When the incumbent Sunni Moslem government toppled in Tunisia, a domino effect began to suddenly occur all over the Sunni Moslem Arab world almost as if the events were being orchestrated. I think they were being orchestrated….from Tehran as Iran has the most to gain if more Sunni Arab regimes fall. The contagion of unrest has spread to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, but Egypt is the key.
Saudi Arabia is Iran’s natural rival in the Persian Gulf region, but an earlier post described a major war games exercise where Egyptian military forces practiced coming to the aid of Saudi Arabia if it were attacked by Iran. In order for Egypt to reinforce Saudi Arabia, its military forces must transit Israel with Israeli consent, which was implied in the joint Egyptian-Saudi exercise. Iran saw this too, and realized that if powerful Egyptian forces moved eastward to join Saudi forces in any war with Iran, Iran would likely be defeated. I think Iran knows that it must topple the Mubarak regime before it can wage war against Saudi Arabia and seek hegemony over the Persian Gulf region. As long as Egypt has a regime willing to get along with the Israelis and help the Saudis vs. the Iranians in any war, Iran cannot launch a Persian Gulf war with a great deal of confidence.
Consider what is going on in the Arab world right now and ask “Who gains?” from this unrest. Tunisia is a long way from the Mideast, and the toppling of its government seems to have had an inordinate effect on affairs in other nations. What the new Tunisian government will look like is yet uncertain, but a caretaker government is now in place and unrest there has lessened. Tunisia was the trigger of a cascade of events, but Tunisia is not the prize. Egypt is the prize. However, Iran has already won a major victory. The pro-Western and pro-Saudi government of Lebanon has been overthrown and a pro-Hezbollah regime has been installed in Lebanon (see first link below). Even a Christian and a Druze faction have accepted the new Hezbollah-dominated rule in Lebanon, and the first link below notes that while the new Prime Minister of Lebanon is making “moderate” statements, he is going to protect Hezbollah’s weaponry now in the hands of Hezbollah. The regime change in Lebanon was a defeat for the USA and Saudi Arabia and a victory for Iran. Its effect is that Saudi Arabia is more isolated and the Israelis are more effectively encircled by Iranian-backed forces.
After Tunisia’s government fell, Egypt exploded. The second link below, from the Wall Street Journal, reports that internet media were used to quickly incite the riots in Egypt that seek to topple the Mubarak government. Who gains if the Mubarak regime falls? Iran gains and it gains immensely if Mubarak is replaced by a leader installed by the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic movement that would quickly ally itself to Iran’s anti-Israeli policies. If that happened, Israel would be effectively encircled by Iranian-backed regimes and Saudi Arabia would be isolated in the Persian Gulf region…left without any promise of Egyptian support in a war with Iran. Who would lose if the Mubarak regime falls? Israel would lose the most and the USA and the West could lose almost as much. Even though Mubarak is an autocrat, he has been a force for stability in the Mideast and his cordiality with Israel has held off Mideastern wars because Syria and Hezbollah cannot expect to win a war with Israel if Egypt does not support a war with Israel.
America and the West seem to be playing a very dangerous game in Egypt. A statement by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton essentially “damned Mubarak with faint praise” in her comments about the Egyptian situation. Then Muhammad El Baradai, the former head of the IAEA, and therefore a figure acceptable to the globalist elites suddenly shows up in Egypt making noises like he should be the replacement for Mubarak. The third link makes the case that the USA and the West are also trying to topple Mubarak and want to install El Baradei as “their man” to administer Egypt (likely to administer Egypt in behalf of the globalist elites). The fourth link below, from left-wing NPR, provides a profile on El Baradei as an alternative to Mubarak. Realizing his danger, Mubarak has basically put El Baradei under house arrest to keep him away from the rioters and becoming a rallying point for their ferment. The fifth link cites the USA’s call for Mubarak to release El Baradei, which, in my view, clearly shows Obama and his backers want to overthrow Hosni Mubarak and replace him with their globalist guy, El Baradei. Obama and his backers are playing a very dangerous game in Egypt. By so transparently supporting El Baradei against Mubarak, Obama and the USA will lose immense influence in Egypt if Mubarak survives as Mubarak will know that Obama, Clinton and Co. are his enemies. The USA also risks the worst possible outcome: that if Mubarak falls, he will be replaced not by El Baradai, but by a radical Moslem Brotherhood leader who will be friendly to Iran. If the Moslem Brotherhood were to gain control of Egypt, it would control the Suez Canal and all western oil shipments and naval force transits of the Suez Canal would be at the mercy of Iran. If that happened, all chances of an Israeli-Palestinian deal would likely die. The Israelis would be so threatened by an Islamicist take-over of Egypt that Israel would almost surely have to seize effective military control of the West Bank to give it some desperately-needed strategic depth in case of a war on all fronts.
It is not entirely clear what is happening inside Egypt. There are reports that Hosni Mubarak’s son, his heir apparent, fled to London for safety (see sixth link below), but it is not clear if this report was accurate. If it is accurate, it indicates Hosni Mubarak’s son does not have the backbone to be able to rule Egypt. If it is not true, it was likely a planted report to try and hasten Hosni Mubarak’s fall.
The Jordanian government, another Sunni anti-Iranian government is also under siege (see seventh link), and it is again the pro-Iranian Moslem Brotherhood that is helping to foment the riots against Jordan’s pro-Western and pro-Saudi regime which, like Egypt, is at least cooperative with the Israelis.
The eighth link below, an article from the Asia Times, tries to tie together many of the above threads and also cites Stratfor’s analysis of the Egyptian and Middle-eastern situation. The poverty and ferment in Egypt and many Islamic nations is cited as a cause of the riots, and this is certainly true, but I see the hand of Iran (via the Moslem Brotherhood) trying to exploit this poverty and unrest to Iran’s advantage to isolate Saudi Arabia, topple pro-American Sunni regimes and encircle the Israelis. The article indicates that the Israelis and others expect Mubarak to stay in power. This seems a reasonable expectation as Mubarak has long enjoyed strong support in the Egyptian army which is powerful enough forcibly put down any rebellion. However, as the article notes, Mubarak may be required to accept a successor other than his son as the price for the continued support of the Egyptian army. Mubarak has already sacrificed his cabinet to stay in power.
A great deal is at stake in the Mideast riots right now. Control of the Suez Canal hangs in the balance, and if the Moslem Brotherhood takes over Egypt, western economies will be under terrible pressure as Iran will indirectly decide whose ships get to transit the Suez Canal. Western nations and Israel should breath a sigh of relief if Mubarak hangs on to power. However, the USA will be now be a big loser if Mubarak stays as Mubarak will know that Obama, Clinton and Co. tried to topple him in favor of El Baradei. This would push Mubarak closer than ever to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and…Israel.
Personally, I view the diplomatic actions of the US government as clumsy at best and self-defeating at worst. By trying to replace Mubarak with El Baradei, they risk having the Moslem Brotherhood take over Egypt in the chaos that would follow any collapse of the Mubarak regime. If that happens and oil goes to $200/barrel, what do you think that will do to Obama’s ratings in American polls when already-strapped American consumers are overwhelmed with permanent gas price increases? It will end his chance of a second term. It could also put terrible pressure on the US dollar.
A very high-stakes struggle is being waged now in the Mideast. Iran has already won in Lebanon. Unfolding events will determine if Iran will also win in Egypt and Jordan. I tend to think Iran will not succeed in its planned take-overs of the governments of Egypt and Jordan, but that is my expectation, not a prediction. If Iran does succeed in its plans, the world will become much more dangerous very quickly for the USA, the Israelis and the entire western world.
I thank readers for sending some of the links cited below.