Only a few months ago Saudi King Salman visited Cairo to inspect “his newest acquisition”. Or so jubilant Salafis and opinion-ators in Saudi and Gulf media screamed. Many fell for it. Even an astute person like myself, born and raised amidst the sandstorms and the annual locust invasions and under the loving truly burning sun of the (Persian) Gulf. But I did express some doubt.
At that time Saudi media claimed the King had a ‘pleasant’ surprise for the Egyptian people. It turned out that surprise was anything but pleasant. It was the draft of an agreement that cedes two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir in the Gulf of Aqaba, to the Saudis. The people of Egypt, with the exception of Saudi-financed Salafis, were furious at the Sisi regime. Other Arabs were also skeptic, except for the Salafi-Tribal types of the Gulf region. The whole thing backfired on the Cairo regime. Now the islands issue looks unresolved.
Then there is Syria. The Saudi-Qatari-Turkish axis, although frayed by now, has been consistent in its resolve to help replace the secular Assad regime with an Islamist-Jihadist one. More recently the Turks have given in to American pressure and tightened border controls a bit. They have also developed some focused worries about Syrian Kurds and their drive for autonomy. The Egyptian regime has been skeptic of the Saudi-Turkish position on Syria. Now they are openly so, as reflected in their latest UN Security Council vote on Syria.
The Saudi ruling elites are not very subtle or classy about showing their displeasure. They can be called “Indian Givers”, a politically incorrect term now here, I know, but succinctly describes them. Now they have retaliated by cutting off the billions of promised aid, starting with oil shipments. Reports claim Kuwait has stepped in to replace the promised Saudi oil shipments to Cairo. Their is a media war brewing between the two countries.
But it is not realistic to expect an ancient country like Egypt to remain long subservient to a bunch of tribal oligarchs in Riyadh
Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir used to go around the world asserting that the Syrian Assad regime will go, peacefully or by military means. Tough words for a Saudi minister whose well-armed country has been losing a war to the lightly-armed tribal Houthis of Yemen and their allies. For a few weeks Mr. Al Jubeir was silenced, by order. Now he is back, again threatening that his country is considering arming “moderate” Syrian rebels. Moderate by Wahhabi standards, no doubt.
That requires agreement by Washington which supplies most of the Saudi weapons in question.
And that is where the sisterly, or is it brotherly, relations stand now.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
King Salman of Saudi Arabia has been on a long state visit to Egypt. The visit started with Egyptian authorities covering a public statue of Ibrahim Pasha, son of the creator of modern Egypt Mohammed Ali Pasha, during the Saudi King’s visit to Cairo. Ibrahim Pasha conquered Najd, birthplace of Wahhabism early in the 19th century. That was probably the last Egyptian military victory of modern times.
Saudi media and diplomats have hinted at a “pleasant” surprise gift from the Saudi King for the Egyptian people. That is rather doubtful: Arab leaders (or Middle East leaders in general) never have pleasant surprises for the people of another Arab state, nor for their own people. It is certain that the visit itself is no gift.
But we can speculate. President Al Sisi was recorded last year as suggesting to his advisers that Persian Gulf states have so much money, that it is like rice (unlimited numerous grains of rice). So, there might be ‘some’ more Saudi rice for the collapsing economy of Egypt. But the Saudis don’t have as much “rice” as they used to: their own reckless oil policies have contributed to the crash of crude prices in the past two years. The kings, potentates, and princes of the Gulf are cutting back on spending on their own people (but not on themselves or their merchant-class political and business allies). They are highly unlikely to be more generous with Egypt.
There is another option, but the Saudis have managed to make it a not-so-credible option, almost comic. After the Arab uprisings of 2011 started, then Saudi king Abdullah surprisingly invited far-away Morocco and humorless Jordan to join the GCC. Neither country is on the Gulf, and neither is as well financially as the GCC states. But both are monarchies, but much more democratic than the Gulf states. I commented at the time that it will never happen, and I was right.
Now, with the money limited, the Saudi King can invite Egypt to join the GCC: the first military-ruled republic to get this dubious honor. That may force the Egyptians to become more active in the Saudi military endeavors and adventures, in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. That may be the Saudi hope. But Egyptians are unlikely to accept the role of second-fiddle, or even deep involvement far from hom. A country with a civilization of 6 thousand years, albeit now poor and misruled, is unlikely yo take orders from some tribal backwater like Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.
Egypt can’t be Number Two in any Arab endeavor. We all know the Arab world is full of ruling Number Two’s already, if you get my meaning.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Six years ago, the Egyptian military and security forces, led by Hosni Mubarak, waged and won a vicious civil war against all 4-legged Egyptian pigs. Their goal was to eradicate the Nile swine because they thought pork caused the Swine Flu (H1N1) of 2009. And probably to give the Coptic Christians of Egypt another economic and moral black eye. I am not sure if they won that war completely: not one general was promoted to Field Marshal for it as far as I know.
Two years ago, Generalissimo (now self-promoted Field Marshal) Abdel Fattah Bin Rommel Al Sisi waged war and won against the elected Muslim Brotherhood ( MB ) regime in Cairo. During and after the military coup, several thousand civilian were killed, and tens of thousands were thrown in prison. Some simply vanished.
Why can’t these extremely well-armed security and military forces seem to win a war against the Wahhabi terrorists running amok in Sinai? Could it be because the latter, unlike the Nile pigs and the MB are well-armed, while the Muslim Brothers and the Pigs were largely unarmed? Could it be because the Sinai cutthroats fight back and many of them are more dedicated? Like the Israelis in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973? It could, it could.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Shaimaa dying in the New Egypt…..
Remember in 2009, during the Iranian protests after the disputed re-election of former president Ahmadinejad? A young woman named Neda Agha Sultan was shot dead on the street. Western media, especially in the USA, covered her death extensively. She was headlined in cable television and printed media and social media, and rightly so. Oddly some guy who claimed to be her fiance was even shown in Israeli media meeting with president Shimon Peres.
Now back to 2015 (and the photo up there). Just before the anniversary of the January 25, 2011 attempted revolution in Egypt. A known female activist named Shimaa El Sabagh was shot dead by Al Sisi security agents. She died in her husband’s arms. I don’t see her anywhere on the usual cable TV networks. Nor have I seen any of the many thousands who were killed by the current military regime in Egypt………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, one of the most respected Arab journalists, wrote Monday in his column in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: “Protests against the recent terrorist attacks in France should have been held in Muslim capitals, rather than Paris, because, in this case, it is Muslims who are involved in this crisis and stand accused. … The story of extremism begins in Muslim societies, and it is with their support and silence that extremism has grown into terrorism that is harming people. It is of no value that the French people, who are the victims here, take to the streets………….. “Muslims need to ‘upgrade their software,’ which is programmed mainly by our schools, television and mosques — especially small mosques that trade in what is forbidden,” Egyptian intellectual Mamoun Fandy wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat…………”
Friedman has finally dumped his all-wise Arab taxi driver. Abdo in Cairo, Abed in Beirut, Abul-Abed in humorless Jordan have all been ditched in favor of something new (at least new to me). Something he considers loftier (I disagree on this one). Friedman has settled on the prototype of great Arab thinker and intellectuals. And where did he find both? In a newspaper owned by Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Yep, in Prince Salman’s Asharq Alawsat. That font of intellectual power.
Al-Rashed, who is “one of the most-respected Arab journalists” but only in Riyadh and the Gulf states. He used to be the editor in chief of Asharq Alawsat, and is now general manager of Saudi semi-official Alarabiya network but also moonlights in Asharq Alawsat. Both parts of the vast Saudi royal media that spans the Middle East and Europe. Mr. Fandy is ‘very close’ to the Saudis. I remember him mainly for ranting during the late Mubarak months, maybe 2010 0r 2009, about the Muslim Brotherhood members of the tame parliament being Iranian agents and that they should not be allowed in the puppet Mubarak parliament. Apparently he thought that parliament was not puppet enough (the next one will surely be puppet enough). I mean, you can’t get any more intellectual than that.
Now one of them wants a million-man Arab march, but of course a march not in Saudi Arabia, the incubator of Wahhabism. I recall last time a million Arabs marched was in Cairo in 2011. They were eventually betrayed and the old Mubarak regime is back in power, even more beholden to Saudi and UAE money.
Besides, it is impossible to get any prominent Arabs, besides Mahmoud Abbas, to publicly claim that “Je suis Charlie”. Almost universally Arabs believe that Charlie Hebdo blasphemed the Prophet, which it did of course (the French are deep into blaspheming, and not just against Islam). Unless Friedman and his “intellectual” pals can get Generalissimo Al Sisi and a certain ailing old king to set the tone by joining the march. The palace muftis can also tag along for the ride.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know We all want to change the world” The Beatles’ “Revolution”
“A day after Egypt barred representatives of Human Rights Watch from entering the country, the group disclosed the source of the government’s alarm: a report implicating senior officials, including Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in what it called the “widespread and systematic” killings of protesters. Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, said Monday that it had conducted a yearlong investigation into violence that followed the military’s ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, and found that the killings of demonstrators by the police and army forces “likely amounted to crimes against humanity.” Official statements during the killings made clear that the attacks “were ordered by the government,”………………”
Many Egyptians who write and talk on politics in public seem delusional or confused, actually both, when they talk of “revolution”. Some talk of several opposing revolutions: (1) the Tahrir “revolution” of January-February 2011; (2) the June 30 “revolution”, referring to the large protests of the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi on June 30, 2013, many of the protesters were calling on the army to return to take over again; (3) the July 3 military coup of 2013, when Generalisimo Al Sisi staged a coup against the man who had promoted him to minister of defense. Some deluded former Egyptian liberals (and Wahhabi liberals) called that a “revolution”. That last one, the coup, was the final nail in the coffin of the Egyptian uprising of Tahrir Square, the final act in the counter-revolution: it was reportedly financed by money from the potentates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Saudi princes.
The Rabi’a (Raba’a) massacre in August 2013 by the army and security forces of Al Sisi was the largest in the history of modern Egypt. More than one thousand unarmed people were reported shot and killed, and many wounded. It occurred at a square outside a mosque named for a famous early female Islamist poet of Iraq (Rabi’a Al-Adawiya). The massacres continued beyond that. Many were killed over the months after that. Almost two thousand have been sentenced to death for their political affiliations. Tens of thousands have been arrested, most of them have not been tried.
In retrospect, Hosni Mubarak was like a pussycat compared to the blood-stained coyote that Al Sisi has become. One difference is that people were not delusional under Mubarak, they knew what they had and owned up to it. These days many of them play a game of “pretend freedom”.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
Qatari daily Al-Quds Alarabi, published from London, and other Arab media have interesting medical news from Egypt. The Medical Services Authority of the Egyptian Army has announced an update on its magical machines that can cure HIV and Hepatitis-C. It announced at a press conference Saturday that it is postponing receiving any patients who are seeking to be cured from HIV (AIDS) and/or Hepatitis-C through the new machines the Egyptian Army had invented. The Army said the postponement will last six months, allowing for further experiments on a larger sample of those infected.
The Egyptian army had announced the new inventions with fanfare a few months ago, at a public event attended by the county’s leadership including Field Marshal Al Sisi. A General Dr. Al –Sairafy said they are looking into the best ways to apply the cures for the Hepatitis-C and HIV (AIDS)N viruses, using what he called the C-Fact and Complete-Cure machines invented by the Egyptian Armed Forces.
A medical professor of gastronomy and liver diseases at Ain Shams University at Cairo said the tow breakthrough inventions were developed over a period of 22 years. He added that “the cure starts with a patient taking one daily tablet for ten days, after which he sits on a machine that drwas out his blood the returns a pure form of the blood back into his body. This blood re-infusion is done one hour per day over 16 days………”
With these great inventions, courtesy of the brains of the glorious armed forces of Egypt, the economy should quickly recover as millions from around the world make the pilgrimage to Cairo to get cured of their diseases.
(I must add here that this Complete-Cure sounds like a skin cream for zits, a.k.a. acne, rather than HIV (AIDS). The Fast-C sounds like a method of injecting a huge dosage of vitamin C into someone’s blood).
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
“Three years after the start of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, thousands of Egyptians rallied in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Saturday calling for another military man to become their leader. The anniversary rallies came against the backdrop of deadly Cairo bombings in a country deeply polarised between supporters and opponents of Mubarak’s successor, the deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. At least 29 people were killed in clashes across Egypt during Saturday’s rival rallies…………….”
“Tens of thousands of people gathered in the square, carrying Egyptian flags and holding posters bearing photos of Egypt’s Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, of Egypt’s late president Gamal Abdel Nasser and even of Mubarak. The crowd that occupied the square until midnight was the second layer of civilian-security sifting: A photo of Sisi or a banner emblazoned with a poetic slogan urging him to run for presidency would grant whoever was carrying it full immunity. Those without such protection tools could see an angry mob turn against them in a matter of seconds and in a manner described by many as simply bloodthirsty. Tahrir Square was a deadly trap for anyone who is not publicly and boisterously applauding the current military-backed regime. Several journalists were harassed or attacked by regime loyalists and by noon, it was clear that foreigners were considered spies ………….”
Nothing like this level of violent repression was seen in Egypt during the combined long years of King Farouk, Gamal Abdel Nasser, or Anwar Sadat. The number of the dead keeps climbing. Over fifty this past weekend, officially. Many more have probably died in the six months since the military coup of July 2013 than died during the uprising against Mubarak. Not many died under Morsi, yet he will be ‘tried’ for murder. Many more will die now, either at the hands of the military, its security, or at the hands of Islamist terrorists. Tahrir Square, once a symbol of an uprising
against a dictator, now has its mobs clamoring for another strongman,
one of Mubarak’s generals, to take over in name what he already has. In the old tried and true style of Franco, Peron, Pinochet, Suharto, Mubarak, and others.
Tahrir Square, named Liberation Square by Gamal Abdel Nasser, is now unofficially Sisiplatz, or AlSisiPlatz.
“Liberal talk-show hosts denounce the Brotherhood as a foreign menace and its members as “sadistic, extremely violent creatures” unfit for political life. A leading human rights advocate blames the Brotherhood’s “filthy” leaders for the deaths of more than 50 of their own supporters in a mass shooting by soldiers and the police. A hypernationalist euphoria unleashed in Egypt by the toppling of Mr. Morsi has swept up even liberals and leftists who spent years struggling against the country’s previous military-backed governments. An unpopular few among them have begun to raise alarms about what they are calling signs of “fascism”: the fervor in the streets, the glorification of the military as it tightens its grip and the enthusiastic cheers for the suppression of the Islamists. But the vast majority of liberals, leftists and intellectuals in Egypt have joined in the jubilation at the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood, laying into any dissenters. “We are moving from the bearded chauvinistic right to the clean-shaven chauvinistic right,” said Rabab el-Mahdi…………….”
Egypt’s “liberals”, who are not necessarily secularists or ‘democrats’, are on a fake roll, and on a rampage. They are savoring the demise of their Muslim Brotherhood rivals, and they are not taking any prisoners. Nor is the military junta that is ruling Egypt now (not that it ever stopped ruling). The language of Egypt’s so-called liberals, so long cowed under Mubarak, has been of Nazi (as in 1930s Germany) quality. They are using the same language the Nazis used against the Communists and the Social Democrats (and, incidentally, the Jews). They are hinting, not too subtly, at something like “ethnic cleansing”: ‘eradication’ of the Muslim Brotherhood. Turning a blind eye to mass arrests of members who were not part of the government, turning a blind eye to proscriptions and property-confiscation, even as Mubarak fuloul are immune (some of them actually brag of having helped with the military takeover).
Egyptian media normally do not believe in gray areas. They often go over the top, exaggerate the goodness of one side (the ruling side) and evil of another side (the side that is out of power). I never cared for the Muslim Brotherhood, although I never equated them with the truly evil Salafists (so much for my objectivity). Now, after following the current hysteria in Egyptian media, they seem more honest to me than many of their current rivals. After all, they never censored or banned or closed the media of their rivals (or maybe they did not have the time). Their own media has been shut down by the military, with the enthusiastic approval of their “liberal” rivals.
“But the conventional wisdom may not be completely accurate. Washington has evidence that as much as a billion dollars has been clandestinely introduced into Egypt since the June presidential election. The money has gone to some organizers of the riots taking place, including junior Army officers in mufti, to force the regime to react with excessive force and lose what little legitimacy it retains—which is precisely what has happened. A fatally weakened Morsi government might well have to accept a new regime of national unity that would include the military, which would become the dominant force in the arrangement without having to risk the opprobrium involved in actually forming a government. The primary objective of the new alignment would be to restore order, further enhancing the military’s status. On January 29, the Egyptian Army’s commanding general, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, not surprisingly suggested that the army might have to intervene if the civilian government proves incapable of suppressing the rioting. So who is behind the unrest? The money fueling the confrontation comes from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States………………”
The Muslim Brotherhood tries to consolidate its power in the face of fear and opposition by other sectors of society. Egyptian relations with the West and Israel seem to be in a state of flux, to say the least. Egyptian relations with most Gulf potentates deteriorate. Reports and allegations and legends play a part in this political battle for control of Cairo:
A few weeks ago, Gulf and some British media reported about Brig General Qassem Suleimani of the Iranian Al-Quds Brigade, bête noir of the West and its allies. The bizarre report alleged that he has visited Cairo and met with Egyptian security officials at a Cairo hotel (this hotel part is very cute). A secret meeting at a hotel? Where exactly, at the hotel bar? The report alleged that the Egyptian regime was seeking Iranian help in tightening domestic security control. The “meeting at the hotel” part gave it away: clearly anti Brotherhood propaganda.
- But the idea of that report was probably two-pronged: to discredit the Egyptian regime AND to discredit the local Muslim Brotherhood of the GCC Gulf states. They have done this before on the Gulf. The Bahrain and Saudi regimes always associate their protesters with outsiders: the Iranian regime and the Revolutionary Guard or with Hezbollah or both (occasionally Iraq and Syria are thrown in, with some salt grains). The UAE is getting into the act with enthusiasm.
- Fast forward: two or so weeks ago Saudi deputy minister of defense, Khaled Bin Sultan was reported to have visited Egypt. He was reported to have met with Egyptian military commanders.
- Fast forward to these days: there are a lot of tweets and other media reports now praising the Egyptian military. Some of them calling for a military intervention to “save the revolution”. This last one is not a joke, they are serious. Mubarak’s military to save the revolution that overthrew Mubarak! A mixture of Kafka and Orwell.
- Fast forward some more: some are increasingly trying to paint the military as an acceptable alternative to the elected regime of the Muslim Brotherhood. That means Mubarak-ism without Mubarak again. No doubt this is the ideal outcome for the potentates of the Gulf states. It is also favored in Western capitals as well, at least in Washington and London, but they can’t say it openly now, can they?
- Perhaps some Egyptians think the military is safer because it is not ‘dogmatic’, and it does not have a menacing political base and organization, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore it is easy to confront and send back to the barracks. This goes against Egyptian history of the past 60 years.
- There is always the reasonable fear of the Hitler precedent of 1933. One election that ends all elections, to be won by the Islamists. This has happened in many countries in the past.