Egyptian Blood Paying For Wider International Struggles

The military coup that ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, and saw most of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders arrested – the latest being Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie – has seen new alliances forged in the Middle East.

Behind these new alliances lies the fears and concerns that have affected the West in general and the United States in particular, due to the inability to predict the outcome of the situation in Egypt and in the region.

As a result, a fierce struggle is brewing between Turkey and Saudi Arabia over the current political scene in Egypt. One side seeks to thwart the military coup by any means, the second wants to ensure its success even if it costs billions of dollars.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, yesterday launched an angry campaign against the Egyptian army and the coup, when he revealed during a meeting of leaders of his Justice and Development Party, that he has documents to prove Israel was behind the military coup that ousted the elected Egyptian president. He referred to a meeting between a Jewish intellectual (without mentioning any name) and the French Minister of Justice in 2011 where the former confirmed that “the Brotherhood will not gain power even if they win the elections because democracy is not the ballot box.”

Meanwhile, Prince Saud al-Faisal, who seems to be prioritizing events in Egypt over the ongoing civil war in Syria, launched an unprecedented attack that emphasised the statements of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, criticizing Western countries ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers tomorrow to discuss the Egyptian situation and potentially stop all financial aid to Cairo.

Prince Saud made an unusual threat when he stated that Saudi Arabia will cover any aid to Egypt that the EU countries may decide to halt.

He said that what is happening in Egypt expresses the will of 30 million Egyptians who took to the streets due to the deteriorating situation in their country, adding that what happened was not a military coup.

Erdogan stands firmly against the military coup in Egypt, because he fears it may be repeated in Turkey and encourage the army to overthrow his government, especially since Turkey has seen four similar coups that overthrew elected governments; most recently in 1992, when a  coup toppled the government of the Islamic Welfare Party led by Necmettin Erbakan, Erdogan’s mentor.

A week ago, a Turkish court issued a sentence against the former head of the Turkish army who was planning a fifth coup.

Prince Faisal and his king strongly support the military coup in Egypt. This goes against the grain of their former political principles since Saudi Arabia stood against Gamal Abdel Nasser and Abdullah al-Sallal.

Saudi Arabia's main concern now is the drive for democratic change which it strongly opposes for fear that it may arrive within its borders.

Saudi Arabia's project is to re-build a so-called Arab Axis of Moderation, which collapsed completely after the fall of president Hosni Mubarak, who was its most prominent pillar. This coalition was against Saddam Hussein Iraq and supported the US invasion of Iraq,  it also supported NATO forces in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, and played, along with Turkey, a major role in the destabilization of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

President Assad is now ecstatic as he witnesses his two most prominent regional enemies (Saudi Arabia and Turkey) standing against each other on the matter of Egypt and too preoccupied to interfere in his country, even if this respite proves to be temporary. This gives Assad a chance to catch his breath and may explain his army’s advance against the armed opposition in the suburbs of Latakia.

It’s too early to predict who will be the winner in the Turkey-Saudi tug of war. Erdogan has the power of revolutions, sit-ins and the strong organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and its deep roots, not only in Egypt but in the whole Muslim world, while Saudi Arabia has the power of money, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of assets as well as the military power.

The Saudi decision to support the coup is an uncalculated gamble, because a large percentage of the Saudi people oppose it, especially Islamists and youth activists. A week ago I was on a business trip in Istanbul, where I met several Saudi tourists; none of them backed their country's support for the coup in Egypt, and some of them directly opposed it.

The facts on the ground play a major role in the results of the crisis and its developments. Bloodshed continues in Egypt, whether in Sinai (where 25 policemen were killed) or near Abu Zaabal prison where dozens of Islamist detainees were killed as they suffocated from tear gas, according to unverified news. Nothing is verified in Egypt these days, except for the state of instability and the growing number of victims.

The expected decision to release former president Mubarak may reveal the truth and motives of the military coup, though I think the release will be delayed due to the unsuitable conditions and to avoid another revolution that may embarrasses liberals and military supporters.  

Egypt is going back to the past. It’s going back to martial law and emergency law. It’s going back to curfews and to embracing a corrupt Arab dictatorship. But more importantly it’s moving away from its popular democratic revolution, which could have changed Egypt and the entire region.

It’s all very well Saudi Arabia offering billions of dollars to help Egypt and vowing to cover any cut in US and European aid, but why wait for the aid to be halted? Why is Saudi Arabia and its military waiting for the US and Europe to make this decision? Why doesn’t it announce, firmly as Prince Saud al-Faisal remarks yesterday, that Egypt is unwilling to accept Western aid for the sake of its national independence and dignity.

Struggle in Egypt is expanding, and the Syrian scenario is repeated on the ground one way or another. It’s a conflict on behalf of foreign and regional powers that are using the Egyptian people, just as they are using the Syrian people, to pay in blood for their country's stability and unity.