The big bucks have started flowing to Middle East forces fighting the Muslim Brotherhood instead of bankrolling its rise to power.
This sharp reversal to US President Barack Obama’s plans suits Moscow and Beijing very well.
As a result of this reversal, the coup d’etat staged by the Egyptian military Wednesday, July 3, found President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government with empty coffers. Arab Gulf rulers had cut off aid to the struggling regime in Cairo and the petrodollars were being redirected to other causes, including the Egyptian opposition campaign for Morsi’s overthrow. (See preceding article.)
The Obama administration, for its part, was neither able nor willing to part with substantial aid funds for propping up the Islamist regime in Cairo, which anyway Congress would have blocked.
Chasing the money trail to the Middle East, The Financial Times learned from an interview with Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil this week that Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus was receiving half a billion dollars per month on a regular basis in open credit lines from Moscow, Beijing and Tehran.
They are helping us politically, militarily and also economically, said Jamil, adding sarcastically, “It’s not that bad to have the Russians, the Chinese and Iranians behind you.”
The secret key for Middle East forces to unlock the back door to international aid appears these days to be active defiance of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Russian President Vladmir Putin, who has opened Russia’s purse to the Bashar regime, is now applauding the military’s ouster of Islamist rule in Cairo.
Putin welcomes Egyptian coup as a Mid East defeat for Obama
His three reasons are disclosed here by DEBKA Weekly’s sources in Moscow:
1. He sees the transfer of Egyptian rule out of Muslim Brotherhood hands as capping his Syrian strategy for trouncing President Obama’s Mid East and Muslim policies and a giant leap forward for Moscow’s plans.
The Russian president is convinced the June 2009 speech Obama delivered at Cairo University offering American outreach to, and cooperation with, moderate Muslim forces, was nothing more than the preamble for the US president’s scheme to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power by engineering the “Arab Spring” two years later.
Putin refuses to believe the Arab Spring was a spontaneous popular revolt against autocratic rulers. He stands by his theory of an American conspiracy. The Russian leader has also sworn never again to let the US achieve a victory in an Arab land, in the way Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown and killed in Libya. He is pursuing this oath in Syria by frustrating Barack Obama’s pledge to force Assad out.
In meeting after meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have failed to reach agreement on a political accommodation for stopping the carnage in Syria. Their last interview in Brunei on Tuesday, July 2, went on for more than two fruitless hours. After it was over, Kerry was forced to confess that the international summit – the only thing they agreed on in principle – was not imminent and unlikely to take place before the fall or early winter.
This grants Assad, Iran and Hizballah six more months to continue decimating Syrian rebel forces with a view to eliminating them or pushing them into neighboring countries.
Russia and China fear radical Muslim spillover into their borders
2. For Moscow, Egypt’s clockwork coup could not have come at a better time.
Together with Assad’s advances in the Syrian war, he sees the Brotherhood’s downfall in Cairo as a shot in the arm for Russia positions compared with waning US influence and prestige in the Middle East and the Gulf regions.
3. He intends to cash in on America’s fall from favor in Cairo as an opportunity for regaining lost Soviet-era influence in the most populous of Arab nations (Pop: 84 million) and further widening the gulf between Egypt’s generals and Washington.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources detect preparations in Moscow to revive sales to Cairo of Russian arms to replace US weaponry – on the assumption that the Obama administration will disapprove of the military’s eviction of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Cairo and withhold arms and military aid.
4. Putin looks forward to the military caste in Cairo sharing intelligence with Moscow to help keep the Brotherhood, fellow radical Islamist elements and their destabilizing influence outside the gates of southern Russia, Central Asia and a hop and a leap from China.
He scented the expansionist tones rising from a meeting on June 15 of Egyptian Sunni Muslim clerics and their use of the term "infidels" alike to denounce the Shiites propping up Assad and Morsi’s non-Islamist opponents at home.
President Morsi himself used this platform to call for foreign intervention against Assad, a side swipe at the Egyptian Army for failing in its Islamic duty. The next day, the generals issued a pointed statement stressing that their only duty was to guard Egypt's borders.
Chinese Uighur Muslim extremists improve their terrorist skills in Syria
Both Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are on guard against the menace of a radicalized Islamist Arab world and its possible triumph in Syria surging across their borders and fueling Islamic extremism and terrorism within their gates. For both, the Egyptian army’s success in cutting the Muslim Brotherhood down in Cairo is a net gain.
For Beijing, this menace appears to be creeping closer, boosted by international Islamist interference.
At least 35 people were killed in the last few days in the worst outbreak of violence in the province of Xinjiang since July 2009.
Tuesday, July 2, The Global Times tabloid, owned by the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily, blamed outside influences for generating the new upsurge of trouble, pointing the finger at Syria, for the training of some 100 Uighur Muslim extremists. They were reported as having gone to Syria “to overcome their fears, improve their fighting skills and gain experience in carrying out terrorist attacks.”
The threat they pose is much greater than spontaneous ethnic violence to China’s effort to fight the Islamist separatist struggle in Xingjiang., the paper said.
The Global Times disclosed that a Uighur man who had fought in Syria was captured on his return home. The Syrian ambassador to Beijing was then quoted as confirming that at least 30 Uighur fighters had traveled to Syria from the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands (strongholds of al Qaeda and Taliban) via Turkey.
The international dimension of Islamic radicalism
This international dimension reinforces the Chinese government’s claims that the bloodshed in Xinjiang is orchestrated by Uighur extremists seeking to break away from China and establish an independent homeland, called East Turkestan.
In answer to a question, a foreign ministry spokeswoman in Beijing, Hua Chunying, said: “In recent years, East Turkestan terrorist forces have constantly strengthened collusion with international terrorist organizations, and this is a grave danger to China’s national security.”
Right after this story was published, US counterterrorism sources dismissed the Chinese allegations as having no basis in fact. Beijing, said those sources, was trying to tar Uighur national groups with the brush of radical Islamic terrorism.
Putin found this American comment uncomfortably familiar. It recalled the tactic pursued by successive US administrations (Clinton, Bush and Obama) to paint the Islamist Chechen uprising against Russia – as well as certain radical Islamists, Al Qaeda associates and violent Salafist groups – as national liberation movements.
Moscow – and now Beijing – refuses to accept this designation of groups which they regard as enemies. Having joined forces to beat down those perceived enemies in Syria, Putin and Xi will continue to work together to bring the new, post-Islamic Egypt, over to their side.