With no victories to their credit, Arabian rulers gathered in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss the proposal to set up a joint military force to be headed by Egypt’s greedy and incompetent generals.
Just as Saudi Arabia launched air strikes in Yemen in a desperate attempt to wipe out the Houthis, its partners from the Persian Gulf monarchies gathered with their regional allies in Sharm el-Sheikh during the final week of March. The aim was to ensure continuing regional hegemony over the “Sunni bloc” of the Muslim world for generations to come.
In the week of March 26, 2015, Saudi and Gulf leaders met in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh for an “economic cooperation” summit — code words for doling out billions of petrodollars to allies such as Egypt to ensure that they toe the Saudi and Gulf line. The meeting was organized with the benediction of the US, ever watchful of critically important states in the Muslim world that might be thinking of veering away from its military and economic dominance. The Saudi and Qatari go-betweens are always happy to foot the bill and take public responsibility, should things go awry.
General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, fresh from murdering leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, was understandably alarmed at the Houthi successes in Yemen, which sent US-backed President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his cronies scurrying into exile on a boat. The comparison struck a little too close to home.
General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, fresh from murdering leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, was understandably alarmed at the Houthi successes in Yemen, which sent US-backed President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his cronies scurrying into exile on a boat. The comparison struck a little too close to home. According to reports, el-Sisi has been one of the loudest supporters of a joint Arab military force, first broaching the subject in a speech given on Dubai-based but Saudi-owned al-Arabiya channel on March 1. “We want to defend our nations and this is the time when we join our hands together,” he stated in his speech. While he cited the atrocities committed by ISIS, such as murdering Coptic Christians, this was a mere pretext. It is apparent that he still fears violent regime change, and does not entirely trust the Egyptian army to back him at moments of crisis. For the other Arabian states that have voiced support for the initiative, the military force is a means to harness ISIS, isolate Iran, and balance between sectarian war and state interest in the Muslim world.
El-Sisi’s regime just hanged Muslim Brotherhood supporter Mahmoud Abd el-Nabi, who was arrested during protests in 2013 when the army first ousted elected President Mohamed Mursi from power in a coup. On its Facebook post, the pretext of the trial was that Abd el-Nabi threw an individual off the roof during protests. The verdict, however, does not really hold water, given the systematic crackdown on the Brotherhood in civil society across Egypt. El-Sisi promised during his 2014 campaign trail that the Brotherhood “will not exist” if he was elected president. So far, he seems to be keeping his promise. He has also arrested international journalists who have been recording and reporting on the brutality of the Egyptian security forces toward the Egyptian people. These include a Turkish journalist and four Egyptians who work for al-Jazeera, all of whom reported on el-Sisi’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Cairo’s al-Fath and Rabia al-‘Adawiyah masjids.
After Salman ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz became the new king of Saudi Arabia (January 23, 2015), the Muslim Brotherhood sent out a few tentative messages of welcome and support. Salman was among the pro-Brotherhood circles of the “Saudi” establishment during the years of exile under the Sadat and Mubarak regimes. While the Brotherhood had a stronger base of support in Qatar, a number of their scholars found refuge in Saudi Arabia from Egyptian state suppression. As a March 24 article in the US News and World Report observed, “Saudi Arabia hasn’t given any signs that it expects Egypt to ease up on its crackdown on the Brotherhood in the interim.” Saudi Arabia simply wants the status quo — oppression of publics across the Muslim world, so that its dominance goes unchallenged.
El- Sisi’s Egypt is so far subsisting on Saudi and Gulf largesse — while the US and Israel engineered the financial collapse of the Egyptian state following Mursi’s election, which agitated the population. El-Sisi has inherited a destroyed infrastructure, and a demoralized population, from which most of the skilled middle class has already fled. The mass jailing and execution of members of the Muslim Brotherhood have deprived Egypt of a sector of skilled, conscientious labor — and those that remain live under fear and terror (unless they have some kind patron within the military state). Part of the reason for el-Sisi’s call for joint military force is that he hopes it will bind Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabian states much more tightly to Egypt, and make them more reliable as bankrollers and funders.
The journal al-Ahram Online reported tensions between Egypt and the Saudi-Gulf nexus, after Saudi funding to Egypt declined during the final months of King Abdullah’s life (died, January 23, 2015). A Turkish TV channel leaked a recording of el-Sisi and his aides deriding his benefactors, stating that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE have more money than they need and that Egypt deserves a share. Gulf officials accuse el-Sisi of taking aid for granted, while the Egyptian general accuses the Gulf monarchies of “supporting terrorism,” which is code for their sympathy for and historical relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. Relations immediately frosted over. El-Sisi’s confidence and his disregard of political relationship-building stems from the strong backing given to him by the US and Israel — he has been open about treating the Gulf Arabians as instruments for his power designs in Egypt and the region at large.
The Jerusalem Post speculates that the announcement of a joint military task force that will ensure stability in the region is a symbolic act rather than the blueprint of a plan that will actually materialize.
The Jerusalem Post speculates that the announcement of a joint military task force that will ensure stability in the region is a symbolic act rather than the blueprint of a plan that will actually materialize. The March article notes, “While joint military drills and limited cooperation in certain military theaters could be possible, an integrated joint force is highly unlikely.” Even within the group of Sunni states that oppose revolutionary Islamic movements, disagreements and egos are likely to get in the way of any functioning combined force. While el-Sisi imagines himself in a leading position within this task force, should it materialize, Saudi Arabia would be unwilling to give him precedence over their own military brass.
The US media has approvingly remarked on the initiative. In a March 8 article published in The Atlantic, writer Youssef Hamza remarked that the initiative was a variation of the Nasserist dream of Arab unity in support of the human rights of Palestinians. “The dream of an Arab army, or even just a joint Arab military force, has floated around a crisis-prone Middle East for decades, mostly because it has been perceived as an effective way to fight Israel,” he wrote. However, this Arab military force is a Frankenstein cooked up in the ideological meth labs of the CIA — a coalition of hyper-sectarian US proxies that will use their resources on behalf of the US and Israel to fund and instigate perpetual war in the Muslim world.