Egypt's Junta Has Nothing to Lose
The appointment of Robert Ford as the new American ambassador to Egypt was indeed an ominous sign that the Obama administration expected civil war conditions to arise in Egypt. Ford’s forte during his hugely successful “diplomatic’ assignment in Baghdad in the middle of the last decade was to organize the notorious death squads, which tore Mesopotamia apart and destroyed Iraq almost irreparably.
Equally, Ford played a seminal role in his subsequent ambassadorial assignment in Damascus in 2011 in successfully triggering the Syrian civil war. Ford is the living embodiment of the stunning reality that between the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, there has been no real shift in the United States’ policies in the Middle East aimed at perpetuating its regional hegemony.
Make no mistake about it that the US game plan is to destabilize and destroy Egypt just the same way Iraq and Syria have been destroyed so that Israel’s absolute security is assured in the region for the conceivable future.
This is the conclusion that can be safely drawn as the Egyptian junta launched the mass murder of hundreds of Egyptian protestors on Wednesday. A bloodbath of horrendous proportions has commenced in Egypt.
The Egyptian military is literally the creation of the US. The American military aid is the vital lifeline for the Egyptian junta. The real agenda behind the overthrow of the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi cannot any longer be hidden. America’s apologists spread the story far and wide that Morsi paid a price for political intransigence and for shutting the doors on “inclusive’ democracy.
But the bloodbath that has begun in Egypt exposes that the real American agenda tells a different story, which is that a process began pushing that country into the abyss of a civil war from which it may never return as the throbbing heart of ‘Arabism.’
The military junta has no intentions to transfer power to a democratically elected government. The Americans have been going through the motions of cajoling the junta to go back to the barracks in a calibrated fashion with a view to create the impression that Washington is on the ‘right side of history’ in the Middle East.
But in reality, Washington counts on the junta to pursue security policies that serve Israel’s interests. That is the bottom line for the Obama administration and the junta knows it, too. The quibbling over the word ‘coup’, the dispatch of senior envoys to meet Morsi in prison, Senator John McCain’s appearance in Cairo – all these are mere charades to hoodwink international opinion.
The heart of the matter is that the US is immensely pleased that the Egyptian junta is turning the screws on Hamas and helping to reimpose the blockade of Gaza. On the other hand, Cairo has again become the watering hole for the Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas – as it used to be in the Hosni Mubarak era – who is a puppet on a string willing to dance to the tune of Washington and Tel Aviv, which in turn serves to create the illusion of a Middle East peace process under American mediation, where none really exists.
In sum, what emerges is that there is a back-to-back US-Israeli-Saudi deal over Egypt. The Saudi regime has never hidden its antipathy toward Morsi’s government and its obsession with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudi regime is mortally afraid that the Brotherhood’s ascendancy in Egypt within a democratic framework sets a compelling example for the ‘Arab Street’ in the Persian Gulf oligarchies. The Saudis, in a nutshell, are willing to bankroll the Egyptian junta so long as the latter suppresses the Brotherhood and prevents the Brothers from advancing their programme to force regime change in the GCC states.
For the Obama administration, too, the Saudi role is very crucial because the regime change in Cairo has not cost the American taxpayer anything and the US is not called upon to spend money to salvage the Egyptian economy. Suffice to say, the convergence of interests between the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia is almost one hundred percent when it comes to the preservation of the military junta – politically, financially and militarily – in Egypt.
The lone voice of Turkey in calling a spade a spade and expressing unremitting opposition to the military takeover in Egypt is proving ineffectual against such a formidable phalanx of the US and its regional allies standing behind the junta. At any rate, Turkey has discredited itself badly by interfering in Syria and it lacks the moral standing to uphold anymore the banner of the Arab Spring and reform in the Middle East. Besides, the jury is out whether the Islamist government in Turkey would even survive unless it patched up with Israel soon enough and rolled back its independent regional policies.
Iran, too, has pursued a dual track toward Egypt in the period since the overthrow of Morsi’s government. On the one hand, ironically, it shares the Saudi apprehension that the Brotherhood wields a degree of regional influence (especially over the conflict in Syria) that makes it a wild card in the Middle Eastern pack. On the other hand it was disappointed and felt frustrated by the pragmatism shown by the Morsi government in not forcefully confronting Israel and instead keeping up a good chemistry with the Obama administration. Of course, the Brotherhood drew Hamas away from the Iran-led camp of ‘resistance’ and helped cement Hamas’ two-year dalliance with the Qatar regime, which in turn helped to reinforce the anti-Iranian regional axis involving Turkey, Qatar and Egypt.
Having said that, Iran also sees through the US-Israeli-Saudi hand in propping up the military junta in Egypt and has been hoping against hope that contradictions would ultimately arise between the protagonists. In the ultimate analysis, the rise of the Salafist forces in Egypt, which is happening under the military junta with Saudi nurturing, is definitely not in Iran’s interests. Iran ought to know that it is a matter of time before the Salafist surge becomes an instrument of regional policies for the US and Saudi Arabia in a variety of theatres in the Greater Middle East – ranging from the Levant to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Above all, Iran is also keen on fostering the incipient government-to-government contacts between Tehran and Cairo, which makes it reticent about alienating the new rulers in Egypt. Indeed, Egyptian junta’s disengagement from the Syrian conflict is itself a positive development from the Iranian perspective. Thus, the Iranian policy toward the developments in Egypt is really caught up in the throes of a hopeless dilemma, which is not going to be easy to resolve.
For much of the non-Muslim world at large, the tendency has been to blithely view the Egyptian developments as a conflict between secularism and political Islam. There is, unsurprisingly, an empathy felt in the democratic towards Egypt’s ‘secular’ forces. (The exit of Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei from the interim government in Cairo should come as an eye-opener, though.) Consequently, a strategic ambivalence has developed – as had happened during the brutal civil war in Algeria – to the effect that political Islam is a pernicious thing and is antithetical to pluralist democracy and human rights, and sometimes coercion and even military force may become necessary to counter its surge.
Quintessentially, therefore, the battle being waged for Egypt’s soul is entirely geopolitical. Even the last pretence that this is all about the mythical Arab Spring is being discarded. From Washington’s perspective, Egypt is far too important a player on the Middle Eastern chessboard. And the Obama administration is determined to keep Egypt as its vassal state at any cost since otherwise the entire US regional strategy in the Middle East riveted on the security and military dominance of Israel would begin to unravel. Period.
The high probability, therefore, is that the Egyptian military junta will not be detracted from its repression of the Brotherhood. The junta has carefully done its home work and concluded that it can take for granted Washington’s covert backing – even while Obama administration continues to pay lip service to ‘inclusive democracy’ on the banks of the Nile to impress the Arab and world opinion – so long as it collaborates with Israel’s security establishment. The generous Saudi financial assistance creates much space for the Egyptian junta to maneuver and create space for its survival.
Obama might as well take a stoical view that after all it was to an American president who he considers as role model, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to whom that shameless, cynical, cold-blooded statement has been commonly attributed – ‘[Nicaraguan dictator] Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.’
Reprinted with permission.