Thieves Falling Out? What’s going on with Qatar?

media liesWhy do I follow the mainstream news media? It’s simple. I know they are trying to con me. I know they are telling half-truths, and hiding important information from me. Reading between the lines, however, gives me important clues as to what questions I should be asking to find the answers I really need to know.

So . . . This week I learn that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are cutting ties with oil rich neighbour and former friend Qatar over “alleged support for terrorism”. Well, good for them, you might think. Great to see high profile Muslim countries taking initiative to stamp out this curse currently plaguing the world.

But wait up. Who exactly are the “terrorists” those dastardly Qataris are “allegedly” supporting? The terrible Taliban? ISIS/Daesh? Al Qaeda? Boko Haram? Apparently not. In fact it’s far more likely those groups are funded by Saudis. The object of Qatari affections seems to be the Muslim Brotherhood. Well, ok. They’re just as bad, aren’t they? With a name like that, they’d have to be terrorists. Certainly movers and shakers in the USA and Israel think so: the Clarion Project, the Gatestone Institute, and Israeli Stand With Us express strong opinions on the subject. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed up their case with a simple, if inelegant sound byte: “It seems to me, by and large, if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck, maybe it’s a duck.”

no-ducks-sign

. . . or Muslims!

On the other hand, the people at Brookings say no, and there seems to be debate on the matter within Trump’s administration. Back in March, the Big DT was on the verge of issuing an executive order adding the Brotherhood to Washington’s official list of terrorist organisations – but decided to postpone the decision. Apparently cooler heads in his team were arguing that affixing the “terrorist” label would unnecessarily upset some of America’s allies in the region. Clearly, however, other “allies” are strongly in favour, especially the Saud family, the UAE (Dubai etc) and Egypt. So who’s right?

According to a BBC backgrounder, the movement (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic) was founded in 1928, and “initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence.” It’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, did create “a paramilitary wing, the Special Apparatus, whose operatives joined the fight against British rule and engaged in a campaign of bombings and assassinations.” Sounds nasty, but you have to remember that, in those days, Britain was fighting a losing global war to hold on to its rapidly shrinking empire. Their plan to wipe Turkey of the map had been foiled by Kemal Atatürk; and MK Ghandi led India and Pakistan to independence in 1947. In 1956, after President Abdul Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal, the Brits, French and Israelis actually invaded Egypt – but were ordered out by US President Eisenhower.

1956-mirror-news-usa-front-page-reporting-israel-invades-egypt-during-E5GNF9

That was in 1956

You might think the Muslim Brothers had some cause for indulging in a little active resistance. Not everyone is as patient and peaceful as Mahatma Ghandi. When Hosni Mubarak stood down as President of Egypt in 2011 as a result of “Arab Spring” protests and the (probably reluctant) urging of US President Obama, he had held the position for 29 years, winning “elections” where 70-80% of his citizens didn’t bother to cast a vote. The Muslim Brotherhood had been banned from putting up candidates, but in the first genuinely democratic election in June 2012 they won a comfortable majority. Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected (and non-military) president. He lasted just over a year. In July 2013 he was ousted by Egypt’s armed forces and his place taken by military commander-in-chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Subsequently, the United States and its Western allies have been twisting their tongues into breathtaking contortions to avoid calling the military coup a military coup.

Did the US government’s henchmen have a hand in Morsi’s ousting? Of course they cover their tracks, but we do know that the US had supported Mubarak’s dictatorship, despite his abysmal human rights record. US funding made Egypt’s military the world’s 10th largest, and Egypt reversed its earlier implacable hostility to Israel. It was unlikely that Morsi would have been quite so accommodating to US Middle East policy. US aid was cut off but resumed as soon as Egypt returned to military dictatorship. Go figure, as my North American friends are fond of saying.

Obamas Arab mates

Barack Obama with his Arab mates

Well, Qatar’s tiny population (2.2 million) has the world’s highest per capita GDP, its capital, Doha, is the location for TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and the country was selected by FIFA to host the 2022 football World Cup tournament. It’s not exactly a paragon of democratic freedom, but that doesn’t seem to be a major stumbling block to finding favour with US administrations. It does seem that their crime, in the eyes of their neighbours, is lending support to those Muslim Brothers.

Now don’t you think it’s interesting that just after President Donald Trump returns home from a successful visit to his country’s friends in the Middle East, a gang of those friends suddenly decide to pick on a neighbour that has been causing difficulties for the Trump administration? DT wants to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation but some of his advisors are blocking him. Is it possible he suggested to King Salman and the rest of his Arab buddies that now might be a good time to put the screws on Qatar to fall into line?

Whatever the failings of their foreign and domestic programmes, putting the screws on other sovereign states to fall into line is something United States governments are especially good at. We’ve seen what happened in Egypt. We are witnessing (again) what happens to South American nations (Brazil, Venezuela) that think serving their own people takes priority over the interests of US corporations. For all the talk about bringing American-style democracy to the world, we have seen that US administrations are far more comfortable dealing with military dictators than with elected leaders who may have to listen to what their own people are saying.

bombing-yemen

Enlisting recruits for Al Qaeda in Yemen

And whatever may have been said in private, President Trump was only too happy to trumpet his success in clinching a deal to sell $110 billion worth of military hardware to the Saudi rulers. In case you were wondering what the Saudis are doing with all those tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships, Time Magazine tells us that it is mostly being used to slaughter people in neighbouring Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, currently racked by poverty, starvation and a cholera epidemic. As if the Saudis can’t do enough damage by themselves, the US military has been making its own contribution to peace in the Middle East with commando raids and drone strikes. Tell, me please, who are those poor Yemenis threatening?

Meanwhile Turkey is struggling to persuade its own so-called Western allies to support its struggle against terrorism. Military personnel known to have been involved in the unsuccessful July 15 military coup attempt have taken refuge in EU countries, notably Greece and Germany – and those NATO friends are refusing to hand them over. Fethullah Gülen, believed by Turkey’s government to have been a key figure in efforts to overthrow them, is safely ensconced in his Pennsylvania retreat, while the US government spurns all requests to extradite him. The Pentagon, in open defiance of Ankara’s wishes, is unabashedly supplying military hardware to Kurdish separatist groups in Syria closely allied with the internationally recognised terrorist PKK.

us-iran

Supporting autocrats in the Middle East

I read an interesting book review the other day. ‘Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East’ is a collection of academic articles apparently arguing against Barack Obama’s simplistic assessment of Middle East strife that it is “rooted in conflicts that date back millennia”. So far, so good. The Ottoman dynasty ruled a multicultural, polyglot empire embracing Muslims, Jews and mutually antagonistic Christian sects for six centuries without major sectarian conflict.

Unfortunately, it seems the writers have lurched from one flawed interpretation to another. The reviewer summarises the book’s theme thus: “Behind the current turmoil lies a toxic brew of authoritarianism, kleptocracy, developmental stagnation, state repression, geopolitical rivalry and class dynamics. . . Many of the contributors,” we are told, “make the key point that lethal sectarianism and politicized identities are often manipulated by authoritarian regimes in pursuit of political gain.”

Well, it is undoubtedly true that Hosni Mubarak, for example, made good use of his 29 years as dictator of Egypt to enrich himself and his family. The academics in “Secularization” might have noted, however, that courts in Switzerland and the United States have resisted all attempts by Egyptian authorities to repatriate the tens of millions of dollars stashed by Mubarak in their banks.

The articles seem to attribute the rise of the phenomenon purely and simply to power-hungry “autocrats” in the region stoking internecine hatred for their own purposes. One writer even blames the current lawless chaos in Iraq on neighbours Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, who allegedly sabotaged Washington’s genuine attempts to create “a stable and democratic Iraq”.

static.politico.com

The Big DT with his Israeli mates

Well, I guess we saw in Afghanistan just how genuine was the American desire to bring stability and democracy. After using the Taliban to evict the Russian military from Afghanistan, the United States walked away and left the locals to sort out the mess by themselves – and we’ve seen the result of that. When it suited the White House, they supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Iran itself had experienced its Islamic revolution as a result of 27 years of US-supported dictatorship by the puppet Shah, installed after a CIA-sponsored coup in 1952. The Saudi royal family gained and retain their power by working with, first the British, and subsequently the United States. Much of the current conflict in the Middle East stems from the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 by the United Nations aka the United States, which has subsequently supported that government’s expansionist aggression against all objections by the international community.

Is this current business with Qatar just another example of local thieves falling out? I don’t think so.

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8 thoughts on “Thieves Falling Out? What’s going on with Qatar?

  1. I am very glad you wrote this – clear coherent thinking on this in the US is impossible, Alan. (I question if there is a larger richer top-secret group that pulls the strings on world governments?)

  2. Ironically I first heard this story on Al Jazeera (which originates from Qatar). They point out that Qatar also has very friendly relations with Iran and Palestine and implied this was the primary issue.

    • Yes. Any statements issuing from the autocratic governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and now the Maldives!! need to be viewed with the utmost suspicion. Laughter and mockery would probably be the most appropriate response, if they weren’t obviously doing Uncle Sam’s bidding, and therefore seriously endangering the rest of us.

  3. Pertaining to “the Muslim Brotehrhood,” one might ask, from a purely socio-political angle, just what it is they stand for or, what is the same, how ordinary Egyptians would fare under their rule.

    According to Samir Amin, who is an Egyptian with a first hand notion of what the situation in Egypt is, as well as of what the “oppressed” Quatari supported Egyptian Muslim Brothers are about, the Brothers are not what ordinary Egyptians need or even what they want, even if, as you approvingly put it, “in the first genuinely democratic election [in Egypt] in June 2012 they won a comfortable majority.”

    So as not to misrepresent Amin’s opinion on the matter, a longish quote from a short interview:

    Quote begins:

    On 30 June 2012, Mohammed Morsi took over as the Mubarak successor. However, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Muslim Brothers’ victory when this interview took plave, bloody clashes broke out in the country.

    Acconcia: What do you think about the Tamarod’s campaign?

    Samir Amin: The Tamarod’s campaign for the Morsi dismissal is magnificent. Millions of people signed their names after giving deep political consideration to what they were doing: something totally ignored by the international mainstream media. They represent the majority of all the electoral constituencies, but they do not have any voice. The Muslim Brothers wield political power and like to think they can control 100% of the votes. Thus, they ensured members of the movement in every public sector. Their way of managing the country is informed by a type of crony capitalism which simply does not leave any room for the opposition figures and technocrats who had some power even in the Mubarak era.

    A: This is happening during the worst economic crisis of recent decades

    Samir Amin: There is more than an economic crisis. Islamists have only ultraliberal answers to give to the crisis: they have replaced the capitalists’ bourgeois clique that were Mubarak’s friends with reactionary businessmen. Moreover, their goal is quite simply to sell off public goods. The Brotherhood is hated by Egyptians because it continues with the same policies as its predecessor.

    A: Maybe worse in the case of the Islamic Finance Bill?

    Samir Amin: It is theft to attach derisory prices to goods that are worth billions of dollars. These are not the usual privatizations that reactionary regimes indulge in, selling off goods at their economic value. This is pure fraud more than a privatization.

    A: Recalling the stages of this year with the Brotherhood in power – Morsi won after eight days of uncertainty and finally the elimination of the Nasserist, Hamdin Sabbahi, in the first round. Were the 2012 presidential elections manipulated?

    Samir Amin: There was massive electoral fraud. Hamdin Sabbahi could have passed into the second round, but the US Embassy did not want it. European observers listened to their American diplomatic counterparts and turned a blind eye to the fraud involved. Moreover, the five million votes for Sabbahi were squeaky clean and highly motivated. On the other hand, the five million votes for Morsi came from the most wretched part of the population, devoid of political conscience: the votes of people willing to be bought off for a piece of bread and a glass of milk.

    A: But would you agree that the sharpest clashes between the presidency and demonstrators broke out last November as a consequence of the presidential decree that extended Morsi’s powers?

    Samir Amin: Morsi got going with a few weeks of demagogic speechifying, promising to listen to the other political contestants. After that, it soon became clear the extent to which the President was a puppet with the Gulf countries pulling the strings out of sight. He became a mere instrument of the murshid’s will – that of Mohammed Badie, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    A: The historic support to the Palestinians had been shelved as well?

    Samir Amin: The Egyptian Muslim Brothers support Israel, like the Gulf countries and Qatar do. They have always adopted an anti-Zionist discourse, but this was just an ongoing deception. The Qatari Emir, for example, is quite used to saying one thing and then doing the opposite, given the complete absence of public opinion. Now Egypt is supporting the worst type of opposition in Syria, as do the most reactionary western powers. The end result is that the majority of the western weapons furnished to the rebels are being used to finance the very worst outcome in Syria.

    A: Is this why Morsi supported the creation of a Free Trade Area in the Sinai, favouring an economic relationship with Israel?

    Samir Amin: This is a huge loss to Egypt. The effects of the new Free Trade Area will not be the imagined industrialization of the region, but the perpetration of a huge fiscal fraud. This will strengthen small mafias and the dismantling of public assets. In the end, the Brotherhood would accept all the conditions of the International Monetary Fund and the expected loan will accordingly come to fruition despite the fact that corruption and financial scandal have spread all over the country.

    A: So how do you see the acceptance of the Constitution written by the Muslim Brotherhood, last December?

    Samir Amin: This is a dictatorship of the majority. However, judges put up the strongest and indeed an unprecedented fight against the ratification of the constitutional referendum results. But it is clear that the ultimate goal of Freedom and Justice (the political party of the Brotherhood) is to build-up a theocracy on the Iranian model.

    A: To conclude, is there anything left to preserve in this year of Morsi’s presidency?

    Samir Amin: The lumpen proletariat is easily manipulated, and a fortiori would not obtain anything by the upheaval Morsi’s overthrow will bring. Moreover, the division of power the Brotherhood has with the army who is behind the scenes, ready to intervene, is full of ambiguity. The military personnel, as a class, are corrupt – a corruption guaranteed by American help, and carefully composed of segments of different classes, divided into political currents, many of them close to the Brotherhood and the Salafists.

    However, with normal elections, with a period of democratic preparation, the Brotherhood will be beaten. But if this is not going to happen, next October there will be a more repressive climate and the vote will be manipulated by widespread falsification as happened on the previous occasion.

    Quote ends.

    Source: A year of democratic farce

    Samir Amin, Egyptian philosopher and economist, director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, talks about the last year in Egypt with the Brotherhood in power, interviewed by Giuseppe Acconcia.

    Question(s): Does everyone who lives in a country see the situation in which everyone lives in the same light? If there are differences of opinion, why is that? What constitutes a “genuinely” democratic election?

    • “Professor Samir Amin in conversation with Aijaz Ahmad on the realignment of the reactionary forces — the US and NATO, the Monarchies in the region, and Israel. In his view, the Islamists — either in Turkey or the Muslim Brotherhood — are part and parcel of this reactionary block.”
      So, according to this gentleman, the USA [read Wall St and corporate oil], NATO [anyway ruled by the US], Israel [well we know about them] and Saudi Arabia [US’s biggest customer for arms sales] have somehow pulled Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood into some stupendous axis of reactionary evil to . . . do what?
      If he’s right, Norm, I think we may as well all hold hands and hang ourselves – but thank God he isn’t! Especially beware of economists!

      • “If he’s right, Norm, I think we may as well all hold hands and hang ourselves – but thank God he isn’t! Especially beware of economists!”

        (>_<)

        Uh . . . Okay . . . Thank God he isn't, then.

  4. Pingback: Somewhere between believing and cynicism . . . laughter might be what is needed . . . or maybe not . . . | Taking Sides

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