Category Archives: Egypt

The GCC Game of Musical Alliances: from the Gulf through Africa and Beyond………

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Something strange has been going on recently among member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
They had their summit in Manama a couple of weeks ago, which ended with nothing spectacular to announce. The Salafis of the Persian-American Gulf and the usual Bahrain potentates (both fiercely Saudi proxies) have tried, again, to create some excitement about a possible “union” based on the European model. But it would be a union of ruling families, not based on the popular will, since Kuwait is the only GCC country that has free popular elections. But Kuwait has the misfortune of being stuck between three large and menacing neighboring countries: Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia (the country was invaded by both Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the last century).

The idea of a Gulf union was a no-go, and DOA at the summit: it was not even discussed publicly. Some others within the GCC saw it as a way to formalize a fearsome Saudi attempt at hegemony. They/we all know how the Saudi Kingdom was formed during the last century by swallowing smaller neighboring emirates in the Arabian Peninsula.

After the summit, Saudi King Salman visited every member country except for Oman. Certainly because Oman is the least likely member to follow Saudi policies and wishes. It is odd for the ruler of a member of GCC to start visiting other member states immediately after the summit ends. Why not meet them individually during the summit? They apparently want to send a message to other members and to some Arab counties.

Soon after all that, a Saudi delegation last week visited Ethiopia, a country with which Egypt has serious disputes over the Nile waters. The delegation also pointedly visited a new Ethiopian dam that Egypt claims seriously reduces its share of the Nile waters. That visit created an uproar within Arab media and social media.
But wait, that is not all, there is more (as the TV ads say)…..

Now there is an announcement that the foreign minister of Qatar is visiting, you guessed it, landlocked Ethiopia. Almost certainly just to bother the hell out of the Egyptians.

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Turkey as well) have just suffered an immense strategic defeat in Syria, when their Jihadist surrogates were forced out of the eastern part of Aleppo. Egypt has been moving towards siding with the Assad regime (and hence by association with Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Russia) in the Syrian war. This has clearly angered some of the Gulf allies who either support the Jihadis in Syria or need to show that they do so for domestic political reasons.

That leaves out the UAE, the third major partner in the Saudi regional alliance. The UAE shares one very important thing with the current government of Egypt: they both hate and fear the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile Qatar is practically a Muslim Brotherhood monarchy (and so close to the Turkish Islamist regime that they have agreed to have a Turkish military base in their country). The Saudis have warmed up to the Brotherhood recently because they are their allies in the Yemen War (through the corrupt Islah Party).
These are fascinating developments that are now unfolding in the Middle East.

As I said: wait, there will be more, and soon. The GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, have been playing a game of “musical alliances’ in recent years. Since 2011 they have allied on and off with Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Eritrea, Djibouti, Mauritania, Sudan, and now Ethiopia, among others. A list of mainly countries with deep economic problems. And the game of Musical Alliances goes on.

As I said: but wait, there will be more, and soon………..
Cheers

M Haider Ghuloum

Middle East Sands Shift Again in the Mayhem of Post-Post-Arab-Uprisings……

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In the beginning there were the Arab uprisings……
The era of the Arab Uprisings is over. The era of Post Arab Uprisings is over. Now the Middle East is going through the era of Post-Post Arab Uprisings.

The Arab convulsions that started at the end of 2010 were initially expected to usher in a new era of revolution against the stagnant order. That hope quickly shifted as the newly-anointed Arab Center of Power, represented by Persian Gulf oil wealth and Gulf Wahhabi-Salafi ideology basically took over the Arab League and its institutions. Or so it seemed.


But a few unseemly things happened on the way to the royal takeover of the Arab World.

The initial Syrian uprising of 2011, which had been taken over by Gulf-backed Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood Jihadists, stalled. Having been hijacked by essentially agents of even more repressive Arab regimes, it veered into the darkest realm of sectarian and confessional divisiveness, a normal Wahhabi inclination. Foreign intervention has made a solution even more difficult. But the military situation has now decidedly shifted in favor of the Damascus regime and its allies.

In Bahrain, the regime cracked down hard on the uprising of 2011, ‘invited’ Saudi and UAE forces to help its repression, and turned to the old divide and rule policy by going sectarian. That country is still very unstable, heavily dependent on foreign Arab forces and foreign mercenaries to keep order.

In Yemen, the GCC and the UN arranged for dictator Colonel Ali Abdallah Saleh to leave office. But they chose his deputy, another general named Abd Rabuh Mansour Hadi to be “elected” with 99.8% of the vote. Even Kim Jong Un does not get that kind of victory. Hadi was quickly co-opted by corrupt military and tribal forces, along with a very corrupt local version of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Eventually Hadi was overthrown by a rebellion of the tough northern Houthis and elements of the old Yemeni army. He was basically allowed to escape (reportedly dressed as a woman in Burqa).
As the Houthi alliance expanded south into Aden, Hadi (who had resigned AND his term had expired) and his henchmen escaped to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis made the same mistake they had made before, they tried to invade Yemen with a force of hired African and Arab mercenaries. It is now a quagmire, helped by the Obama Administration which arms and refuels the Saudi bombers that commit what is essentially a murderous genocide.

In Libya, the dreams of American and European liberals and conservatives alike were shattered by the aftermath of the overthrow, torture, and murder of Gaddafi and his son. The Western powers had engineered a UN resolution past Russia and China that had wordings that created a loophole for NATO to bomb Gaddafi’s Libya. All based on false claims by opposition rebels. Russia and China have not forgotten that Western deception at the UN, and they are unlikely to vote along the same lines again. Libya itself is now a smaller version of Syria.


The biggest prize as usual was Egypt. After one year of elected Muslim Brotherhood rule, a couple of Gulf states ‘financed’ a series of huge opposition protests and eventually a military coup. Shades of the CIA Operation Ajax in Iran, circa 1953. Egypt was to become basically a satrapy of the Saudi and Emirati potentates, rich but uncultured tribal despots. An absurd notion to anybody who knows anything about ancient Middle East history.

Now Egypt is reported to have swung another way. A media war is raging between Egypt and her presumed Gulf sisterly (or brotherly) bosses, and regional policies are shifting. From Yemen to Syria to Iran, possibly even to the Gulf, Egypt is seeking new alliances and restoration of old ties in the face of a Wahhabi blackmail.
The Egyptian-Saudi dispute has gotten so serious that former Yemeni officials, all Saudi agents who urge the bombing of their country from their comfortable Saudi exile, now are accusing Egypt of supplying the Houthi rulers of Sanaa with missiles.

Other Gulf media mouthpieces have accused neutral Oman of expediting the transfer of Iranian weapons to the Houthis. These are certainly attempts to justify the miserable failure of the expensively-armed and Western-guided but incompetent Saudi and UAE forces to win the war in Yemen.
Another major twist, but it is not over. Stay tuned…..

Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

 

Egypt and Her Sisters: Al Sisi and Syria and the Indian Givers of Riyadh………

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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.
Cheers

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

France Ships Vladivostok to Egypt: How the Saudis Financed Gamal Abdel Nasser….

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There was once a huge French-made naval vessel: a huge helicopter carrier of the Mistral class. It was ordered from France by Russia in 2011, but with Russia producing a large portion of it.
Then the Ukraine crisis occurred and the West initiated a boycott of Russia. France under pressure decided not to deliver the Mistral, to be named The Vladivostok, to Russia as scheduled in late 2015.

It had a bit of a problem finding a home, a paying home, meaning somebody to pay for it more than Euro 1.2 billion.
It looks like now the Saudis (and very likely their Emirati rivals) have paid for it to be sent to Egypt. Who else, since the Egyptian economy is in no position to buy rice.
So the princes and potentates on the Gulf have financed a new Egyptian battleship named after their toughest historic rival, the secular leftist strongman who sought to overthrow their regime. Another irony of modern Arab history…..

But who will Egypt be fighting in the near future in the Mediterranean or Red Sea that it keeps buying so many weapons with Gulf money (or plentiful Gulf “rice” according to Al Sisi)?


Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Islands Afloat: Lebensraum from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea……..

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Speaking of Al Sisi selling two strategic Egyptian islands in the Red Sea to the Saudi ruling family (my previous post).

I must add that Generalissimo Field Marshal President Al Sisi got a better deal, financially speaking, than the potentates of what is now the UAE did a few decades ago. Rather better than some rulers of the Gulf (emirates) Sheikhdoms in 1970. At that time, many of the smaller sheikhdoms of what was called Sahel Oman (Omani Coast) on the Persian Gulf had no oil fields, and they needed cash. They usually sold colorful stamps, passports, as well as their share of the rights to some of the islands in the Persian Gulf.

That was before the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was created to join all these small tribal neighborhoods. Through a deal brokered by the British overlords of the Arab side of the Gulf, the Shah of Iran paid a few million dollars for the deal to “get the islands back”, according to the Iranians. The islands are near the Strait of Hormuz. Actually the agreement was for “joint administration” of Abu Moussa. The Iranians claim the British took the islands in 1921 and put them under the jurisdiction of the sheikh of Sharjah, which was part of the British Empire. They also claim the Qasismi ruling sheikhs were at one time living on the Persian shores of the Gulf, and hence were Iranian subjects.Another convoluted complication.

Now the UAE leaders, who were not part to the deal since the UAE did not exist in 1970, would like to re-purchase the islands from Iran. Not sure why they want the islands since they have had to import 6 million foreigners to populate their own country on the mainland. It is not like they need Lebensraum.

In short: both sides in the Gulf are using any argument, whether it makes sense or not to support its case. Nobody seems in a mood to share the islands anymore: that would be too sensible for the Middle East mindset. History has been telling us this for at least 70 years.

Anyway, all this is history, but some sheikhs in the smaller Emirates of the UAE are now kicking themselves for not knowing at the time that they had so much oil under their privies and outhouses. Right under where their pet goats dropped their pellets. (FYI: I had pet goats as a kid, as well as pet birds. We also had chickens but I ate my pet eggs whenever I could).
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Inspiring Pearl Square became an Uninspiring GCC Square, Could Tahrir become Salman Square?……

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When the Bahrain uprising was frustrated with help from foreign mercenaries and Saudi forces, the ruling family decided to erase the memory of it. Or so they thought. The heart and symbol of the February 14, 2011 uprising was renamed from Pearl Square to GCC Square (actually renamed Al Farooq Square, a sort of historical slap at the Shi’as). Its structure was also changed so that people cannot gather in it anymore.

Now to Egypt: the historic true mother of the Arab world. General Al Sisi has agreed to sell two strategic islands in the Red Sea to the Saudi ruling family. Basically the sisterly (or brotherly) Saudis caught him at a tough time for the Egyptian economy. The islands were sold for an unspecified billions of dollars in aid and loans. That is apparently the Sisi plan to revive the Egyptian economy: borrow and beg dollars from the Saudis (and some from the UAE Emirates who suffer from severe Muslim Brotherhood Phobia). Egyptians on the street are outraged, but Sisi pretends he is deaf.

Is it possible that the Egyptian military will imitate the Baharin rulers and change Tahrir Square to, say, King Salman Square? That should lead the millions of Egyptians back to the “square’, I would think.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

King Solomon of Arabia Sweeps into Cairo: About the Wisdom and Ibrahim Pasha……..

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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.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Hypocrisy and Denial in Egypt: Banning “Normalization” with Israel…..

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Da Nile is a river in Egypt…….
Denial is a river in Egypt………

The Egyptian elite, in both media and politics, are becoming more ridiculous by the day. Ridiculous and hypocritical: almost a national characteristic now, more so than, say in Saudi Arabia. An occurrence last week serves to illustrate this:

Egypt has ‘normal’ diplomatic relations with Israel, the type of relations that it does not have with some other Muslim countries, like Iran. There is an Israeli embassy and an ambassador in Egypt, as expected. Egyptian officials often receive pro-Israeli American delegations (congressional and otherwise) and re-assure them of the ties between Egypt and Israel. Many Egyptians work in Israel. Yet the Egyptian elite pretend otherwise to their own people.

Last week a member of the Al Sisi parliament, a Mr. Okasha, hosted the Israeli ambassador at his home, and a photo was published in the media of the event. This caused an uproar in the media and in parliament, whose members denounced this “normalization” of ties. They voted to kick the guilty member out, so Mr. Okasha was declared a non-member. Regardless of the votes of his constituency.

In a country that welcome the exchange of ambassadors, and whose officials regularly meet with Israeli officials. So in that case, why not kick the government out (if they can, which they can’t) and risk losing billions of foreign aid?

What hypocrisy…..
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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Tahrir Anniversary: Counterrevolutionary Revolutionaries or Revolutionary Counterrevolutionaries?……..

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The fifth anniversary of the start of the Egyptian uprising of 2011 is on January 25. Many Egyptians want to commemorate it, the military regime of Al Sisi is set against it. I read a few tweets from Cairo that clarify the maze of political group-think among certain Egyptian elites.  One of them tweeted, others also expressed similar opinions:

I am a proud supporter of the ‘revolution of January 25 and of the ‘revolution’ of June 30,  2012…….

January 25 mass protests at Tahrir Square led to the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak. June 30 protests were largely financed and engineered by Saudi-UAE and called for the July 3 military coup that returned the military regime of Mubarak to power. Under General Al Sisi (he was promoted to field marshal, promoted by himself).

It is becoming hard to distinguish between revolutionaries and  counterrevolutionaries in the Arab world, especially in the maze of Egyptian non-politics. Shows you the state of the so-calledِ Arab Spring……….

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Anniversary of an Illusion: Arab Revolutions Going All the Way……..

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Revolution: a single complete turn (as of a wheel) <The earth makes one revolution on its axis in 24 hours.> 4 : a sudden, extreme, or complete change (as in manner of living or working) 5 : the overthrow of a ruler or government by violent action.” Merriam-Webster

We are living the anniversary of what used to be called the Arab Spring, or Arab Uprisings, or Arab Revolutions. All misnomers.
Now we (most of us) know that there was no Arab Spring. But this is an old story: we all know what happened and why, but I’ll go ahead anyway.
From the beginning, the cards were stacked against their success. Local military and bureaucratic forces as well as Persian Gulf Arab oil money conspired from the outset to make them fail. Some of the early revolutionaries in places like Egypt and Syria sold out to Saudi, Qatari, and Emirati money.
The rest failed to heed the simple lessons of history:

  • When the American colonists rose against the British monarchy in 1776, they overturned all the institutions of the old state and created their own.
  • When the people of France rose and overthrew the ancien regime in 1789, they had one way to make sure it does not come back. The French revolutionaries managed to talk themselves into overthrowing all the institutions of state, destroyed them and replaced them with new ones.
  • When the Bolsheviks (Communists) rose against the Tsarist feudal regime in Russia, they made sure of the success of the revolution by replacing all institutions of state.
  • The same occurred in China in 1949, in Cuba in 1959, and in Iran in 1979.

Fast forward to the so-called Arab Spring. The Arab uprisings of 2011 failed, all of them, because they did not learn the lessons of the earlier revolutions. A revolution cannot succeed by allying itself with the old institutions of the old regime. Or by relying on repressive foreign regimes for support. The Egyptian “revolutionaries” started their uprising by praising the army of Hosni Mubarak and then by allying with it. They ended up supporting a military coup staged by the same army and financed by repressive Persian Gulf tribal ruling families. The Syrian uprising was quickly bought off by the Saudi princes and Qatari potentates, withe the Turks opening their doors for Jihadists from around the globe to get into Syria (and Iraq). Yemen fell apart, as did Syria and Libya and Tunisia. Bahrain was occupied by Saudi army and security forces, with a British military being established now.

The lesson? If you go revolutionary, go revolutionary all the way. Overthrow the old system, and rebuild a new state with new institutions an new people. Never fear to go all the way. Half-baked revolutions always fail, by definition (my definition).

Of course, the results of a revolution may not turn out as its supporters wish, but…………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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