“If Egypt Collapsed, millions of Islamic State members would storm the world.” This prediction came from Egypt’s strongman president, Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, in 2015. He has cynical reasons to sound apocalyptic. His formula for staying in power has two main parts: repression at home, and constantly warning foreign leaders that unless they support him, Egypt will fall into chaos.
It works surprisingly well. Gulf states bankroll him for fear that the alternative is a regime led by the Muslim Brotherhood. This is not an unreasonable fear. The Brothers won elections in 2011 and 2012 and ruled Egypt incompetently until Mr Sisi overthrew them in a coup in 2013. America backs Mr Sisi for the same reason: some in President Donald Trump’s administration consider the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation (and Mr Sisi is adept at flattering Mr Trump himself). Europe turns a blind eye to the awful things that go on in Mr Sisi’s police cells because it fears the millions of refugees who might surge across the Mediterranean, were Egypt to fail. So Mr Sisi’s warning is self-serving. But is it wrong?