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Preliminary Remarks About The Escalating Crisis in Egypt.

August 15, 2013

ME - Oil and Gas Deposits

The Obama Administration Holds Its Nose And Realigns Itself With Old Ally – Saudi Arabia  

I know what follows will sound a little esoteric to American ears, but I am convinced there is something to it and want to add my take on bloodbath unfolding in Egypt, if only because I have not seen the explanation I offer anywhere else – at least in English. And I think it might help – at least in part – explain the unfolding Egyptian tragedy.

While the  Obama Administration is not an innocent player in the slaughter unfolding in Egypt – it supported the Egyptian military coup – there is another factor at play which is as decisive in explaining the recent dark turn of events: the re-emergence of Saudi Arabia as a key player in the Arab World and the factional struggle between the Moslem Brotherhoods, supported by Qatar and Turkey on the one hand and the Salafist and Wahhabist elements supported by Riyadh on the other.

While the  Obama Administration is not an innocent player in the slaughter unfolding in Egypt – it supported the Egyptian military coup – there is another factor at play which is as decisive in explaining the recent dark turn of events: the re-emergence of Saudi Arabia as a key player in the Arab World and the factional struggle between the Moslem Brotherhoods, supported by Qatar and the Salafist and Wahhabist elements supported by Riyadh.

The United States – after much Saudi pressure – did much to weaken Qatar’s involvement in regional politics by encouraging the former emir there who had challenged the Saudis for regional hegemony somewhat successfully to step down in place of his playboy son. Until about a month ago when the new emir took power, Qatar politically and financially supported the Moslem Brotherhoods. The results were immediate. Qatari influence immediately shrank – and with it – the political strength of the Moslem Brotherhoods in Egypt and elsewhere. It cannot be entirely accidental that the massive demonstrations  in Egypt against Morsi and the coup that followed were not in some way connected to Qatar’s withdrawal from the political playing field. 

It was not only Qatar who supported the Brotherhoods but Turkey as well who saw the Brotherhoods as a mechanism for rekindling Turkish influence – at Saudi expense – in the Eastern Mediterranean. But the Turkish initiative was undermined by history – the history of the Ottoman Empire’s repressive rule in the Arab World which collapsed in 1919 at the end of World War One. The rise of Saudi influence thus is not just at Qatar’s but also Turkey’s expense.

Saudi influence has immediately gained strength; the events in Egypt – the repression of the Brotherhoods and now the blood bath against them – are the strange fruit of renewed Saudi influence. Make no mistake about it, if the Saudis have their druthers, the Moslem Brotherhoods in Egypt will not just be politically defeated, but they will be physically annihilated to such an extent that it will take decades for them to recover any modicum of political influence, if it is possible at all.  It is also quite possible that the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi, the Tunisian political opponent to the Ennahdha led government is another result. Brahmi had long standing ties with the Saudis. His elimination strengthens the hand of the Brotherhood-linked Ennahdha Party at a time when that party is fighting to avoid a fate similar to that of Morsi and the Brotherhoods in Egypt. 

Saudi religious factionalism is no small factor in the overthrow of the Morsi government and this ensuing bloodbath. 

My hypothesis is that much more than the Obama Administration, which would have preferred a much smoother political transition, that the Saudis had a major role in encouraging the Egyptian military to turn on its own people – and most especially the structures and supporters of the Moslem Brotherhood. It is the goal of the Saudis, with whom the leadership of the Egypt’s military have long-standing and  very close ties, to utterly destroy their(the Saudi) historic Islamic opponents in the Moslem Brotherhood and to do so in such a manner and so thoroughly that the Brotherhoods power grab – in which Egypt was central – is completely crushed.

My hypothesis is that much more than the Obama Administration, which would have preferred a much smoother political transition, that the Saudis had a major role in encouraging the Egyptian military to turn on its own people – and most especially the structures and supporters of the Moslem Brotherhood.

In a way, for the Saudi’s the slaughter of Egypt’s Moslem Brothers is also a kind of revenge against the United States for having thumbed their nose at the Saudis this past decade in favor of Qatar and Turkey . The Saudi’s are taking no small amount of pleasure of rubbing salt in the Obama Administration’s wounds. Believe it or not, I don’t think that the United States wanted or supported this bloodbath if only because events are fast moving out of their control. Washington had hoped to manage the politically explosive situation in Egypt. It failed again miserably but Washington was actually trying to avoid just the kind of explosion which followed Mohamed Morsi’s removal from power.

The United States finds itself caught in a factional war between two of its regional pawns and has been standing by helplessly unable to stop the carnage or influence the Egyptian junta that much. But regardless of Washington’s genuine discomfort with the violent turn of events in Egypt, the Obama Administration will stand by the Egyptian military junta and the Saudi inspired bloodbath unfolding before the eyes of the world. Between Washington, Riyadh and Doha – the three countries have together given the Egyptian military a war chest of between $15-20 billion, an indication that despite some pablum criticisms of the crackdown coming from Washington, that the Egyptian military enjoys key regional and international support. The largest of three contributors, by far, is the Saudis..and with the contribution, of course, comes no small amount of influence.  

Nothing suggests this new constellation of political forces more clearly – and the hardening of the U.S. policy towards Egypt in line with support of the junta’s repression – than the announcement that Robert Ford, hit man extraordinaire of U.S. Middle East policy (his role in Syria) and protege of John Negroponte, architect of the `El Salvador Option’ in the 1980s – the training and extensive use of death squads. Once again, in Washington after a few years `in the wilderness’ it is the neo-cons that are driving U.S. Egypt policy. Netanyahu must be smiling. 

The price that the United States has to pay for re-aligning itself with Saudi Arabia is to accept Saudi methods. In any case, whether the Obama Administration is uncomfortable or not with the repression in Egypt, they have bought on to the plan. For some in Washington it is a case of holding their nose and supporting the Saudis; for others, they are genuinely enthusiastic about the repression and the rekindling of the U.S.-Saudi strategic relationship. 

Regardless, the slaughter is horrible, inexcusable and must be condemned.

By the way, if this hypothesis of Saudi involvement is accurate, it would not be the first time that Saudi religious factionalism resulted in a bloodbath of competing Moslem factions. Saudi history – most especially Saud’s rise to power in the early 20th century – is strewed with the bodies of Islamic opponents in campaigns in which Saud took no prisoners, blood baths of unspeakable cruelty. How convenient to have the Egyptian military doing the dirty work for them this time. 

As it has at other crisis junctures of the Arab Spring, the United States is somewhat helpless to respond as is Israel. Any major U.S. and/or Israeli military response to the Egyptian crisis will only make matters worse for both   Washington and Tel Aviv. Paralyzed  militarily – and exposed for the weak position it finds itself in, Washington can only turn to the Saudis to help stabilize the situation – exactly what Riyadh wants. Saudi influence – and its profoundly factional approach to Middle East politics will grow at the expense of Turkey (which like Qatar favored the Brotherhoods). For the Brotherhoods this is the worst disaster they have suffered since Nasser repressed them in the 1950s. In part, they have themselves to blame for their isolation. Morsi’s rule was a fiasco (as I have written elsewhere), but for all that, of course, nothing can justify the unfolding bloodbath…and it has only just begun.

Once again, events spin out of Washington’s control. Will it be able to return to the crisis management mode of the past two years? or are we entering an even darker period in which the Obama Administration will thrash around for a yet to be defined approach – damned if they do, damned if they don’t patchwork approach to politics, but as always, afraid to deal with the key issues which triggered the Arab Spring in the first place: poverty, repression, corruption, economies and political leadership that in large measure fail to address popular aspiration and that have the stamp `made in USA’?

___________________

Links:

Saudi Arabia Promises Aid To EgyptNY Times. August 20, 2013

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Ibrahim kazerooni permalink
    August 16, 2013 8:49 pm

    Rob as we have discussed this issue together repeatedly before, the overall assessment of the situation in Egypt is correct. The downside to Turkey is not just the historical image of Ottoman’s in the Arab world, that has some relevance, but it was the arrogance of the current Turkish PM in declaring his hand too soon. Two years ago the US in attempting to market an alternative model to Iran presented the Turkish model to the Arab masses as the best thing after the slice bread (metaphorically speaking) but the Turkish position on Syria, particularly its total support for the mercenaries and alQa’ida allowed the more progressive elements in the Arab uprising to see through the Turkish veil. MB close relation with Turkey rests on the notion of the Islamic Khilaafah which suits both MB and Ardogan.
    as for the US, once we dispense with the idea that US was somehow caught by surprise, and accept the premise that US deeply involved in the army takeover, for the reason that we have identified (regional realignment from Qatar to Saudis) then they had to accept the approach chosen by the new partnership of Egyptian military and the Saudi Bandar whom as you know has a long standing relations with the neo-cons in the US in both parties.
    All the expression of dismay and calling for restrain is nothing more than appeasing these who still believe that US administration supports human rights and against violence. The history in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, etc. etc. clearly proves otherwise.

  2. Ibrahim kazerooni permalink
    August 16, 2013 8:56 pm

    furthermore, the case of Qatar and the unceremonious removal of the leader, remind me of the British removal of Reza shah in Iran in the 1940 and replacing him with his Italian gigolo son that cared less about regional conflict as long as he had his fast cars.
    What we see in Egypt is the saudi plan to completely break up the MB so that they will not be a viable challenge to their role for a longtime. The Saudi King even called the MB a terrorist group that must be destroyed. You and I know that the Saudis will not make such a statement that has such a profound ramification for the region without the green light from Uncle Sam

  3. Gene Fitz permalink
    August 17, 2013 7:41 am

    Rob:

    The theatrics being played out on the Cairo stage are difficult to comprehend by the American ‘man in the street’ and your taking the role of a Professor of English Studies elucidating the complexities of a Shakespearean tragedy is appreciated. I’m wondering how closely the events in Egypt mirror the Algerian story that unfolded in the 1990’s. Is there a close parallel or little or none? If there’s a significant similarity, does this allow a reasonable prediction of what Egypt will look like for the next decade or more?

    Gene Fitzpatrick

  4. August 18, 2013 10:54 am

    A reblogué ceci sur mahmoudoun and commented:
    This is a wise point of view but the Author denies for some obscure reasons the direct implication of Obama and his implication in the bloodbath taking place in Egypt . this article becomes therefore a kind of desinformation because the KING OF SAOUDI ARABIA can never take decisions as this out of the real matrice ,out of the real project of the ILLUMINATIS ,the mondialist NEOCONS that is to say the ISRAEL-AMERICANEMPIRE WHICH INCLUDE ALSO ALL EUROPEEN COUNTIE :we must all admit that this agenda of the so called Arabspring is a great plot designed long ago by NATO ON BEHALF OF THE ZIONIST STATE WHO GOVERNS USA AND OBAMA FIRST .

  5. August 22, 2013 1:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Piazza della Carina.

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