The Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie was detained early Tuesday, Aug. 20, in a Cairo hideout near Nasr City, where one of the protest camps was broken up last week. Most of the Brotherhood’s leadership are now in custody or have fled the country, some of them to the Gaza Strip. The Badie arrest marks the collapse of his movement’s resistance to Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s takeover of rule from president Mohamed Morsi. Protest rallies scheduled for Monday in Cairo and other Egyptian towns were cancelled after the army was deployed at key sites. After a week of violent clashes, life began returning to normal in Egypt’s cities. Badie’s arrest was aired non-stop through Tuesday night by Egyptian state television. Next week, he and other leading Brotherhood members go on trial on charges of inciting violence and causing the deaths of hundreds of civilians, soldiers and police officers.
debkafile reported earlier on the deep Saudi involvement in lobbying the West on behalf of Egypt’s military rulers and in negotiations for Moscow’s support.
Monday, Aug. 19, communiqués from Riyadh made it clear that if the Obama administration withholds military or economic assistance from Egypt, Saudi Arabia would replace those amounts. Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal set out on a tour of European capitals – according to debkafile’s Gulf sources, with a tough message: Call off your campaign against Gen. El-Sisi and your pressure to restore Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt, or else your economic ties with Saudi Arabia will be affected – or even severed. The Saudi minister knows that, with the exception of Germany, no European government can afford to forego those ties.
The Saudi campaign had its first success in Paris, where in a joint French-Saudi statement, President Francois Hollande, backing off from French denunciations of the military crackdown on the Brotherhood, appealed for Egypt’s “roadmap” (authored by Gen. El-Sisi) to be given a chance.
Read our previous report below with details of the Saudi diplomatic campaign to stop the flow of Western condemnation of Egypt’s military regime:
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – not Israel – are lobbying the West for support of the Egyptian military. Their campaign is orchestrated by Saudi Director of Intelligence Prince Bandar Bin Sultan – not an anonymous senior Israeli official as claimed by the New York Times, debkafile’s Middle East sources report. The prince is wielding the Russian threat (Remember the Red Peril?) as his most potent weapon for pulling Washington and Brussels behind Egypt’s military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and away from recriminations for his deadly crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
The veteran Saudi diplomat’s message is blunt: Failing a radical Western about-turn in favor of the Egyptian military, Cairo will turn to Moscow. In no time, Russian arms and military experts will again be swarming over Egypt, 41 years after they were thrown out by the late president Anwar Sadat in 1972.
Implied in Bandar’s message is the availability of Saudi financing for Egyptian arms purchases from Moscow. Therefore, if President Barack Obama yields to pressure and cuts off military aid to post-coup Cairo, America’s strategic partnership with this important Arab nation may go by the board.
It is not clear to what extent Russian President Vladimir Putin is an active party in the Saudi drive on behalf of the Egyptian military ruler. On July 31, during his four-hour meeting with Prince Bandar, he listened to a Saudi proposition for the two countries to set up an economic-military-diplomatic partnership as payment for Russian backing for Cairo.
Last Friday, Aug. 16, Putin convened his elite military and intelligence chiefs for an extraordinary meeting in the Kremlin to discuss the Saudi proposition. No decisions were reported – only a suggestive quote from Putin saying that the session was called to “discuss the situation in Egypt and take the necessary steps to the put Russian military facilities at the Egyptian military disposal.” He added that “Russia will arrange for joint military exercises with the Egyptian army.”
Both notions were left dangling without elaboration, a lure without a commitment.
The New York Times of Sunday and Monday (Aug. 18-19) pushed an account of Israel’s diplomats suggesting they were fanning out across Western capitals to urge them to support Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. El-Sisi despite his suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood, with the argument: “At this point, it’s army or anarchy.”
This entire conception doesn’t hold water. From Israel’s perspective, the Bandar initiative if it takes off would lead to the undesirable consequence of a Russian military presence in Egypt as well as Syria. This would exacerbate an already fragile – if not perilous situation – closing in on Israel from the south as well as from the north.
The Israeli and Egyptian armies strictly limit their cooperation to counterterrorist action in Sinai against al Qaeda, Salafist and other terrorists threatening both countries and the Suez Canal international waterway. Even then, the IDF does not go beyond responding to Egyptian requests in cases of mutual security concern. Israel has absolutely no involvement in Gen. El-Sisi’s war on the Muslim Brotherhood.
On the diplomatic front, Israel’s assets barely hold their own against the hostile Palestinian propaganda permeating Western capitals – least of all come up with the strength and skills for orchestrating a campaign on behalf of Egypt, as the NYT seems to believe.
Indeed, Israel has been extremely wary of any association with the Egyptian defense minister’s domestic affairs out of the cold calculation. If it suited his political and domestic agenda, the general might easily turn around and accuse Israel of unwarranted meddling as his fall guy.
On Saturday, Aug. 17, El-Sisi remarked “This is no time to attack the US and Israel, because our first priority is to disband the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Jerusalem found this remark alarming rather than comforting, noting that he made no promises about the future.