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Spengler

Islam’s civil war moves to Egypt

July 8th, 2013 - 4:25 am

Cross-posted from Asia Times Online

 

The vicious crosswind ripping through Egyptian politics comes from the great Sunni-Shi’ite civil war now enveloping the Muslim world from the Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean.

It took just two days for the interim government installed last week by Egypt’s military to announce that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States would provide emergency financing for the bankrupt Egyptian state. Egypt may not yet have a prime minister, but it does not really need a prime minister. It has a finance minister, though, and it badly needs a finance minister, especially one with a Rolodex in Riyadh.

As the World Bulletin website reported July 6:

“The Finance Ministry has intensified its contacts [with Gulf states] to stand on the volume of financial aid announced,” caretaker Finance Minister Fayyad Abdel Moneim told the Anadolu Agency in a phone interview Saturday. Abdel Moneim spoke of contacts with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait for urgent aid … Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi phoned Saudi Kind Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nuhayyan yesterday on the latest developments in Egypt. King Abdullah was the first Arab and foreign leader to congratulate interim president Adly Mansour after his swearing-in ceremony. [1]

Meanwhile, Egypt’s central bank governor, Hisham Ramez, was on a plane to Abu Dhabi July 7 “to drum up badly need financial support”, the Financial Times reported. [2] The Saudis and the UAE had pledged, but not provided, US$8 billion in loans to Egypt, because the Saudi monarchy hates and fears the Muslim Brotherhood as its would-be grave-digger. With the brothers out of power, things might be different. The Saudi Gazette wrote July 6:

Egypt may be able to count on more aid from two other rich Gulf States. Egypt “is in a much better position now to receive aid from Saudi Arabia and the UAE”, said Citigroup regional economist Farouk Soussa. “Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have promised significant financial aid to Egypt. It is more likely that Egypt will receive it now.” [3]

Media accounts ignored the big picture, and focused instead on the irrelevant figure of Mohamed al-Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose appointment as prime minister in the interim government was first announced and then withdrawn on Saturday. It doesn’t matter who sits in the Presidential Palace if the countryruns out of bread. Tiny Qatar had already expended a third of its foreign exchange reserves during the past year in loans to Egypt, which may explain why the eccentric emir was replaced in late June by his son. Only Saudi Arabia with its $630 billion of cash reserves has the wherewithal to bridge Egypt’s $20 billion a year cash gap. With the country’s energy supplies nearly exhausted and just two months’ supply of imported wheat on hand, the victor in Cairo will be the Saudi party.

I predicted this development in a July 4 post at PJ Media, noting,

The Saudis have another reason to get involved in Egypt, and that is the situation in Syria. Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, now guided by Prince Bandar, the new chief of Saudi Intelligence, has a double problem. The KSA wants to prevent Iran from turning Syria into a satrapy and fire base, but fears that the Sunni jihadists to whom it is sending anti-aircraft missiles eventually might turn against the monarchy. The same sort of blowback afflicted the kingdom after the 1980s Afghan war, in the person of Osama bin Laden.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been fighting for influence among Syria’s Sunni rebels (as David Ottaway reported earlier this week at National Interest). Cutting off the Muslim Brotherhood at the knees in Egypt will help the KSA limit potential blowback in Syria.” [4]

There wasn’t before, there is not now, and there will not be in the future such a thing as democracy in Egypt. The now-humiliated Muslim Brotherhood is a Nazi-inspired totalitarian party carrying a crescent in place of a swastika. If Mohamed Morsi had remained in power, he would have turned Egypt into a North Korea on the Nile, a starvation state in which the ruling party rewards the quiescent with a few more calories.

The head of Egypt’s armed forces, Field Marshal Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, is not a democrat, but a dedicated Islamist whose wife is said to wear the full niqab body covering, according to Naval Postgraduate School professor Robert Springborg. “Islamic ideology penetrates Sisi’s thinking about political and security matters,” Springborg observes. [5]

The question is not whether Islamism, but whose. Some Saudi commentators claim al-Sisi as their Islamist, for example Asharq al-Awsat columnist Hussein Shobokshi, who wrote July 7, “God has endowed al-Sisi with the Egyptians’ love. In fact, al-Sisi brought a true legitimacy to Egypt, which will open the door to hope after a period of pointlessness, immaturity and distress. Al-Sisi will go down in history and has gained the love of people.” [6] The Saudi-funded Salafist (ultra-Islamist) Nour Party in Egypt backed the military coup, probably because it is Saudi-funded, while other Salafists took to the streets with the Muslim Brotherhood to oppose it. Again, none of this matters. The will of a people that cannot feed itself has little weight. Egypt is a banana republic without the bananas.

Whether Egypt slides into chaos or regains temporary stability under the military depends on what happens in the royal palace at Riyadh, not in Tahrir Square. It appears that the Saudis have embraced the military-backed government, whoever it turns out to include. It is conceivable that the Saudis vetoed the ascension of al-Baradei, hilariously described as a “liberal” in the major media. Al-Baradei is a slippery and unprincipled operator who did great damage to Western interests.

As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency until 2009, the Egyptian diplomat repeatedly intervened to distort his own inspectors’ reports about the progress of Iran’s nuclear program. In effect, he acted as an Iranian agent of influence.  [See also Claudia Rosett today on al-Baradei].

The Saudis have more to fear from Iran than anyone else. Iran (asMichael Ledeen observes) is trying to subvert the Saudi regime through the Shi’ite minority in Eastern Province. If Riyadh did not blackball his nomination as prime minister, it should have.

There isn’t going to be a war with Israel, as some commentatorshave offered. Israel is at worst a bystander and at best a de factoally of the Saudis. The Saudi Wahabists hate Israel, to be sure, and would be happy if the Jewish State and all its inhabitants vanished tomorrow. But Israel presents no threat at all to Riyadh, while Iran represents an existential threat.

The Saudis, we know from WikiLeaks, begged the United States to attack Iran, or to let Israel do so. The Egyptian military has no interest in losing another war with the Jewish state. It may not have enough diesel fuel to drive a division of tanks to the border.

The Saudi regime, to be sure, sponsors any number of extremist malefactors through its network of Wahabist mosques and madrassas. But the present Saudi intervention in Egypt – if I read the signals right – is far more consistent with American strategic interests than the sentimental meanderings of the Barack Obama administration, or the fetishism of parliamentary form that afflicts the Republican establishment.

The Saudi regime is an abomination by American standards, but the monarchy is a rational actor. As Michael Ledeen observed a year ago, “The big oil region in Saudi Arabia is in Shiite country, and the Saudi Shi’ites have little love for the royal family. If the rulers saw us moving against Tehran and Damascus, it would be easier for us to convince them to cut back their support for jihad outside the kingdom.” [7]

The United States has less influence in the region than at any time since World War II, due to gross incompetence of the Obama administration as well as the Republican establishment. The Obama administration as well as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham courted the Muslim Brotherhood as a prospective vehicle for Muslim democracy, ignoring the catastrophic failure of the Egyptian economy as well as the totalitarian character of the Brotherhood.

Americans instinctively ask about any problem overseas, “Who are the good guys?” When told that there are no good guys, they go to see a different movie. There are no good guys in Egypt, except perhaps for the hapless democracy activists who draw on no social constituency and wield no power, and the endangered Coptic Christian minority. There are only forces that coincide with American interests for reasons of their own. It is a gauge of American foreign policy incompetence that the medieval Saudi monarchy is a better guardian of American interests in Egypt for the time being than the United States itself.

Notes:
1. Egypt following up aid pledges with Gulf countries, World Bulletin, July 6, 2013.
2. Egypt seeks Gulf cash as coalition cracks and opponents rally, Financial Times, July 7, 2013.
3. Egypt economic optimism high as transition government reigns, Saudi Gazette, July 5, 2013.
4. Dismiss the Egyptian People and Elect a New One, PJ Media, July 4, 2013.
5. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Egypt Army Chief, Turns On Morsi, The President Who Promoted Him, Huffington Post, July 3, 2013.
6. Opinion: El-Sisi, a true military man, Asharq al-Awsat, July 7, 2013.
7. Debating Syria: The Wider War and the Way Forward, National Review Online, March 15, 2013.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
David points out one major irony, in the fact that the Saudis are defending interests more in line with genuine U.S. interests than is the POTUS. A sadder irony, but just as certain, is that Assad is better for the Christians in the MidEast than the rebels Obama plans to arm. If one truly cares for the fate of the ancient Apostolic Christian Churches, one must hope that Assad is not toppled.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (10)
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Relevant to Egypt's inability to feed itself is the legacy of the Aswan Dam. Because it was built, in 1950's, the Nile no longer floods and brings silt to the soil along it's banks. It is the worst man made environmental catastrophe bar none. This is the legacy of the Nassar regime (started by U.S. and finished by Soviet Union) Worse, no one can risk even touching the water of the Nile, lest they be infected by Liver Flukes, a parasite that gets into the bloodstream by larvae contacting the skin and then making their way to the liver via the bloodstream, and those who do make such contact, carry the flukes with them for the rest of their lives. Until this problem created by the Aswan Dam is addressed and solved, the problem of Egypt ever feeding itself again will persist. Time to admit not only the failure of the Aswan Dam project, but the catastrophe it has brought as well.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Such a pity that the young, educated democracy advocates have no future in Egypt, but the way Egyptian crowds of men tended to use the opportunity to grope Western women was a tip off that something unpleasant was afoot.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
After controlling the streets. The new Regime needs to give some thought to the core, non-religious, problem in Egypt. A dependable National Income that isn't Egyptian Ex-Pat, Tourism or Charity based. They could learn some things from the Cayman Islands, Switzerland or Luxembourg. A modern, ask no, tell no banking industry. Maybe underwritten by the Gulf/Saudi's would be a way to keep the bread flowing to the Egyptian Street. And employ all of those unemployed college grads in Tahrir Square.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INPSVw2HP-8

Despite being on the polar opposite of the 'Left Right' paradigm your Asia Times colleague Pepe Escobar concurs that Egypt is facing famine of Biblical proportions, with no seven fat years and Pharoah appointing Joseph to prepare. Who can the Egyptians sell themselves to in order to avoid starvation?
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ralph Peters: Putin is an evil genius

Leon Aron: Putin is a dullard who somehow manages to stymie the glorious neocon liberation of Syria:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/how-putin-does-it/

Well neocons can't seem to get their stories straight nowadays. They seem more concerned that some aide to Sen. Rand Paul might've joked about John Wilkes Boothe ten years ago and suddenly it's a story because Rand Paul is threatening to cut off the MIC gravy train to Egypt. Because if there's anything Egypt needs right now it's more Apaches and Abrams tanks. Coup law? What coup law?
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment

Take a look at the chart on this page. Its shows two phenomenal things. First that, US oil production peaked in 1970, or a couple years before the US went off the gold standard--(which coincided/caused the vertical ascent of gold from roughly 1973-79. The second thing the graph shows is that US oil production currently is going straight up.

http://seekingalpha.com/article/1538602-chart-of-the-week-u-s-oil-supply-growth-exceeds-growth-in-global-demand?source=google_news

It is no coincidence that the salafists of Saudi Arabia and the Khomenists of Iran rose to power at the same time as OPEC...from 1973-1979. Nor will it be a coincidence that they fall back into obscurity as US oil production rises.

This graph show saudi oil production. What it shows is that saudi oil production went straight up -- just as US oil production is now going straight up-- from 1970-1975.
http://www.theoildrum.com/files/Saudi%20Arabian%20Oil-Barrels.png
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5154
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7465

Oh yeah, here's a historical gold chart which shows the ascent and fall of gold during the 70's-80's as well as the current rise & fall of the price of gold.
http://www.macrotrends.net/1333/gold-and-silver-prices-100-year-historical-chart
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
David points out one major irony, in the fact that the Saudis are defending interests more in line with genuine U.S. interests than is the POTUS. A sadder irony, but just as certain, is that Assad is better for the Christians in the MidEast than the rebels Obama plans to arm. If one truly cares for the fate of the ancient Apostolic Christian Churches, one must hope that Assad is not toppled.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Muslim Brothers backed by Al-Jazeera/Qatar and until very recently Obama do this: http://news.yahoo.com/egypts-christians-face-backlash-morsi-ouster-190342000.html

Murdering Christians is easier than taking on the Army armed with Apache helicopters and tanks
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
And remember, this is the man that Republicans refused to nominate because they claimed that his foreign policy was crazy....

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-07-08/ron-paul-new-egyptian-war-americans-lose-again

"Looking at the banners in the massive Egyptian protests last week, we saw many anti-American slogans. Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that was deposed by the military last week was very critical of what it saw as US support for the coup. Why is it that all sides in this Egyptian civil war seem so angry with the United States? Because the United States has at one point or another supported each side, which means also that at some point the US has also opposed each side. It is the constant meddling in Egyptian affairs that has turned Egyptians against us, as we would resent foreign intervention in our own affairs."

"For more than 30 years, since the US-brokered Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt, the US supported Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Over that period the US sent more than $60 billion to prop up Mubarak and, importantly, to train and seek control over the Egyptian military. Those who opposed Mubarak’s unelected reign became more and more resentful of the US, which they rightly saw as aiding and abetting a dictator and denying them their political aspirations."
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
At times, the 'kooks' are right and it is the status quo (for example, the notion that if we just built a computer big enough to scoop up everyone's phone calls not only will the data never be used for nefarious purposes by the federal government but our efficiency at capturing future Tsarnaevs BEFORE THEY KILL will actually be improved) is insane.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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