Free Markets, Free People

Egypt


Hamas calls Greek stop of US blockade runner “inhumane”– Israel on “Specially Designated Country” list for first time

In the world of overwrought spin and propaganda we find a premiere example of the genre from Hamas:

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Friday denounced Greece after its coastguard intercepted a US vessel which tried to sail to Gaza to break Israel blockade of the coastal strip.

In a statement issued by its political leadership in Damascus, the militant group described the action as "inhumane" and said Greece had played into Israeli hands.

"This is inhumane action, is contrary to international regulations and norms," said the statement by Hamas, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

"Barring this aid from reaching the Gaza Strip is done as a result of pressure imposed by the Zionist occupiers," referring to Israel.

Of course the US ship, the “Audacity of Hope” has no aid.  It is sailing with nothing but letters of support.  Secondly, even if it was, there’s a very well-established route to deliver aid to Gaza.   The blockade runners simply want to further demonize the Israelis by attempting to provoke an incident like that which happened the last time this was tried.

Finally:

The Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza "is unjust… and a mark of disgrace on the forehead of humanity," [Hamas] said.

Translation: “The blockade prevents us from smuggling in more weapons than we have now. “

Of course with the overthrow of Mubarak, the Egyptian portion of the border is quite porous now so even that objection is largely invalid.

Nope – just another example of a long line of examples of Hamas calling the right of a nation to defend itself “inhumane”, mostly because it doesn’t recognize that nation’s right to exist.  Given all the other ways to get aid to Gaza – real aid – it is clear this has nothing to do with any of that.

It is simply another in a long line of attempts to provoke that nation into acts of self-defense so it can condemn it further.   It is the equivalent of firing rockets into Israel and then condemning Israel when it reacts.

And for some reason, much of the rest of the world takes its condemnations seriously.

Meanwhile, CNS news reports that for the first time, Israel has landed on the “Special Designated Country” list.  What does that mean?

[T]he Obama administration is currently listing Israel among 36 “specially designated countries” it believes “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”

Also on the list are countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

This is the first time Israel has shown up as an SDC. 

Of course, no one seems to know how that happened, but ICE is the agency tasked to carry out the enforcement of what SDC means:

Even though the administration includes Israel among “specially designated countries” that it believes "have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members,” ICE Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told CNSNews.com that the U.S. also considers Israel, as well as some other countries on the “specially designated countries” list, as partners in the struggle against terrorism.

“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism,” Christensen said in a written statement. “Countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself.”

“The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with many of these countries in order to address security issues within their own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe,” said Christensen.

ICE declined to say who put Israel on the list or when Israel was put there. However, in her written statement, ICE spokeswoman Christensen said the “specially designated country” list had been created "at least" seven years ago–which would have been during the presidency of George W. Bush–and that ICE was not responsible for creating it.

Yes, friends, it’s Bush’s fault.  Bottom line though, given how SDC is defined, it is hardly the appropriate list for Israel to be on.

Oh, and who didn’t make the list this time but was on the last one?

North Korea.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


About Egypt’s “Arab Spring”

It’s not much to look forward too.   Tony Blankley makes the pointthat many of us have been making as we’ve watched this little drama unfold in Egypt – it ain’t about “democracy”:

That "democratic revolution," as the administration persistently called it, seems to have settled down into an ugly accord between the Army-run government, the Muslim Brotherhood and the fanatical salafists — which the new regime has been releasing from the prisons into which Mubarak very usefully had sent those dreadful men. Killing Coptic Christians, attacking women on the street for non-Muslim garb and other pre-Mubarak attitudes are thus now back in vogue in "democratic" Egypt.

Whether the administration will admit it or not, the fact remains that democracy isn’t set up to succeed in Egypt.  By “democracy” I mean institutions that are structured to both support a democratic nation and ensure the success of such a system.  It is simply another in a long line of swapping one oppressor for the other.  While Mubarak may not have been anyone’s ideal, what may follow, given the indications, may be worse.

Two weeks ago, the administration was "surprised" at the Egyptian-brokered accord between the terrorist Hamas and the West Bank Fatah Palestinian factions — ending even a theoretical chance of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.

Indeed.  And now with Egypt firmly moving to the “other side” after years of peace with Israel, the future looks even more bleak and any peace accord becomes even more unlikely.

And with Obama yesterday essentially demanding the ‘67 borders as a peace concession by Israel any settlement became virtually impossible.  No wonder Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell is resigning.  He recognizes a dead end when he see’s one.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: “oops, we lied”

I’m sure you remember all the rhetoric about how benign the Muslim Brotherhood was and how it really didn’t have designs on the government of Egypt, right?  In fact, we were reassured (well, some of us weren’t) they only wanted a little representation in government and had absolutely no interest in or designs on the presidency.  Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader, makes the point back in early February:

We are mindful, however, as a nonviolent Islamic movement subjected to six decades of repression, that patent falsehoods, fear mongering and propaganda have been concocted against us in Mubarak’s palaces the past 30 years and by some of his patrons in Washington. Lest partisan interests in the United States succeed in aborting Egypt’s popular revolution, we are compelled to unequivocally deny any attempt to usurp the will of the people. Nor do we plan to surreptitiously dominate a post-Mubarak government. The brotherhood has already decided not to field a candidate for president in any forthcoming elections. We want to set the record straight so that any Middle East policy decisions made in Washington are based on facts and not the shameful – and racist — agendas of Islamophobes.

Well, apparently that was “then” (when it was important to keep the wool pulled over the West’s eyes, and particularly the eyes of Washington) and this is “now”:

Notwithstanding the official Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s promise not to seek the presidency or any other positions of power, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 60, member of the MB’s Shura Council and head of the Egyptian Doctors’ Union, has announced he would run for president in Egypt’s coming election.

Who is that again?  Oh, yeah, the same MB member that assured us in February that, “The brotherhood has already decided not to field a candidate for president in any forthcoming elections” , the very same Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.  An “independent”?

Good grief, there’s not even any plausible deniability here.

And that then puts this, something else Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh said, in the “laugh out-loud” column for believability:

Our track record of responsibility and moderation is a hallmark of our political credentials, and we will build on it. For instance, it is our position that any future government we may be a part of will respect all treaty obligations made in accordance with the interests of the Egyptian people.

Because:

A political leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Thursday [Feb 3] called on any government that replaces Hosni Mubarak’s regime to withdraw from the 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel.

"After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel," Rashad al-Bayoumi, a deputy leader of the outlawed movement, said on Japan’s NHTV.

And he isn’t the only MB leader that’s been making that call.  So who should we believe?  I’d say probably not the MB guy who said the MB wouldn’t be putting up a presidential candidate but who is now a presidential candidate.  Agreed?

Yes, it’s pretty hard to find proof of democratic institutions beginning to flower in Egypt.  There’s obviously been a lot of fertilizer spread, but it isn’t the type that grows healthy plants, that’s for sure.

[HT: Legal Insurrection]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood mourns bin Laden

Perhaps it is becoming clearer to even those in deep denial that that the Muslim Brotherhood is "moderate" only if the term is redefined into meaninglessness.  The death of Osama bin Laden provides another indication of the MB’s true character:

But in its first public statement on the killing of bin Laden, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood used the honorific term "sheikh" to refer to the al-Qaeda leader. It also accused Western governments of linking Islam and terrorism, and defended "resistance" against the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as "legitimate."

The Muslim Brotherhood’s response to bin Laden’s death may finally end the mythology — espoused frequently in the U.S. — that the organization is moderate or, at the very least, could moderate once in power. This is, after all, precisely how Muslim Brothers describe their creed — "moderate," as opposed to al-Qaeda, which is radical. "Moderate Islam means not using violence, denouncing terrorism, and not working with jihadists," said Muslim Brotherhood youth activist Khaled Hamza, for whom the organization’s embrace of "moderate Islam" was the primary reason he joined.

Yet the Muslim Brotherhood’s promise that its "moderation" means rejecting violence includes a gaping exception: the organization endorses violence against military occupations, which its leaders have told me include Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, and Palestine — in other words, nearly every major conflict on the Eurasian continent.

It should end the mythology, but it won’t.  There are those on the left to invested in the belief that they are a moderate force that they won’t back down even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.  This is your “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to the death of bin Laden:

"The whole world, and especially the Muslims, have lived with a fierce media campaign to brand Islam as terrorism and describe the Muslims as violent by blaming the September 11th incident on al-Qaeda." It then notes that "Sheikh Osama bin Laden" was assassinated alongside "a woman and one of his sons and with a number of his companions," going on to issue a rejection of violence and assassinations. It goes on to ominously declare that the Muslim Brotherhood supports "legitimate resistance against foreign occupation for any country, which is the legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and international agreements," and demands that the U.S., the European Union, and NATO quickly "end the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people." It closes by demanding that the U.S. "stop its intelligence operations against those who differ with it, and cease its interference in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country."

As Eric Trager says, the statement issued by the MB is “vintage bin Laden”:

[I]t’s Muslim lands, not America, that are under attack; it’s Muslims, not American civilians, who are the ultimate victims; and, despite two American presidents’ genuine, effusive promises to the contrary, Islam is the target. It’s an important indicator that despite its increased responsibility in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood may well remain deeply hostile toward even the one of the most basic and defensible of American interests in the Middle East — that of securing Americans from terrorism.

In Egypt, at least, this is the result of the “Arab Spring”.  As predicted, the best organized and most ruthless are winning out.  And the result will not advance the peace process in the region.  On the contrary, “moderate” has come to be defined by bin Laden, not by any recognizable dictionary.  The Muslim Brotherhood has fooled a lot of so-called “scholars” into believing them to be a benign force for good and interested in democratic reform.  Instead, they’ll most likely find out that they’re anything but benign and they are only interested in democracy if it advances their agenda.  And that agenda is anything but moderate.

~McQ


Egypt woos US foes

Egypt continues to make more and more moves indicating that it desires to distance itself from the US and that more instability in the region will probably result from its diplomatic moves.

After decades of no relations with certain countries in the region, with the full approval of the US (and one would assume the lack of such relations would be in the best interest of the US and peace in the region), Egypt has now decided to change that course.  They tie to moves to regaining their regional prestige:

Iran and Egypt’s new government signaled Monday they were moving quickly to thaw decades of frosty relations, worrying the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia that the overtures could upset the Mideast’s fragile balance of power.

Iran said it appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time since the two sides froze diplomatic relations more than three decades ago, the website of the Iranian government’s official English-language channel, Press TV, reported late Monday.

Also Monday, officials at Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that new foreign minister Nabil Elaraby is considering a visit to the Gaza Strip—an area controlled by Hamas, a militant Palestinian Islamist group backed by Tehran and until now shunned by Cairo.

It would be pretty hard not to see where this could lead. 

Additionally, Egypt is reaching out to Syria:

Egypt’s outreach has also extended to Syria, a close ally of Iran. In early March, Egypt’s new intelligence chief, Murad Muwafi, chose Syria for his first foreign trip.

The result of our “hey, Hosni, get out of town” policy?

Amr Moussa, the former Secretary General of the Arab league, owes his front-runner status in Egyptian presidential elections later this year to his forceful statements against Israel when he was Egypt’s foreign minister during the 1990s. Islamist groups in particular have been empowered by Egypt’s abrupt shift to democracy, and analysts expect that Egypt’s next government will have to answer to growing calls that it break with U.S. foreign-policy objectives.

Some Islamist political voices within Egypt have already begun their own sort of diplomacy. Magdi Hussein, the chairman of the Islamist Al Amal (Labor) Party, met with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi earlier this week in Tehran. Both sides encouraged a quickening of the diplomatic thaw between the two countries.

Egypt appears to be following a foreign relations pattern set by Turkey in the past decade—a strong American ally whose foreign policy has nevertheless decoupled from American interests. Regardless of its final position on Iran, the country is likely to be significantly less beholden to U.S. interests, American officials said, if only because Egypt was such a reliable ally under Mr. Mubarak.

"It’s hard to imagine a change that would improve on what we had" with the previous Egyptian regime, one U.S. official said.

If there’s a “Doomsday clock” for Middle East war, it is quickly moving toward 1 minute to midnight.

Meanwhile in Libya, the “days, not weeks” war enters its 2nd month with no resolution in sight.

~McQ


Egypt, predictably, begins to go the way of radical Islam

Damien McElroy in Cairo, reporting for the UK Telegraph, has the following observations:

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic movement and the founder of Hamas, has set up a network of political parties around the country that eclipse the following of the middle class activists that overthrew the regime. On the extreme fringe of the Brotherhood, Islamic groups linked to al-Qeada are organising from the mosques to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the dictatorship.

The military-led government already faces accusations that it is bowing to the surge in support for the Muslim movements, something that David Cameron warned of in February when he said Egyptian democracy would be strongly Islamic.

{feigned surprise} Oh, my, who’d have thought that could happen?  Only the terminally naïve or those with no understanding of the area or human nature would have figured otherwise. 

Power vacuums produce opportunities for others to fill them.  The US helped create that vacuum by insisting Hosni Mubarak must step down. 

Usually, as we’ve mentioned here any number of times, the most organized and ruthless succeed in filling such power vacuums.  And that’s precisely the case in Egypt where Islam in general is as pervasive as the air breathed there and the Muslim Brotherhood, while never allowed to be in power previously, was the most organized of the groups with the potential to fill the power vacuum.

And that is coming to fruition.  Not just in an Islamic sense, but in an Islamist sense as well.  The Muslim factions are poised to take over and control any government voted in by the public and do it in a big way:

Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, last week predicted the group’s candidates would win 75 per cent of the seats it contested.

Fundamentalist factions have also emerged as parties. Gamaa al-Islamiya, an al-Qaeda linked group that promotes Salafist traditions has used its mosques as a political base for the first time since the 1970s.

Egypt attempted in the past – however oppressive that effort was – to keep a largely secular government, at least by Middle Eastern standards.  And that was to our benefit and certainly to the benefit of the region.  It produced the peace treaty with Israel and ushered in a few decades of relatively peaceful times in the Middle East.  That’s pretty much likely to go by the wayside soon.  This next government will be steeped in Islam if not a good measure of Islamism.  That has been ordained by the first “democratic” vote in Egypt:

A scare campaign that a No vote in last months referendum would eliminate Islamic law from the Egyptian constitution ensured a 77 per cent Yes result.

As for those who participated in the April 6th movement and want a more secular and democratic Egypt?  Well, again, the best organized is the most likely to succeed, right?  And they have little or no organization:

But the April 6th movement that spearheaded protests has no clear plan for party politics. Diplomats have warned the demonstrators are not well prepared for elections.

"The leadership of the protests was so focused on the street-by-street detail of the revolution, they have no clue what to do in a national election," said a US official involved in the demonstrations. "Now at dinner the protesters can tell me every Cairo street that was important in the revolution but not how they will take power in Egypt."

Entirely predictable and clearly not in the best interest of the US – which calls into question the administration’s decision not to back Mubarak but call for his ouster.  The result is an unintended consequence one assumes – we backed a faction that we knew little about, which has had little impact since and now we’re going to see results that we don’t want and are not in the best interests of the US or peace in the region.  The same could be said about Libya.

Finally, don’t be fooled by the “independent” status of Egyptian political candidates for the Presidency there.  Their independence is in name only as they must court the factions that are likely to hold power in any legislature that forms.

Although the leading contenders for Egypt’s presidency are independents, many have begun wooing the Muslim blocs. Front-runner Amr Moussa, the Arab League president, has conceded that its inevitable that Islamic factions will be the bedrock of the political system.

Of course they will and that means, inevitably, that Egypt will eventually revoke its treaty with Israel thereby setting the peace process back to square one.

Yes, this has been beautifully played by the President and the State Department.  If naiveté in foreign affairs was ever more  evident than now, I’m having difficulty remembering it (Jimmy Carter is as close as it comes, and they’re making even him look competent).

~McQ


Egypt: So how’s that “revolution” going?

Not so hot if this story is any indication:

An Egyptian blogger was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for criticizing the military in what human rights advocates called one of the more alarming violations of freedom of expression since a popular uprising led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two months ago.

The blogger, Maikel Nabil, 25, had assailed the Egyptian armed forces for what he called its continuation of the corruption and anti-democratic practices of Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Nabil often quoted from reports by established human rights groups.

[…]

The charges against Mr. Nabil included insulting the military establishment and spreading false information about the armed forces. The tribunal charged him with spreading information previously published by human rights organizations like Amnesty International on the army’s use of violence against protesters, the torture of those detained inside the Egyptian Museum and the use of forced pelvic exams, known as “virginity tests,” against detained female protesters.

Can’t have anyone “insulting the military establishment” or protesting against torture and “virginity tests” can we?  Sure seem much like the regime they just “threw out” doesn’t it?  Next: Islam begins to push the secular to the side. 

Yup, I can feel freedom ringing out from here.

~McQ


In Egypt, “Arab Spring” begins to turn into winter

For those of us actually somewhat tuned into the region, the dynamics of the power structure there, grounded in reality and, well, basic human nature, what is now happening in Egypt comes as no surprise:

Demonstrators burned cars and barricaded themselves with barbed wire inside a central Cairo square demanding the resignation of the military’s head after troops violently dispersed an overnight protest killing one and injuring 71.

Hundreds of soldiers beat protesters with clubs and fired into the air in the pre-dawn raid on Cairo’s central Tahrir Square in a sign of the rising tensions between Egypt’s ruling military and protesters.

Armed with sticks and other makeshift weapons, the protesters vowed not to leave until the defense minister, the titular head of state, has resigned.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  And the boss is now starting to exert control.

The troops dragged an unknown number of protesters away, throwing them into police trucks, eyewitnesses said.

The military issued a statement afterward blaming "outlaws" for rioting and violating the country’s 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, and asserted that no one was harmed or arrested.

"The armed forces stress that they will not tolerate any acts of rioting or any act that harms the interest of the country and the people," it said.

Sounds pretty, oh I don’t know, 2010 in Egypt to me.  The point, of course, is the military, who has essentially been in control of Egypt for the past 60 years was willing to trade Hosni Mubarak to retain control over the government.  It took a neutral stance during the riots, threw Mubarak under the bus, put itself in charge of the “interim government” and now is exerting control.

“Arab spring” has sprung and it is now turning into the usual totalitarian winter but this time with elections!  Well, at least one.

~McQ


Meanwhile in Egypt …

I hate to throw out the old “I told you so”, but it appears Egypt is trying to go according to my prediction.  That is, the Muslim Brotherhood – the best organized of the opposition forces – would take the lead in forming the “new” Egypt and the military – which has held power for 60 years – would find a way to retain its power.  The New York Times reports that’s exactly what seems to be happening:

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

Emphasis mine.  As I’ve mentioned previously, “secular” may not mean what you think it means in an Islamic country.  And I’ve all but worn out the David Warren quote, but again which group has the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated “vision?”  That means:

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

Indeed, my guess is that the moment is lost for them for good.  Why?  Because it isn’t in the best interest of either the MB or the military to let that particular “political force” reemerge.  So:

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

And there you have it.  Result?

“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone.”

So much for the “Twitter” revolution.

~McQ


Meanwhile in the Middle East–Saudi/US strains appear (Update–Bahrain declares martial law)

Yes it’s another fine mess.  Of course the Japanese tragedy and struggles with their nuclear power plants has sucked all the air out of news elsewhere, there is, in fact much news elsewhere.  And not the least of it is coming out of the Middle East where Saudi troops, as a part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), moved into Bahrain ostensibly to “guard government facilities”. 

The GCC is composed of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.   It was created in 1991 (think Iraq invasion of Kuwait), the 6 members share common borders and are committed by their charter to help each other in times of need.  

The action by the GCC, as you might imagine, is in direct conflict with how the White House has indicated it would prefer the situation in Bahrain be resolved.  Obviously that’s not carried much weight with the GCC.

The move created another quandary for the Obama administration, which obliquely criticized the Saudi action without explicitly condemning the kingdom, its most important Arab ally. The criticism was another sign of strains in the historically close relationship with Riyadh, as the United States pushes the country to make greater reforms to avert unrest.

Other symptoms of stress seem to be cropping up everywhere.

Saudi officials have made no secret of their deep displeasure with how President Obama handled the ouster of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, charging Washington with abandoning a longtime ally. They show little patience with American messages about embracing what Mr. Obama calls “universal values,” including peaceful protests.

The GCC move has caused both Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense and Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, to cancel upcoming visits to Saudi Arabia.

Again, the apparent genesis of these tensions appear to be related to the way the US handled Egypt.  It has caused the Saudis and other GCC nations to trust the US less than before:

The latest tensions between Washington and Riyadh began early in the crisis when King Abdullah told President Obama that it was vital for the United States to support Mr. Mubarak, even if he began shooting protesters. Mr. Obama ignored that counsel. “They’ve taken it personally,” said one senior American familiar with the conversations, “because they question what we’d do if they are next.”

Since then, the American message to the Saudis, the official said, is that “no one can be immune,” and that the glacial pace of reforms that Saudi Arabia has been engaged in since 2003 must speed up.

Obviously the Saudi’s have their own ideas of how to handle this and apparently aren’t taking kindly to the US attempting to dictate how it should handle it’s internal affairs.  And, given the treatment of Mubarak, the Saudi rulers can’t help but feel that they’re just as likely to be thrown under the bus if protests were to escalate as was Mubarak.

Consequently, they’ve decided to go their own way and handle it with force within the GCC  while throwing money at the problem within the Saudi Kingdom.  Speaking of the latter:

One of President Obama’s top advisers described the moves as more in a series of “safety valves” the Saudis open when pressure builds; another called the subsidies “stimulus funds motivated by self-preservation.”

Saudi officials, who declined to comment for this article to avoid fueling talk of divisions between the allies, said that the tensions had been exaggerated and that Americans who criticized the pace of reforms did not fully appreciate the challenges of working in the kingdom’s ultraconservative society.

Of course the difference between their “stimulus funds” and ours is they actually have the money.   But it is ironic to see the adviser describe “stimulus funds” in those terms isn’t it?  The actual point here should be evident though.  The GCC has rejected the “Bahrain model” as the desired method of addressing the unrest.  As you recall that was the “regime alteration” model, v. the regime change model.

So where does that leave us?

Demonstrating to Iran that the Saudi-American alliance remains strong has emerged as a critical objective of the Obama administration. King Abdullah, who was widely quoted in the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks as warning that the United States had to “cut off the head of the snake” in Iran, has led the effort to contain Iran’s ambitions to become a major regional power. In the view of White House officials, any weakness or chaos inside Saudi Arabia would be exploited by Iran.

For that reason, several current and former senior American intelligence and regional experts warned that in the months ahead, the administration must proceed delicately when confronting the Saudis about social and political reforms.

”Over the years, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been fraught with periods of tension over the strategic partnership,” said Ellen Laipson, president of the Stimson Center, a public policy organization. “Post-September 11 was one period, and the departure of Mubarak may be another, when they question whether we are fair-weather friends.”

That phone keeps ringing at 3am, doesn’t it? 

Questions: given the “critical objective” as outlined above, is it smart to cancel visits by SecDef and SecState?  Doesn’t that possibly signal lack of support for the Saudis and play into the perception the US is a fair-weather friend?  Doesn’t that promise the possibility of more actions the Saudi’s might take that will be contra to the US’s advice?   Isn’t now the time to be going in there and making the case with top leaders and showing support while trying to twist a few arms to ramp down the situation instead of canceling?

UPDATE: Bahrain declares a “state of emergency”.  2 protesters killed 200 wounded. 1 Saudi soldier reported to have been killed.

Here’s a little insight into the Iranian connection mentioned above:

The entrance of foreign forces, including Saudi troops and those from other Gulf nations, threatened to escalate a local political conflict into a regional showdown; on Tuesday, Tehran, which has long claimed that Bahrain is historically part of Iran, branded the move “unacceptable.”

[…]

“The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue,” Ramin Mehmanparast, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference in Tehran, according to state-run media.

Even as predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran pursues a determined crackdown against dissent at home, Tehran has supported the protests led by the Shiite majority in Bahrain.

“People have some legitimate demands, and they are expressing them peacefully,” Mr. Memanparast said. “It should not be responded to violently.”

He added, “We expect their demands be fulfilled through correct means.”

You have to love their chutzpah.  A little analysis:

The Gulf Cooperation Council was clearly alarmed at the prospect of a Shiite political victory in Bahrain, fearing that it would inspire restive Shiite populations in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to protest as well. The majority of the population in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich eastern provinces is Shiite, and there have already been small protests there.

“If the opposition in Bahrain wins, then Saudi loses,” said Mustafa el-Labbad, director of Al Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “In this regional context, the decision to move troops into Bahrain is not to help the monarchy of Bahrain, but to help Saudi Arabia itself .”

So that’s the lens by which much of what happens should be viewed – two regional rivals, each aligned with a different sect of Islam as well as different ethnic groups (Arab v. Persian) attempting to take advantage of a situation in the case of Iran, or trying to prevent change that would favor Iran in the case of Saudi Arabia.

The possible result?

An adviser to the United States government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media, agreed. “Iran’s preference was not to get engaged because the flow of events was in their direction,” he said. “If the Saudi intervention changes the calculus, they will be more aggressive.”

Of course they have their own problems at home, but Iran may very well, at least covertly, try to support the opposition in Bahrain.

The primary reason that Bahrain has ended up asking the GCC in is because the recommended way to resolve the crisis, negotiate with the oppositions, was rejected by the opposition. As I mentioned in an earlier post about regime realignment, the entire process hinged on the opposition being willing to engage in honest negotiations with the government.  It appears the Bahranian royal family at least made an attempt to do the things necessary as advised by the US:

The royal family allowed thousands of demonstrators to camp at Pearl Square. It freed some political prisoners, allowed an exiled opposition leader to return and reshuffled the cabinet. And it called for a national dialogue.

But the concessions — after the killings — seemed to embolden a movement that went from calling for a true constitutional monarchy to demanding the downfall of the monarchy. The monarchy has said it will consider instituting a fairly elected Parliament, but it insisted that the first step would be opening a national dialogue — a position the opposition has rejected, though it was unclear whether the protesters were speaking with one voice.

Indeed.  But it doesn’t matter now, does it.  The likelihood of this simmering down to the point that such negotiations and dialogue could occur seem remote – especially with Iran in the background keeping this all stirred up.

We live in interesting times.

~McQ