Middle East: Back to the old regional equilibrium?
Will the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi restore the regional equilibrium of the Mubarak era? Though the Muslim Brothers are not ready to give up and the crisis is far from over, relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia are warming up and the same thing is happening with the Gulf states with the exception of Qatar.
These countries have already pledged $12 billion to help save Egypt’s economy – or more realistically to show their support for the new regime in its fight against the Brotherhood.
The old pragmatic alliance against Iran is shaping up again while Qatar, sticking to its decades-old support for the Brothers, finds itself isolated.
The fall of Hosni Mubarak and the rise of the Brotherhood had ended a system of alliances which had lasted 30 years. The front of pragmatic countries led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia with the support of the United States just ceased to exist. Egypt turned inward and Saudi Arabia found itself alone against Iran. Worse was to come. The Muslim Brothers attempted with no great success a rapprochement with Iran.
After all, Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949), the founder of the movement, was not against the Shi’ites and indeed wished for the unification of Islam.
As a first step, Morsi tried to include Tehran in the committee of four – with Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – the Arab/Islamic forum which was supposed to find a compromise to end the Syrian tragedy. But Iran and Saudi Arabia were at odds on too many issues – Iran’s attempts to assert its leadership over the Gulf region, its nuclear program and its involvement in the war in Syria. The committee never saw the light of day.
Then Morsi decided to renew economic relations with Iran as a first step toward reinstating diplomatic ties. It did not work either since Salafist organizations in Egypt, which have a deeply entrenched hatred of the Shi’ite brand of Islam, strenuously opposed the move – egged on by Saudi Arabia, their main source of funds. In fact, Riyadh distanced itself from Egypt after Morsi’s accession to the presidency.
Having to pay lip service to Arab solidarity, the Saudis did promise $2b. to Egypt, but only half that sum was handed over – reluctantly. Yet in the past the monarchy had cooperated with the Brotherhood.
In 1961, Said Ramadan (1926-1995), son-in-law and formerly secretary of Hassan al-Banna, talked King Saud into establishing “the World Islamic League” in order to export Wahabism, his country’s brand of Islam, to the West. Saudi money helped build mosques and cultural centers run by Muslim Brothers in Europe and the United States. Saudi Arabia also welcomed the Brothers driven out of Egypt by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the ’50s and ’60s; many of them settled in the kingdom.
Then came 9/11 and Saudi Arabia was in shock at the disclosure that 16 of the 18 perpetrators of the terror attack against the Twin Towers were Saudi nationals. This could have …read more