Why Is Riyadh At Odds with Obama and Dead against the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo?

The political standoff in Egypt owes much to the financial balance maintained among the three opposing forces by three separate patrons: Qatar, which funds the Muslim Brotherhood; Saud Arabia, its Islamist rival, the Salafists; and the United States, the military.
The latecomer, Saudi Arabia, dipped its oar into the Egyptian standoff this week in three ways:
1. Egyptian fundamentalist Salafist leaders were persuaded to play ball – both with the Egyptian army and the secular, pro-democracy and liberal opposition National Salvation Front fighting President Mohamed Morsi and the ruling Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The heavy Salafist influx was intended by Riyadh to swell the opposition’s street campaign into a mass anti-government popular movement.
2. Saudi Intelligence Director Prince Bandar bin Sultan tasked his agency to supervise liaison between Egyptian army commanders and the Egyptian Salafists.
3. Millions of Saudi petrodollars were released to the Salafists’ war chest.
The Saudis stepped in to counteract the support and funding provided the Muslim Brotherhood by
Qatar Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani and his son Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al Thani.
The third factor in the Egyptian power equation, the military, receives its dollars directly from the Obama administration in Washington.

Lavish funding for power groups, not the population

So who foots the bill for providing 80-90 million ordinary Egyptians with essentials? The answer right now is no one. Each of the three powers grants its favors to the elite of its chosen Egyptian party or group; the population at large doesn’t get a look-in.
Progress in releasing the $5.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan to Cairo is stalled because the Obama administration is dragging out the American guarantee for its release. Washington is waiting for Morsi and his regime to measure up to US hopes for an open, egalitarian democracy to rise in post-Mubarak Egypt.
The Saudis have a threefold agenda. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report they are aiming to spoil the games of three players, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Obama administration and Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family.
Their long and unhappy history with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood goes back more than half a century.
In 1960, the Saudi king granted Brotherhood leaders asylum from persecution by Egyptian president Gemal Abdel Nasser. The refugees were awarded fine posts at the University of Medina, one of most celebrated academic institutions in the Muslim world, which then reserved 75 percent of student places for foreigners and gave them study grants.

Riyadh and its long reckoning with the Egyptian Brothers

The Saudi ruling establishment’s plan was to win youngsters from around the Muslim world over to the austere Muslim school of Wahhabism, the oil kingdom’s state religion. In those days, the sect appeared somewhat moderate and theoretical compared with the militant, activist Egyptian Brotherhood.
The Egyptian Brothers, however, had no scruples about using Medina University as their pulpit for preaching activist radicalism to the young students gathered in from around the Muslim world. They also infected their Saudi pupils.
One of their students was Juhayman ibn Muhammad ibn Sayf al-Otaybi, a Saudi tribesman. In late 1979, he led a bunch of firebrands for storming and capturing the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, in a revolt against the Saudi throne.
To this day, Saudi royals suspect that Egyptian Brotherhood teachers put Al-Oytabi up to the assault on Mecca and their rule. The throne itself was only saved at the eleventh hour by a French special counterterrorism unit sent over by French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, which managed to overwhelm the rebels and end their siege of the Grand Mosque.
There is still bad blood lingering between the Saudis and Egyptian Brothers and this week Riyadh took advantage of their distress for a settling of accounts.

Saudis nourish deep grievance against Barack Obama

The grievance Saudi King Abdullah has nourished against President Barack Obama since the 2011 Egyptian revolution is of a different order. He has never forgiven the US president for helping topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a dear personal friend.
That bone of contention, which DEBKA-Net-Weekly has cited more than once in the past two years, is reinforced by the royal house’s fear that Obama will take the side of the rebels if a revolt is mounted against the crown. (See DNW 573 of Jan. 23: Saudi-US Relations Cool Further of Royal Family Fears of Obama Support for Potential Saudi Insurgency)
Riyadh is convinced that its backing for the Egyptian Salafi sect, which made a good showing in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak elections, will contribute to the unraveling of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on power, while also punishing Obama for a Middle East policy that raised the Brotherhood to power in the countries overtaken by the Arab Revolt.
As for the Saudi feud with Qatar, a fierce clash of interests has peaked in the last couple of years between Saudi royal throne and the Qatari emirate. Riyadh was vehemently opposed to Qatar’s deep involvement in the NATO-led campaign to overthrow the Libyan ruler, Muammar Qaddafi, and especially the emirate’s support for Libyan extremist Islamist rebels with ties to al Qaeda.
King Abdullah and Emir Hamad al-Thani are battling it out on three Middle East stages, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report: Egypt, Syria and the Hamas-ruled Palestinian Gaza Strip.

Saudi-Qatari rivalry in three Mid East arenas

This publication reviewed Saudi-Qatari rivalry in the Egyptian arena at length on Jan. 18 (DNW 572: Egypt is Bankrupt-Unless the Saudis Chip in, Qatar Will Find Egypt is a Bottomless Pit.).
We outlined the Qatari master plan for expending large amounts of money and influence to purchase control from Cairo over the strategic Suez Canal and Red Sea routes through which Saudi oil sails to its export markets.
The Qatari ruler is also carving out a Palestinian power base in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Mahmoud Abbas’s seat of government in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Qatar’s springboard for spreading its wings was the ceasefire the emirate helped the US, President Morsi and Turkey broker between Israel and Hamas for ending their Gaza hostilities in mid-November last year.
The Saudis viewed that ceasefire as a ploy for robbing them of positions of influence in Egypt and the Palestinian arena.
In Syria, Saudi and Qatari intelligence agencies, which started out by jointly supporting the rebel movement, have fallen out. Riyadh accuses Doha of backing the most extreme Syrian Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda front groups fighting the Assad regime and encouraging their radical excesses.
The Saudis have therefore distanced themselves from the Syrian conflict.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Font Resize
Contrast