They originated in different capitals but all were linked by a common cause: Egypt’s proscription of Hamas “activities” on its territory; Israel’s announcement that it intercepted an Iranian ship laden with missiles “intended for the Gaza Strip”; the withdrawal of three GCC countries’ ambassadors from Qatar; and Saudi Arabia’s classification of the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist” organisation. Taken together, these mark the public unveiling of the region’s newest geo-political axis.
Since the collapse of both the self-styled “moderate” bloc in 2012 and the Syrian-led “resistance” front, the region has been in a state of flux. In the case of the former, the search for a new configuration started in earnest immediately after the fall of the dictatorships. At the time, plans were announced to incorporate Jordan and Morocco into the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Despite a general acceptance by the founding member states, the project was put on hold, apparently because of fears among GCC members themselves that they would be called upon to bail out failed states, as the EU had to do for Greece.
Now, as the rift between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE on the one hand and Qatar on the other continues to widen, new reports have emerged of a Saudi-led initiative to recruit Egypt into the ranks of the GCC. However, even with the financial backing of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, this ambitious move may well end up like the plan to incorporate Morocco and Jordan. With a population that is twice the size of Morocco and Jordan combined and an economy in tatters, the prospects for the adoption of Egypt look bleak. Unless, that is, political considerations are given precedence over all others.
In terms of their orientation and policies there is nothing that distinguishes the newly-emerging axis from the pre-2011 ‘moderate’ bloc. As it was in the days of Hosni Mubarak, it’s members remain preoccupied, to the point of obsession, with concerns of security and “fighting terror”. All were committed partners in the US global “war on terror”. They still, to this day, remain staunchly committed to the enterprise.
Before the collapse of the dictatorships, the Arab League provided a ready platform to promote reactionary policies on regional issues, most noticeably on Palestine. It was the failure of the League to have any relevance and the success of the Muslim Brotherhood that ultimately forced the Saudis to sponsor the spread of Salafist parties in the Middle East.
In Egypt, such parties collaborated with the military to unseat the elected government. Their hubris and honeymoon in the limelight is not expected to last long. They are mistrusted deeply in the west and in Washington in particular, where there is a now a concerted drive to promote what is described as “Sufi Islam” as an alternative to political Islam. This poses a moral and ideological dilemma for the Saudis since they have always viewed Sufism as bordering on the fringes of deviance and heresy.
Nevertheless, it is not what divides this new odd alliance that is important, it is what unites them and, in this context, they are implacably opposed to what is called political Islam. That is the political reformist movement inspired and led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Egypt, the junta-appointed judiciary declared the Brotherhood to be a “terrorist” entity in December, even though the trials of its members on “terrorism” charges were incomplete. The country’s new rulers then submitted a memorandum to the Arab League calling for the adoption of this designation based on a 1998 protocol to combat terrorism.
Curiously, one of the most distinguishing features of the new axis is its increasing collaboration with Israel. Cooperation with, and acceptance of, the apartheid state has become so crucial that the conviction of Israelis for espionage in Egypt did not in any way affect Tel Aviv’s ties with Cairo. On the contrary, they became stronger. Meanwhile, although nothing has been proven against Hamas, apart from media propaganda, legal measures have been taken against the movement.
Back in November last year, the Sunday Times in London reported that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, was working with Saudi officials on plans for a possible attack on Iran if the nuclear talks with the west failed. The report added that Riyadh had already given the go-ahead for Israeli planes to use its airspace in the event of an attack.
There are inherent contradictions and weaknesses in the new counter-revolutionary alliance which will, in the fullness of time, lead to failure. Whatever security concerns they may have, its architects will remain forever tainted by their alliance with apartheid Israel in its attempt to prolong the brutal military occupation of Palestinian land and defeat the legitimate resistance movements. Having gone against the undoubted aspirations and will of their people, they will become increasingly irrelevant in the region and dependent on foreigners for support. As for the Islamic movement which has emerged from the grassroots, and is of and for the people, it will continue to grow in strength and influence, regardless of the persecution it’s members face. There may well be a new axis on the block, but it stands to go the way of its predecessors in the region, a way of failure and ignominy.