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Shifting Mideast Sands Reveal New Alliances

Saudi-Egypt axis emerging to challenge the Iran-led Shia group.

by
Jonathan Spyer

Bio

March 14, 2014 - 12:07 am
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This means that Hamas is probably stuck between Qatar and the Iranians, with the support of the former no longer worth what it once was, and the support of the latter available only in a truncated and reduced form.

The week’s events in Gaza, meanwhile, showcased the continued vigor of the Iran-led camp.

The most staunch supporter of Iran among the Palestinians, and now apparently the main beneficiary of Teheran’s largesse, is the Islamic Jihad movement.  This is a purely paramilitary and terrorist group, with no pretensions to mass political leadership.  As such, it is a less complicated prospect from Teheran’s point of view than Hamas.

The recent apprehending of the Klos-C arms ship  by Israel, as it brought a consignment of weapons evidently intended for Islamic Jihad in Gaza, was the latest indication of Teheran’s willingness to offer practical backing to those it favors.

Islamic Jihad’s furious response to the Israeli apprehending of the craft, and to the killing in recent days of a number of its operatives by Israel, was certainly done with Iran’s blessing and probably at its instruction (along with tacit permission from the Hamas authorities in Gaza).

The interrupted route of the weapons intended for Gaza (from Syria to Iran, to Iraq, to Sudan and then to the Strip) and the subsequent rocket fire should remind us that the Iran-led Shia bloc remains a potent gathering, capable of coordinated, region-wide action.

So three power blocs currently dominate the Middle East — the Iran-led Shia group, a rival emergent Cairo-Riyadh axis leading a group of smaller Sunni states, and a smaller, much weaker Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood alliance.  Their competition is set to dominate regional affairs in the period opening up.

Israel, of course, will be a charter member of none of these groups.  But Jerusalem is a de facto ally of the Saudi-Egypt camp.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, along with Israel, were in recent decades the main allies of the U.S. in the area.  The former two countries are now in search of new friends, and have found each other.  Saudi Arabia and the UAE have tried to lobby on Sisi’s behalf in Washington in recent weeks, though as yet with limited success.

The shifting sands of the Mid-Eastern strategic map are all the result of the perceived withdrawal of the U.S. from its role as a regional patron.  This process is still underway and it’s too soon to draw any final conclusions regarding its results. But  the current drawing together of Saudi Arabia and Sisi’s Egypt is surely among the most significant responses to it.  It is likely to form the basis for the Sunni Arabs’ attempts to contain Iranian ambitions in the period ahead.

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Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Imagine: the Democrat who was almost elected our
President gave Al Jazeera a foothold in American
Media. Al Gore, darling of the Left.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
NOT BEING ABLE TO SPELL R E S P E C T MUST BE A FREUDIAN SLIP
Obama supported the Muslim Brotherhood and lost Egypt as well as Saudi Arabia. Obama supported the protesters in Ukraine and lost Crimea.
Early in his administration, Obama supported Zelaya and lost Hondoras.
Obama lost Lebanon to Syria and some Philippine shoals to China. Obama should also be credited with having America lose respect throughout the world. Dare I say it: If Dems win another election, we're all lost.

36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
"On March 7th, Saudi Arabia made the additional move of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. A Saudi researcher and former general, Dr. Anwar Eshki, was quoted on the Now Lebanon website as asserting that the decision was made with particular focus on the Egyptian Brotherhood, which is involved in “terrorist” activity."

How can this be? Surly the Saudis, and the Egyptians, must somehow have gotten the wrong impression of the Muslim Brotherhood as both Barack Obama and John McCain think they are just about the greatest thing there ever could be.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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Do I understand this correctly? Qatar is doing to the others what the others routinely do to us (Israel). It makes one think "may they all win".
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks you Dr. Spyer, very informative article!
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like the idea of them sorting out their own problems and we just need to sit back and observe. It is time for us to exit active participation in the area. However it doesn't take long for somebody to not play fair or act up, so we still need a Naval presence with some really heavy Marine accompaniment.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think that Israel is going to be part of the regional solution, making deals with Saudi and the anti-Brotherhood government in Egypt. This may end up being a very, very positive outcome. Cheers -
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Living in Israel, I wouldn't bet on it. Hating us is still what keeps them all alive, every last one of them.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, I think we should have saved our money and withdrawn long ago rather than trying to do for others what they should be doing for themselves.

You can always take some action, but trying to manage outcomes can be very expensive and self-defeating. The problem is caused by too many people with an unacknowledged Marxist point of view which contains a strong libido for control.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment

The Muslim Brotherhood was supported by Saudi Arabia for decades as long as they did their bidding to maintain Saudi power. Now that Saudi's funding of certain terrorist organizations come back to haunt them, Saudi's leadership paints them as subversives.
Saudi Arabia funds terrorism on a global scale; Hamas, attacks in Mumbai, the attacks in NYC on 9/11, Wahhabi fundamentalist schools supporting overthrow of democracy and replacing it with Sharia law, Saudi Arabia funds terrorism and terrorist acts to deliberately destabilize democracy.
The USA made critical error aligning itself with Saudi Arabia and supporting their regime in 1972 with Petro dollar system. This action has wrought global terror, wars, collapse of the US dollar, economic ruin for America.
Are we supposed to applaud Saudi Actions?, at what point does American leadership account for its actions, and lack of common sense with foreign policy?
Saudi Arabia is a terrorist regime, possible the single greatest threat to global security and democracy at this time. The continued ignorance regarding Saudi terrorist policies and funding places the world in serious jeopardy.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Discounting Israel, the ARE NO good guys in the Mid-East, only those ranked on a scale from very bad to not so bad. Can we ever accept that fact? With our new position of becoming independent of the Mid-East for petroleum, maybe we can watch the continuing events there from a distance.

I, for one, am sick to death of sending our military to fight there with no expectation of actually winning the battle. "Winning the hearts and minds" of Mid-Eastern Islamic groups is a totally no-win situation and any American lives lost there is the consequences of our new belief that everybody is good and wonderful and our current inability to see evil when it is obvious.

I would like us to push even harder for petroleum independence so we can exert influence on the international market for oil. As long as millions and billions of dollars are flowing into the Mid-East, nothing will change and we should not sacrifice even one American life in our zeal to change what is and will be on-going there forever.

The Islamic faith is saturated with hatred which is obvious from a reading of their precious documents. If anyone thinks differently from you, kill them and rape their wives and daughters. That passes for "religion" there and we must look at the on-going mess through clear eyes, not rose-colored glasses.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think it ironic that Saudi Arabia, home to Wahabbi Islam considers the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, you have to use the proper definition of a terrorist organization, which is an organization trying to topple a government that is either Moslem or which Moslems do not currently wish to topple.

Besides, you make the common mistake of assuming there is something wrong with killing Jews.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, goody!

If it wasn't for the islam-first Obama Brigade, we could be encouraging big fights between the various Middle-Eastern religious nutters. Maybe it isn't too late after all?
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wasn't Qatar the place where the FCMABBHO Administration had plans to hold "peace" talks with the Taliban?
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Imagine: the Democrat who was almost elected our
President gave Al Jazeera a foothold in American
Media. Al Gore, darling of the Left.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
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