Belmont Club

A Tale of Two Rivers

The Saudi king has just declared his support for the new Egyptian government, and presumably for its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Arabiya says:

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz said the kingdom supports Egypt in the fight “against terrorism.”

King Abdullah said Egypt’s stability is being targeted by “haters” warning that anyone that interferes in Egypt’s internal affairs seeks to “waken sedition.”

That potentially puts the KSA on a collision course with the U.S.A. Obama, who has built a coalition with the KSA to oppose Russia and Iran, may be finding himself squaring off with King Abdullah in Egypt. Meanwhile, speaking of Russia, the Washington Free Beacon says that Moscow is hovering around Egypt, just waiting to pick up the pieces:

The Obama administration support for Muslim Brotherhood Islamists in Egypt is driving the powerful military there against the United States and toward Moscow, according to U.S. officials and reports from the region.

The pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance is undermining decades of U.S. policy toward the Middle East state and prompting concerns that the United States is about to “lose” Egypt as a strategic partner, said officials familiar with intelligence reports.

Almost bizarrely, The Diplomat is wondering where China is in all of this: “Why is China Dithering While Cairo Burns?”

As Rosie Collington noted on World Outline recently, China greatly benefited from Morsi’s presidency, and had a lot invested in that relationship.

Morsi courted China aggressively in his attempt to solve the country’s fiscal woes and reduce U.S. influence in Egypt. To that end, he made China the destination of his first trip overseas after becoming president. He was hosted in Beijing by then President Hu Jintao, who declared at the time, “You chose China to be one of the first countries to visit after taking office. This shows that you attach great importance to Sino-Egyptian relations. I believe your visit to China will further boost our cooperation in all fields.”

True to his word, Hu signed no less than eight cooperative agreements with Morsi during the trip. Even before then, during the tumultuous year of 2011 in Cairo, Sino-Egyptian trade rose to US$8.8 billion, a 30 percent increase from 2010, according to Xinhua. Last year it rose to US$9.5 billion.

Beijing may enter the lists yet.  There’s an almost palpable power vacuum in the Middle East with Washington out to lunch. Time headlines “Egypt’s Nightmare Scenario Draws Nearer,” and illustrates the story with President Barack Obama making a statement on the situation in Egypt … from the driveway of his vacation house in Martha’s Vineyard.

Obama has become a spectator of his own presidency.

Time continued its story by quoting Century Foundation’s Michael Wahid Hanna as saying:

I think a cycle of violence is coming. This will likely take the form of insurgent tactics, including possibly suicide bombings and assassinations.

You don’t say?

Probably he means bombings and assassinations like in Lebanon, where a deadly blast has rocked Hezbollah’s stronghold, prompting those interviewed to name Israel, al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Syrian rebels, Sunni rebels, the United States and the European Union as possible suspects. Have they left anyone out?

Egypt is tipping over into civil war in a decidedly uncivil way. “At least 700 people are dead and more than 3,700 injured after the violent dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins by security forces unleashed a wave of violence across the country yesterday,” according to the Denver Post, in a piece perceptively titled “Egypt chaos: Not everyone in Cairo is unhappy with the violence.”

It’s open season on everybody. CNN says “‘Horrible’: Christian churches across Egypt stormed, torched.” At this writing, more than a dozen more have died as pro-Morsi demonstrations wend their way through Cairo. The Washington Post is liveblogging the nonstop clashes, morgue shots, scenes of people leaping off bridges, etc — what the New York Times is now calling “urban warfare.”

Spengler says the region is just beginning to fall apart — wait till it gets going.

Jackson Diehl at the Washington Post is thunderstruck by the abstracted, almost unreal atmosphere within the Obama administration:

Incredibly, some officials close to Kerry were arguing in recent weeks that one reason not to designate Egypt’s coup a coup was to avoid dampening the Mideast “peace process” — whose prospects for success are invisible to all outside the administration, including the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Never mind the burning city, goes the logic; we’ve got our hands full building this Potemkin village.

That Potemkin Village is called Narrativeville, and lots of people inside the Beltway actually live in it. In that town, all problems can be solved by sending off new talking points to Journolist to make reality conform to fiction.

Except maybe this time it won’t happen beyond the remit of the Metro. The unaccountable refusal of reality to conform would puzzle many in Washington. But the last few weeks have been a story of two cities built by a river: one by the Potomac and the other by the Nile, each afflicted by its own brand of madness.

All the demands that America “do something in Egypt” are really preconditioned on one unstated assumption: that Washington itself knows what to do. That used to be a reasonable assumption; it is not any more.

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