The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

David Welch, Bechtel and Egypt's nuclear program

I remember reading a while back that David Welch, head of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department under George W. Bush and former US Ambassador to Cairo, had retired from the Foreign Service for a lucrative perch at Bechtel, the American contracting company. My memory was jogged today reading this post at the Cable (mostly about delays in the confirmation of Jeffrey Feltman, Welch's successor as Head of NEA):

His predecessor as assistant secretary of NEA, David Welch, retired from the State Department in December to join Bechtel as vice president for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Bechtel is part of an Egyptian-led joint venture that has contracts to design and build power plants in Libya.

This led me to wonder whether Welch's appointment at Bechtel had anything to do with the surprising Egyptian decision to drop Bechtel as the lead contractor for its civilian nuclear power program -- an important and potentially immensely lucrative contract, since Bechtel would have recommended which firms should get further contracts for the construction of the power plant and other infrastructure. Welch, after all, was not appreciated by official Egypt due to his outspokenness on various issues, from anti-semitism in Egyptian media to meeting with opposition leaders. (Although I dislike Welch's politics and apparent full agreement with GWB policies, I think his behavior as ambassador was quite effective -- the current ambassador, Margaret Scobey, could learn something from his forthrightness).

Anyway, this may be pure speculation, but I wonder if there's still bad blood about Welch in Egypt, and what link that may have, if any, with the decision to drop Bechtel.