The Saudis are not happy. The democratic wind which is sweeping the Middle East is not permitted in the Royal House of Saud. And one of their very closest friends, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has fallen. How can this be? All the billions of black gold could not stop it. The entire paradigm for the region is now in question. Can aging despots keep their people in check while lavishing some bread crumbs upon them, and continuing their corrupt regimes? That is the very question at the heart of the ‘Arab Spring’, an idea whose time has come, and appears to be unstoppable.
If Egypt’s revolution appears to be somewhat shaky at the moment, there are internal elements at work which cannot be ignored. Sectarian divisions exist and were nurtured by the Mubarak regime in accordance with the ‘divide and conquer’ rule. Now that Mubarak is being detained pending trial, the divisions have not vanished and seem to be more pronounced. The very latest incident in Imbaba is testament to the strife between Muslims and Coptic Christians where 15 people died and more than 250 were injured. Ironically, Saudi Arabia issued a statement condemning the church burning and the sectarian violence.
This is where Saudi Arabia’s long arm can be found, and no care is being taken to be discreet about it. The Salafis, an extremist religious group, which some have claimed is the armed faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, practice the same intolerant version of Wahhabism as the Saudis. There is no tolerance for Christians, for women, for equality, for progress, for democracy. Since most Egyptians are mired in poverty, we can see that the Salafis are well armed and equipped to conduct their battles. Where’s the money coming from? Yesterday, a group of Egyptian Muslims and Christians staged a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Cairo, protesting the country’s interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.
On May 8, 2011, Director of the Brookings Doha Center Salman Shaikh claimed that Saudi Arabia is leading a counter-revolution, and that their view of the Middle East is ‘myopic’. And despite assurances by new prime minister Sharaf during his visit to the Gulf States that rapprochement with Iran is not to replace Egypt’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, the Saudi monarchy is absolutely spooked about Iran’s growing influence in the region. Let us recall that their angst about Iran led them to the invasion of Bahrain, to repress the popular movement there to oust a similar monarchy. Let us also recall that this angst also did not prevent Wahabists from burning hundreds of copies of the Qu’ran.
Riyadh is also showing its hand by having welcomed former Tunisian dictator Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali after he fled his country due to a popular uprising. It has also offered billions in investment to Egypt in an effort dismiss a Mubarak trial. A trial could be embarrassing not only to the Mubaraks, but also to the Saudis and the dealings of their henchmen.
Two days ago, the head of Egypt’s Yafa think-tank Rafa’t Seyed Ahmad was quoted as saying to the Fars News Agency:
‘Saudi Arabia has invested over $35bln to control Egypt’s satellite channels and to carry out terrorist operations against the police force and the country’s security forces. Meantime Egyptian elites and cultured people should keep their eyes open wide and pay attention to the fact that Saudi Wahabites have targeted Egypt and do everything within their possibility to stir tension and chaos in the country‘.
It would do Egypt a lot of good if not only the elite and educated people kept their eyes open. The rest of the population needs to awaken to this threat as it looms very large.