h" with a bank that has $900 billion in reserves. The remark drew no apparent objection from Sisi.
Vulgar comments towards Qatar's ruling family were not uncommon in Egypt's media following Morsi's overthrow, but they were not known to be made at high official level. The alleged comment could further stall an already slow progress in a rapprochement bid between Doha and Cairo.
Prior to airing the programme, the channel had called on Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the people of Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and the people of Qatar to tune in to listen to the leaks.
The programme was disrupted by apparent deliberate attempts to target its airwaves, but the recordings were made fully available later on YouTube. Supporters of Sisi took to social media to claim that the recordings were fake and doctored by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
Since Morsi's overthrow, a number of recordings allegedly of Sisi have been leaked to the press. The most recent of which was also broadcast by Mekameleen in January, claiming to name prominent Egyptian media figures taking instructions from Sisi's office.
In December, the channel aired another recording alleging to expose evidence of corruption in Egypt's judiciary. An earlier leak in December 2013 details a series of dreams by Sisi where he foresaw that he would rule Egypt.