Facing condemnation at every hand from the West, Egypt’s military rulers received a powerful shot in the arm from Riyadh Friday, Aug. 16, with an unprecedented public assurance from Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz that the kingdom supports Egypt in the fight “against terrorism” – the military rulers’ term for Muslim Brotherhood resistance. In a statement broadcast by official Al-Ekhbariya TV, Abdullah said Egypt’s stability is being targeted by “haters” and warned that anyone that interferes in Egypt’s internal affairs seeks to “waken sedition.”
debkafile and DEBKA Weekly have been reporting since last week that Saudi Arabia and the UAR stand firmly behind Egypt’s military strongman Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.
debkafile reports a weak response to Brotherhood’s call for millions to rally Friday to join in the protest in support of deposed president Mohamed Morsi and against the government crackdown two days ago which left more than 600 dead. No more than tens of thousands of supporters took to the streets across the country Friday. By nightfall, 83 people were reported killed in clashes across the country – in Cairo, Fayoum, Damietta and Ismailia – including 24 security personnel. An officer was killed at one of the checkpoints thrown up to block the demonstrators’ access to Tahrir Square.
The relatively low turnout points to the Muslim Brotherhood’s hard core having decided that avoiding further deadly clashes with the Egyptian military is the better part of valor.
Thursday, Aug. 15, debkafile referred to Saudi support for the Egyptian military ruler in an article captioned: US-Egyptian relations are on the rocks.
When the clashes between Egyptian security forces and pro-Morsi protesters were at their peak in Cairo Wednesday, Aug. 14 – 525 dead and 3,700 wounded to date – President Barack Obama put in a call to Egypt’s strongman, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, debkafile’s intelligence sources report. The US president wanted to give the general a dressing-down much on the lines of the call he made to former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 at the high point of the Arab Spring Tahrir Sq demonstrations against his rule, namely: Stop repressing the protesters and firing live ammunition. Step down!
When Mubarak asked for a three or four days’ grace to break up the massed rally, Obama shot back that he has to quit NOW!
And indeed, on Feb. 11, the army announced the president’s resignation.
Realizing what was coming, Gen. El-Sissi decided not to accept President Obama’s call, our sources report. The Egyptian officials who received it informed the US president politely that the right person for him to address was Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour and they would be glad to transfer the call to him. The White House callers declined.
This anecdote shows that the military strongman is not only determined to avoid the pitfalls which brought Mubarak down but is equally determined to keep the US administration from interfering in his plans for driving the Muslim Brotherhood out of Egyptian politics.
Diplomatic condemnation of those plans is building up inWestern capitals. Wednesday night, the Obama White House issued a statement strongly condemning “the use of violence against protesters in Egypt” and the state of emergency. Egyptian ambassadors in Paris, London and Berlin received denunciations and expressions of concern from their host governments, and Turkey demanded a UN Security Council emergency session on the situation in Egypt.
debkafile’s sources report that harsh international condemnation of Gen. El-Sissi’s crackdown will do more harm than good. The backlash will come in three forms:
1. The Muslim Brotherhood will be encouraged to pursue increasingly extreme measures to fight the Egyptian army in the expectation of international applause.
2. The generals will be encouraged to escalate their steps for repressing the Brotherhood.
3. The Saudis and the Gulf Emirates will redouble their support for the Egyptian general and his campaign against the Brotherhood. This will widen the rift between those Arab rulers and the Obama administration.
Our intelligence sources also disclose that, while President Obama was trying to get through to Gen. El-Sissi, the general was on the phone with Prince Bandar, Director of Saudi Intelligence.
On July 31, Bandar arrived in Moscow and was immediately received by President Vladimir Putin for a conversation that lasted four hours. The Saudi prince next received an invitation to visit Washington at his earliest convenience and meet with President Obama.
Bandar has still not responded to that invitation.
Clearly, the US president’s problem with the Egyptian situation is a lot more complicated than pulling the army off the Muslim Brotherhood’s backs. He needs to somehow snap the strategic alliance unfolding between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the rapport between the Egyptian general and the Saudi prince.