Saudi-American dispute over Egypt

The statement of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal a week ago was like a stone thrown into the stagnant waters of relations with Washington. After he succeeded in convincing the French to support the new situation in Egypt, he stated the following:

“Arab countries will not accept that the international community manipulates their fate or tampers with their security and stability no matter what. I hope that the international community realizes the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques' message that the Kingdom is serious and will not hesitate to support the Egyptian people to help them achieve security and stability.”

Al Faisal's statement is implicitly directed at the United States and Western countries which supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt against the change that occurred following the June 30 protests.

The Brotherhood, despite embracing democracy, is still incapable of getting rid of its religious fascist doctrine.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Repeating a similar implication in a subsequent statement, he said: "Egypt is considered the most important and the biggest Arab country, and the Kingdom cannot accept that its fate be decided by wrong estimations.”

Senior U.S. security expert Bruce Riedel, as I clarified in my article on Sunday, shares Dennis Ross' analysis that there is an American-Saudi dispute on the level of dealing with what's happening in the region, like in Bahrain and Egypt. They agree that regardless of this, Saudi Arabia remains an important country for the United States.

What comes next

Riedel reminds us that American President Barack Obama has never mentioned the Kingdom in criticism, despite everything that's going on. Riedel states that Obama understands the paradox that lies at the heart of the partnership with the key of the Islamic world. Riedel sees a solution in two paths, one that's agreed on like fighting terrorism and keeping pressure on Iran through sanctions and another that's disputed over like supporting change in the Arab world. He sees that the dispute with Saudi Arabia over the latter issue must continue. Ross sees that the flaw in the relation between the two parties (Saudi Arabia and the United States) has a positive side. He sees that Saudi Arabia’s influence and weight should be used to support positive change and not prevent it.

The dispute over Egypt is clear in Prince al-Faisal’s statement. He clarifies that Saudi's fate is linked to strategic relations with Egypt and that the kingdom fears that foreign pressures, particularly the American ones, could impose Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, despite the group’s violations, on the Egyptian people. The Americans estimate that the Brotherhood will commit to a democratic approach and devolution of power. But what will the region's fate be if the Brotherhood transforms Egypt the same way Khomeini altered Iran in 1979, when he seized all power and turned Iran into a country more dictatorial than it was during the Shah's reign? What will the region's fate be if the Brotherhood does the same as what Hamas did in 2006 when President Mahmoud Abbas invited it to participate in elections, but after winning them and after being handed the cabinet, betrayed Abbas and established its own state in Gaza? Gaza has turned into an Iranian canton currently used by the Israelis as an excuse to intimidate the world from granting the Palestinians an independent state.

Democracy or not

Here is the most important question: is Saudi Arabia against a democratic system in Egypt? Truth is, Saudi's opinion doesn't matter. What matters more is the Egyptians' opinion. Saudi Arabia, no matter how influential, cannot alter the course of events in Egypt, a country which is bigger than Saudi Arabia. Most Egyptian groups have voiced their anger at the Brotherhood's policy of taking the Egyptian state towards a totalitarian regime that eliminates other parties - a regime contradictory to what President Mohammad Mursi vowed to respect.

Mursi was leading Egypt towards the same Iranian model. If he had succeeded at this, all that the Americans would have done is to say “our estimations were wrong!”(Just like former president Jimmy Carter made wrong estimations regarding a "Khomeini Iran.”) The United States, which is more than 5,000 miles away from Egypt, can deal with the Brotherhood's regime with calm or confrontation from afar, like it is currently doing with Khamenei's regime. For Saudi, however, which is situated next to Egypt - about 200 miles away - the issue is fateful.

A Brotherhood fascist regime means that Saudi Arabia could become besieged by Iran from three sides. It's hoped that the Egyptians hold new free elections in less than a year. Hopefully, all political parties will participate after Egyptians agree on a regime that expresses their vision of the future. Egypt as a country with a stable political regime is better for Saudi than a country being pushed towards elimination, chaos and eventually another failed country in the region. The next elections will be the effective Egyptian response against the Brotherhood's propaganda that it is the victim. The Brotherhood, despite embracing democracy, is still incapable of getting rid of its religious fascist doctrine.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 27, 2013.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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