Friday, November 22, 2013

Saudi's internal power struggle sends ripples across international borders: Post-coup Egypt is only the start of Saudi Arabia's problems abroad, and the root cause may be old-fashioned courtly manoeuvring

    Friday, November 22, 2013   No comments

The year is not ending on a high note for three men in the Saudi dynasty whose fingerprints were all over the military coup in Egypt – Prince Bandar, the current intelligence chief; Prince Muqrin, the intelligence chief he replaced, and an aspiring crown prince; and Khalid al-Tuwaijri, president of the royal court and the king's gatekeeper.

Bandar has become the target of rare criticism in the Saudi press. It is obliquely expressed, but it is unmistakably there. When the well-connected Saudi writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi wrote in Al Hayat about "local and world intelligence men" no longer being able to change history, establish states or make new leaders, many of his readers understood that he was aiming that at Bandar.

The article continued: "It would be a mistake to defy the power of history with the illusion that the powerful can forge deals and plan the future away from the peoples whose divisions and lack of experience with democracy enabled local, regional and international forces to abuse them.

"Yet, these peoples continue to be in a state of liquidity and rage. They know what they want but they are confused about how to achieve it. What is certain is that they will not wait for a knight mounted on a white horse to lead them toward a new shining dawn. The one-man era is over."

By the standards of Saudi journalism, this is bold stuff. It's a reflection of the tensions between rival princes in the House of Saud and the policies that Bandar and his group, which include the current foreign minister, have been aggressively promoting. None of them are going well, and all are interconnected.

Egypt, which should have been pacified months ago, is still in a state of ferment. HA Hellyer, an Egypt analyst for the Royal United Services Institute who is sharply critical of President Mohamed Morsi's failures in office, describes the clearing of the pro-Morsi sit-ins in August as the most violent state-led crackdown against Egyptians in Egyptian modern history.

It is also expensive. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are bankrolling the paralysed state. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the UAE, dropped a bombshell during a visit by the Egyptian prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi by saying that Arab support for Egypt would not last long. The Emirati's latest tranche of aid of $3.9bn has been likened to giving blood transfusion to a patient who is bleeding continuously.


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