Friday, June 29, 2007

Next question: Will Mubarak and the Saudi king withstand American pressure on the question of Hamas

Editorially, Al-Quds al-Arabi takes up the question whether the surprising Egyptian (and Saudi) shift away from the US-mandated anti-Hamas position is going to be a permanent and solid feature of their policy, or end up being merely transitory.

On Mubarak, the editorialist says the change has two reasons: first the realization that eliminating Hamas from the Gaza Strip would mean, in a nutshell, that its place would be taken by AlQaeda; and second reason is the hardening of the position of Olmert. With respect to the first point, the context includes the risk of radicalizing the military wing of Hamas in the event of a confrontation with Egypt, and the particular vulnerability of the Sinai region from the point of view of Egyptian national security. The editorialist puts it this way:
The Egyptian government has grasped the fact that any collusion on its part with the American-Israeli policy of destroying Hamas could well be tantamount to handing over the Gaza Strip in its entirety to the AlQaeda organization, which is the alternative to Hamas. [Moreover], the military wing of Hamas, which settled the question of control of the Gaza Strip in less than three days, has impressive field experience, and is under the control of a rigorous leadership that could turn entirely against the Egyptian regime in the event Egypt were to declare war on their organization.

And it is capable of damaging domestic Egyptian security by virtue of its neighborly relations with Sinai, and by virtue of its strong relationship with certain Bedouin islamist elements there. Sinai is considered the weak link in Egyptian national security because of its size and its exposure, and also because of its experience of four decades of efforts to marginalize it, on the part of the central government in Cairo.
As for the Saudi position, the paper notes both in its front-page news story and in this editorial, that a planned meeting between the Saudi king and Abbas that was to have taken place during the king's visit to Amman, and that had been carefully arranged by Jordanian king Abdullah, has been "postponed" indefinitely, supposedly because of the pressure of other engagements. The editorialist writes:
As far as the Saudi king is concerned, and we are talking about the sponsor of the Mecca accord, perhaps he grasped the fact that siding with one party in the Gaza dispute against the other would result in closing off any possibile role for him as an influential honest broker, and this explains his declining to meet with Abbas in the Jordanian capital--a meeting that the Jordanian government played the main role in arranging, reflecting its clearly having placed its bet on president Abbas, and reflecting its [Jordan's] complete devotion to Abbas' camp, and its firm and almost enemy-like boycotting of the Hamas movement.
And so the net question arises: Are these new Egyptian and Saudi attitudes permanent, because if they are this would indicate a new and less US-friendly political configuration for the region. The editorialist isn't sure:
It is hard to be definitive on the question whether these Egyptian and Saudi changes are permanent and solid or not, because president Mubarak, like the Saudi king, [like to] keep away from provoking the United States of America, so probably the best thing right now is to take a little more time before drawing any absolute conclusion about this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those "changes" in Egypt and Saudi standing on Hamas (not real changes, just reported as such in the "west") will have to be kept.

There is no alternative, esp. for Mubarak. Either he will talk to Hamas and catch the flue or discard them and get a few U.S. millions (he is certainly already well off - so money doesn't matter much) and catch the pest.

If Hamas goes down, he will soon have a band of Salafists right down in Kairo with all the consequences.

But then, maybe he will risk that ...

1:05 PM  

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