Scramble for Foreign Political Influence over Egypt, Between Gulf – Iran – USA/EU, IMF and BRICS
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc),- The ousting of President Mohammed Morsi initiated a new, international scramble for foreign influence in Egypt, representing the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Middle East politics and shifting of regional political power from Qatar to Saudi Arabia. While both the USA and Iran are taking the back-stage, Russia and the BRICS and Egypt may emerge on top, provided that a repetition of a Syria scenario in Egypt can be prevented.
After the ousting of Egypt´s first democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi on 3 July 2012, and the U.S.´s decision to provide USD 1,3 billion aid to Egypt for 2013, as planned, the suspicion that the decision to provide the aid was indicative of a U.S. endorsement of the coup d´etat against the Morsi administration was raised by several “analysts”. Others, such as Finian Cunningham, went so far as to claim, that the “deep state” of the U.S.A. was behind the coup, like the proverbial “man behind the curtain” in the Hollywood movie “The Wizzard of Oz”. Others again, the author of this article (Christof Lehmann) included, and analyst F. William Engdahl are advocating a more nuanced or multi-faceted analytic approach, although viewing a problem from one particular angle can serve practical purposes too.
Categorical claims are at best cosmetic, at their worst, they are counter productive with regard to the ongoing revolutionary process in Egypt, and they are, most importantly, distracting from the very real international scramble for influence over Egypt´s domestic and foreign policy, and ongoing developments in Egyptian politics, which could have a long term impact on the country´s politics, economy, its geopolitical role and position.
Deliveries, such as the delivery of 20 F-16 fighter jets are based on long-term commitments and contracts and have very little to do with the recent developments in Egypt. The annual 1,3 billion USD for military and developmental aid for Egypt are, as it is the case with almost all aid of a similar nature, primarily a boost to the donors domestic industry or finance, and an “economic foot in the door” that buys a certain degree of allegiance from the side of the recipient nations government.
Ultimately, the decision to go ahead with the contract and the delivery of the F-16s, which could be compared with the 2012 delivery of F-15s to Saudi Arabia, have nothing to do with the ousting of Mohammed Morsi, and it has very little, if anything at all to do with the ongoing violence, which threatens to develop into a Syria-like scenario.
The decision to go ahead with the USD 1.3 billion aid could however, have the function to mitigate the strong anti-American sentiment that is prevalent among Egyptians, and especially among those 22 million Egyptians who signed the petition for the impeachment of Morsi, and the 14 million who took to the streets before the military intervened with their approval.
An entirely different factor to consider, is the ongoing violence, reports about Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood associated agent provocateurs who have opened fire against Egyptian military troops, and reports about snipers who are targeting unarmed civilians with the intention to aggravate the violence. More about this factor later in this analysis.
The Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey and Egypt and Qatar´s Scramble for Regional Power.
The genesis of “The Arab Spring” in 2011 is primarily correlated with two events, which have seriously changed the regional and global geo-political and energy-security theater. In 2007 the worlds largest known natural gas reserves were discovered in the Persian Gulf. These gas fields, commonly known as PARS gas fields, are shared by Qatar and Iran. In 2007 a new survey of the gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean documented, that the fields contained 70 % more gas reserves than previous studies had shown.
Iran – Iraq – Syria Pipeline. The discovery resulted in the development of plans for the PARS gas pipeline, beginning in Iran, traversing Iraq and Syria, and ending at the Syrian Mediterranean coast near the city of Tartus, where Russia maintained its sole Mediterranean naval base. The following are the geo-political implications, which are also described in “The Dynamics of the Crisis in Syria, Conflict versus Conflict Resolution“.
North Stream, South Stream and Lack of Convergence in Russian – European Energy – Security Requirements. In 2005, the United States used economic and diplomatic incentives, as well as military assurances by NATO, to create a lack of convergence in the energy-security requirements of respectively Russia and the European Union. The goal was achieved by encouraging the Ukraine to demand more for the transit of Russian gas through the Ukraine to Europe, and by encouraging the Ukraine to “steal” gas from Russia, or rather, to take gas from Russia as non-contractual payment. The U.S. logic for encouraging the dispute was the subversion of the development of Russia´s economy and the subversion of the further integration of the Russian and European national economies and energy-sectors.
The dispute resulted in Russia asserting its right to having contracts honored, by closing for all gas supply until an agreement was reached. The situation created serious problems and raised serious concerns among E.U. member states, and led to the construction of the North Stream pipeline, from the Russian Baltic city of St. Petersburg to the German Baltic city of Kiel. Meanwhile, a U.S. Middle Eastern pipeline project, the Nabucco project proved to be a failure, while the Russian South Stream pipeline project was a success.
PARS Pipeline would Boost Combined Russian – Iranian Gas Supply to Europe Above 45 %. The completion of the PARS gas pipeline project, from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to the Syrian Mediterranean coast, would, together with a completed Russian South Stream pipeline have the consequence, that the Europen Union, for the coming 100 – 120 years would receive more than 45 % of the natural gas it consumes from Russian and Iranian sources.
Formative Factors behind the Anti-Syrian Alliance. This development was the primary factor behind the formation of what today best could be described as the anti-Syrian alliance, and it is a direct cause for the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey and Egypt, the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and the subsequent Salafist involvement in the Syria war.
From an Israeli perspective, a European Union, which would receive more than 45 % of its gas from Russian – Iranian sources, and the political leverage Iran would gain within the E.U. was unacceptable. The fact that the pipeline also would benefit Syria, which is the sole Arab nation which consistently and consequently has supported the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance was a potential threat to Israel´s perceived security, or rather its hegemony.
From a U.S. perspective, the U.S.A. needed to support Israel as its strongest regional ally. From a U.S. perspective it was also unacceptable, that Iran should gain substantial political leverage within the E.U. The completion of the PARS pipeline would strengthen Iran´s role as regional player and the results would not merely manifest in a stronger role of Iran in Syria and Lebanon as well as political leverage within the E.U. It would also weaken U.S. ambitions for the establishment of a NATO controlled corridor from the Eastern Mediterranean to Pakistan´s Baluchistan, along the oil-rich, soft underbelly of Russia and China. Retire Major of Pakistan´s Armed Forces, Agha H. Amin has described some of the details of the strategy in an interview with the author of this article. The interview is published under the title “The Volatility of Gas, geopolitics and the Middle East”.
From a Saudi-Arabian perspective, Saudi-Arabia would strengthen its own position as major oil provider and weaken Iran by destabilizing the gas exporting contries. Later, after the fall of the Free Syrian Army in June and July 2012, correlating with the sudden and massive influx of Salafist fighters in Syria, Saudi-Arabia began seeing its chance to gain significant influence as a regional player while it could weaken the role and influence of Tehran. The transition braught Washington into a Salafist PR quagmire which later was overcome by claiming to differentiate between good and bad al-Qaeda terrorists.
From a Qatari perspective, the Iranian competition was detrimental to developing its primary energy source and the primus motor of its economy and regional influence for the coming century; half of the worlds largest known natural gas fields and the Muslim Brotherhood as political active.
Qatar´s Money Begins Speaking – The Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey and Syria, and the U-Turn of Hamas and al-Jamaa al-Islamiya. Plans for the war on Syria began being implemented in 2007. To counter the USD 10 billion PARS gas pipeline project from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, Qatar donated USD 10 billion to Turkey´s Foreign Minister Davotoglu.
The USD 10 billion were designated for consolidating the rule of Turkey´s Muslim Brotherhood or AK-Party under Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan, and to mobilize Turkey´s and Syria´s Muslim Brotherhood for a coming, unconventional war against the Syrian government.
In 2007, Qatar also succeeded at co-opting Hamas, and the leading faction within Hamas, under the leadership of the Qatar-based Khaled Mashal, aligned itself with Qatar, Turkey, and with the alliance for the subversion of Syria. It was however, not before late in 2011, that Hamas officially distanced itself from Damascus. Hamas is also, as we will see below, playing an important role in the manufacturing of violence and the destabilization of Egypt. Finally, Qatar also succeeded at co-opting the Lebanese al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, which distanced itself from Damascus at approximately the same time as Hamas, thus weakening Hezbollah, and the Iran – Syria – Lebanon axis of resistance against Israel.
Qatar´s Investment in Egypt. Qatar was a substantial stakeholder in the war on Libya and the ousting and murder of Libya´s Head of State Muammar Ghadafi. Qatar contributed with weapons, with funds, with troops on the ground, including special forces, and Qatar contributed with the recruitment of and payment for insurgents. Qatar´s Tripoli Embassy has subsequently been implicated in recruiting mercenaries for Syria.
Following the 2011 overthrow of the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, Qatar was the first among the Gulf Arab states to provide financing for Egypt, and Qatar remains Egypt´s largest foreign financier. Qatar provided a substantial financial boost to Egypt´s Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party. Absent massive funding from Qatar, the narrow election victory of Mohamed Morsi and the Freedom and Justice Party, by 51 %, would not have been possible.
Subsequent to Morsi´s election, Qatar contributed a total of USD 5,5 billion to the Morsi government; USD 4 billion in deposits at the Central Bank of Egypt, CBE, and the remaining USD 1,5 billion in the form of cash grants as well as deliveries of liquefied natural gas, LNG. In 2012, Qatar announced, that it would invest another USD 18 billion in Egypt over a period of the next five years. The Morsi government and the Central Bank of Qatar agreed to convert USD 3,7 billion of deposits in the CBE into US dollar denominated bonds. In 2013, USD 2,7 were converted into an 18-month sovereign bond and on 1 July an additional USD 1 billion bond was placed with a three-years maturity period.
Although the transactions boosted Egypt´s economy with an immediate access to foreign currency, it did so at the cost of an increasing foreign debt. The Morsi government´s deals with Qatar endowed Qatar with substantial political and not lest economic leverage over Egypt because it received the security, that Qatar could sell its stakes to third party investors, and because Egypt, even if it defaulted on deposits in the Central Bank, it could not default on London issued sovereign bonds, without risking the most severe penalties and costs.
Mohammed Morsi, in other words, returned the favor of Qatar´s (and London´s / MI6 ) support, by granting Qatar a more than favorable deal to his sponsors. A deal, which indebted the country and made it politically dependent on Qatar and it´s goodwill. While more investments were planned, it is not likely that Qatar would be interested in investing significantly more in Egypt as long as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party remain removed from influence. Qatar does however, seem to begin investing in creating violence in Egypt.
Qatar´s Muslim Brotherhood Project Crumbles. Qatar´s Middle Eastern Muslim Brotherhood project is not faring well. The uprising of Syria´s Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 was decisively defeated during two major military campaigns in June and July 2012, when an attempt was made to secure the city of Homs as a seat for a Transitional National Government.
The attempt to emulate the Libya model in Syria failed as attempts to sanction NATO intervention, at the very least in the form of a so-called No-Fly-Zone, failed. The Free Syrian Army and Muslim Brotherhood were decisively defeated, and Turkey´s Muslim Brotherhood began feeling the stress of growing domestic resistance against the Erdogan administration´s war on neighboring Syria.
The decisive defeat of the so-called Free Syrian Army in June and July 2012 also led to an urgent need for new fighting forces on the ground in Syria. The development catapulted Saudi-Arabia into the center of the anti-Syrian alliance.
On 31 May 2013, the Turkish opposition mobilized approximately 200.000 protesters within less than 12 hours after Turkish police brutally cracked down on protesters in Istanbul´s Gezi Park. The park, as well as nearby Taksim Square are of historic importance for the Turkish revolution, for Turkey´s victory over imperialism, as well as for the secular foundations of the Turkish Republic. Protests continued escalating and are still ongoing. Analysts expect that renewed mass protests will emerge in September, and that Prime Minister Erdogan and the AKP government could be ousted.
Saudi Arabia, the Rising Power in the Middle East. While Qatar´s power is dwindling in Egypt and Turkey, and while its influence in Syria is all but eradicated, Saudi-Arabia, and with it, the radical Saudi Brand of Wahhabi Islam and Salafist terrorism are on the rise in the war against Syria and in Egypt. The Salafist, Egyptian al-Nour Party has endorsed the people-powered military coup in Egypt at the last moment, when it became obvious that the military would remove Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power.
Salafist al-Nour Party in Egypt – Muslim Brotherhood´s Fall Benefits Salafists and Saudi-Arabia. The al-Nour Party has since been part of the ongoing interim political process, and while it is predominately Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood supporters who are involved in deadly, violent clashes and shoot outs with the Egyptian military, the al-Nour Party is maneuvering itself step by step toward the center of political power in Egypt.
Saudi Endorsement of Military Coup and Economic Support of Egypt. The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, led by Saudi Arabia, congratulated Egypt´s Chief of Staff al-Sisi with the coup against Morsi within the hour after Mosi´s removal from the presidential office.
The subsequent mass arrests of leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood by the military prompted Saudi Arabia to pledge a new wave of Saudi economic support for Egypt.
Saudi Arabia´s announcement of support prompted pledges of support from other oil producing countries in the region, including Iraq and Libya. Whether the support from Iraq manifests remains unclear, because Iraq may have seen cooperation with Saudi Arabia on Egypt as a means of mitigating the ongoing Saudi attempt to subvert Iraq by means of insurgents.
The new players, led by Saudi Arabia, have pledged USD 12 billion, consisting of grants, deposits in the CBE, as well as transfers of oil products within 24 hours. The details of the sudden support for Egypt:
USD 5 billion from Saudi Arabia, consisting of a USD 1 billion grant, USD 2 billion deposits in the Central Bank of Egypt, CBE, and USD 2 billion delivered in the form of oil products. As stated above, while discussing the 1.3 billion US-aid including the delivery of 20 F-16 fighter jets, all developmental aid is beneficial for the donor country´s economy. USD 2 billion had been provided by Saudi Arabia before, that is, after the fall of Mubarak.
USD 4 billion from Kuwait, consisting of a USD 1 billion grant, a USD 2 billion deposit in the CBE and a USD 1 billion in oil products.
USD 3 billion from the United Arab Emirates, consisting of a USD 1 billion grant and a USD 2 billion interest-free deposit in the CBE. Whether the UAE help ever manifests is questionable. The UAS also pledged USD 3 billion in October 2011 but never delivered.
The strong and determined Saudi Arabian involvement and investment in Egypt is, according to all political logic, being followed up by an equally determined political and economical support of Egypt´s Salafist al-Nour Party.
Iran Fears Loss of Regional Influence and Saudi Arabia´s Role in Egypt. Iran is confronted with the prospect, and one may add the risk, that the most popular Northern African Country, Egypt, becomes allied with its worst regional adversary, Saudi Arabia.
While Iranian officials initially endorsed what they called “the Egyptian Revolution” while they pleaded for “the fastest possible return to democratic rule”, there were two things which apparently prompted Iran to suddenly condemn “the military coup”.
Were it the people that were killed during the clashes between Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters and the military ? No. Was it because the military announced that it would maintain a grip on power ? Not so, and elections are planned sooner than many analysts consider viable or even good.
What prompted Iran´s reversal from endorsement of “The Revolution” to a:
“Condemnation of The Military Coup” were two factors. The first was Saudi Arabia´s involvement in Egypt and Saudi Arabia´s financial support. The second was the issuance of a draft amendment to the Egyptian Constitution, in which the first sentence read:
1) The Arab Republic of Egypt as a democratic regime is based on citizenship. Islam is the official State religion. Arabic is its official language. The principles of Islamic Sharia of Sunni are the principle source of legislation.
It was within hours after the publication of this draft amendment, that Iran reversed its perception. Some analysts would call it a “confusion of principles”, but one can suffice with eliciting the developments value for demonstrating how much social constructionism is used when analyzing the pro and contra in geopolitical developments.
Egypt, Between a Rock and a hard Place.
Taking it for granted that Egypt will not be able to rise itself out of its ashes like a Phoenix bird without foreign help, Egypt, and who ever comes to govern it, is literally being caught between a rock and a hard place. Rather than naming the one or the other Egyptian political leader by name, one can therefore, and for the purpose of demonstrating the principle, generalize it as “Egypt”.
Egypt must realize that the Qatari – British – Muslim Brotherhood Middle East project has failed. Egypt can hardly rely on Qatar, being willing to assist Egypt in rising itself after its people, or an overwhelming majority of them, supported by the military, have removed the crown prince Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Rather than supporting “Egypt”, it is much more likely that Qatar will invest into the subversion of the interim-government and a new elected government by supporting militants within the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt can align itself towards Saudi Arabia, knowing that it would have to pay a heavy price in terms of a Salafist al-Nour Party which will grow increasingly powerful. It would also have to pay a heavy price by becoming, at the very least, a recruiting ground and basis of operations for the continued Saudi-backed war of terror against Syria. Relations with Iran and Iraq would become stressed. It would have to balance Saudi Influence with US and Israeli interests which would make an independent foreign policy impossible, and it would most likely still be unable to recover economically.
Egypt could try to avoid these problems by trying to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, IMF. The result would be a happy but short party. A glorious second of debt relief followed by an eternity of economic slavery. Ultimately, it would mean that Egypt becomes a colony of the United States and the UN. Adverse poverty and increased austerity would lead it to renewed popular rebellion, ultimate collapse, civil war and disintegration.
Egypt could try to balance between a US and EU alignment, balancing between a Trans-Atlantic and E.U / Mediterranean Basin Alliance alignment, but would ultimately stagnate between US – EU rivalries, involvement from the side of an Israeli dominated US Congress. It would become a joint colony that has to feel content with the disaster capitalism of not one but two modo-colonial masters.
Returning for a moment to Mohammed Morsi. His mistake was, as most would agree, to oust the Constitutional Court, to oust the Parliament, and thereafter to attempt a coup by constitutional and law changes, which would have made it all but impossible for other than his own and the al-Nour Party to register for elections. This was his greatest mistake. Had this mistake not caused a permanent state of unrest for one year, Morsi and his administration might have been able to remedy the most acute problems with Egypt´s economy and avoided an uprising.
Internationally, respect for Mohammed Morsi and his administration grew, when Morsi traveled to India and pronounced, that “Egypt considers asking for BRICS membership” and that “Egypt would in the future play a more active role in Asia”. Morsi´s India visit was followed up by a visit to Moscow where he reiterated Egypt´s considerations about BRICS membership. This was a step in a direction that could safeguard Egypt´s return to sovereignty, independence and economic growth.
Russian Aid for Egypt and BRICS Membership. The Russian Foreign Ministry reported on 12 July 2013, that Egypt may ask Russia for economic aid. Russia´s Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov said in an interview with RIA Novosti:
“I do not exclude that they may request some economic assistance, as they have already turned to some of the Gulf countries; in particular, Saudi Arabia has already promised, Emirates, and Kuwait,… The economy (of Egypt) is, of course, in a grave condition,”
Bogdanov stated, that if a request for help from Egypt arrives, Moscow would consider it, and noted, that it is not only an issue of money and a budget. Bogdanov said:
“This, of course, is both state and private (assistance). Private companies are studying the conditions of granting such assistance so that it is used effectively and is in line with the development of our bilateral ties”.
“They try to explain what has happened. Maybe everything is not yet clear for them – not in terms of the road map, which was worked out and presented, but in terms of the response to it, including on the part of rather influential socio-political forces and first of all the Muslim Brotherhood – supporters of the deposed President Morsi”.
About a possible visit of Egypt´s interim-President Adly Mansour, who according to some Arab media will embark on a tour, visiting foreign countries, Bogdanov said:
“We did not discuss this question… So far, I think that our Egyptian friends and partners are engaged in internal problems, in order to stabilize the situation, to avoid confrontation in the squares, streets. This is the main thing now, the main challenge – to find national consensus; social and economic problems will be second”
Although one cannot expect that an interim-government would, or even should make as far reaching decisions as decisions about a possible BRICS membership, the interim-government could, and probably should do all that it can do to keep the possibility open for a post-election administration. It should also keep the scramble for Egypt from all sides at bay until the country again has a government that can stand on its own feet.
The Ongoing Violence and Terrorism. Over the past days, evidence has emerged, that supports the suspicion, that the violence between apparent pro-Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood protesters and the military is being provoked by foreign-backed elements from within the Muslim Brotherhood.
There is also mounting evidence in support of the fact that Hamas members, associated to the Qatar aligned faction of Hamas, led by Khaled Mashal have been and are involved in stirring up violence and armed incidents between protesters and the military.
Snipers in military uniform, who have been shooting at and killing pro Morsi protesters are according to analyst Eric Draitser as well as the author of this article most likely foreign backed operatives, who are attempting to create a civil war in Egypt. It is of the utmost importance for the future of the country, that such incidents are investigated to the fullest.