The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Saudi thinking on Egypt

Saudi Arabia has taken a very strong stance in support of the Egyptian military's overthrow of Morsi and the Muslim Brothers. The piece below, published in Saudi's al-Watan, has some glimpses on the al-Saud regime's thinking on this, and especially the role of the US. An experienced Saudi-watcher tell us that the interview, ostensibly with an analyst, actually conveys the views of very high-level officials, most notably their tiff with Washington over the handling of Egyptian crisis. Some interesting points on aid, allusions to Saud al-Faisal's recent trip to France, and more.

(I'm not sure who did the translation, though.)  

Saudi Expert Reveals to Elwatannews: King Abdullah to Obama: If Providing Aid to Egypt Burdens You, We Will Provide Double Your Aid”

Ahmed Al Ibrahim: Obama demands suspending aid to Egypt and the King refuses

By Mohamed Hassan Amer

“Obama dealt with the demands of Egypt as if they were demands of his hometown Chicago. He disregarded the interests of Egypt. It would be the Kingdom’s turn next should Egypt fall”. In these words, Ahmad Al Ibrahim, Saudi expert in Saudi-US relations described the Kingdom’s position on the events in Egypt and the pressure exercised by the US Administration following the dispersal of Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda sit-ins.

According to Al Ibrahim, KSA and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi recognised that the “US fierce defence of the Brotherhood confirmed that they had made outrageous promises to the US against the interests of the region. It is therefore urgent to put an end to thisconspiracy.” Al Ibrahim reiterated that the Obama administration proved to be a failure and unworthy of the Kingdom’s trust. But having a wise man like al-Sisi in Egypt ushers in a huge, Arab political cooperation.

How do you explain the Saudi stance and the support the Kingdom has shown to Egypt in its current crisis?

The Kingdom’s stance is not a novel one, but reaffirms the natural historic relations with Egypt. KSA would never allow dividing up Egypt, as that would threaten the Kingdom. The Obama administration does not understand the Gulf region or its interests, and cares solely about Israel. There is no doubt now that the US administration is two-faced when it comes to elections, after having refused the results of Hamas elections in 2006 and considered Hamas a terrorist organisation, while accepting the elections of the Brotherhood in Egypt.

Didn’t the Kingdom fear that adopting this position might cause a conflict with the US?

The Kingdom has played along the US on more than one occasion, particularly in US policies in the region and the Gulf. KSA has sent more than one delegate to the US Administration to explain the situation in the region, particularly the Syrian crisis. However, the Americans always say one thing do another. If we kept on playing along, the conspiracy will be on us next.

Have there been any secret calls between the Kingdom and the US regarding the situation in Egypt?

King Abdullah told the US President more than once that “if the USD1.5 billion paid to Egypt in aid are a burden, leave Egypt be and we are prepared to pay double that amount. Just work in the interest of Egypt.”Obama called the King after June 30 and asked him to cut off the aid to Egypt, or at least delay delivering it, to which the King replied: “We gave our word to our brothers in Egypt, and we will not suspend aid.” This is a clear indication of a change in policy.

In your opinion, what is the limit of the Saudi aid to Egypt?

There is no limit for the aid provided to Egyptand it shall be provided until Egypt recovers. It is not just financial support, but a politicalone as well through Saudi involvement with Europe, France and the US. I think the Kingdom turned to France because high-ranking Saudi officials reached a dead-end with the US. Even though Egypt may not need it, we are prepared to provide military backup if need be, as well as support to Sinai since instigators there will wreak havoc to serve their own interests and provoke Israel. But the Kingdom flatly refuses that.

What is common between the Kingdom’s stance today and its support to Egypt back in October 1973?

I cannot say that they are similar, but this time the Kingdom stood in the face of most Western powers and all its allies to show them that the so-called democracy they are building aims at dominating Egypt and not instilling real democracy. The Kingdom will stand against anyone who seeks to control Egypt and it is clear now that there is a rift between KSA and the US. KSA wants to make it clear to the US and Europe that they do not understand the region and should leave the matter to the Arab states to solve their own problems.

Are we on the verge of a new Arab unity after the Saudi-Egyptian cooperation?

Perhaps. If we look at King Abdullah’s stance and the Saudi role which is firm on protecting Egypt against the West, and in the presence of General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, which everyone is describing as the “silent leader”, we may well be on the verge of a political Arab unity. But there are other Arab states with different views, among them an Iranian front in Iraq and another in Syria, so we are bound to face more challenges.

Do you think that the Kingdom’s stance and the events in Egypt have put the US administration in trouble?

The US is suffering from clear divisions regarding Obama’s foreign policies, as the President has made many enemies. There are two policies in one country and Obama is in a clash with the Republicans because of his policies. The crisis will aggravate if the Kingdom turned from an ally to a neutral party, after the US failed to appreciate the interests of Gulf and Arab countries and after Obama placed all his stakes on the Brotherhood. The US proved to be untrustworthy and unreliable.

What are the new facts that Obama has not realised yet in the Middle East?

The US sees the Arab Spring as an opportunity to spread Western democracy, but in fact it is just a means to dominate the region and the Gulf. As for Syria, every time we agree to supply the opposition with weapons, the US backs out, asking to provide medical aid whereas the Kingdom provides armament.  We cannot take them seriously anymore. It is high time that the US realises that the democracy they are so keen on has failed in Iraq, and led to the rise of Nouri al-Maleki, the Iraqi Prime Minister so similar to Saddam Hussein. The US has proven that it only has Israel’s best interests at heart, which prompted us to declare that “we work for our own interest as we see fit.”

Is the US aiming at changing the leaderships in Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, through the Muslim brotherhood?

I believe there is a bigger scheme in the works. America’s ferocious defence of the Brotherhood indicates that there is an outrageous, shocking deal at stake, with promises given by the Brotherhood for the US and Israel. I wonder why Obama is focusing only on Egypt and the Brotherhood, turning a blind eye on Iran, the nuclear issue, the violations in Iran, the threat of North Korea, terrorism and a plethora of other issues that used to be at the top of the US agenda. Accordingly, the Kingdom has called upon the US, as well as Qatar and Turkey, to leave Egypt alone.

Could the Saudi-Russian ties be a reference for facing the US pressure on Egypt?

The relations between the Kingdom and Russia are somewhat weird. They differ on the Syrian crisis but agree on Egypt. It is clear that the Kingdom wants its ties with Russia to be more balanced, especially after the latter proved to be more influential in the Syrian crisis than the US. Given the importance of Saudi-Russian ties in the recovery of Egypt, the Kingdom will hold on to them.