Monday, 29 July 2013

Why the US will not call the Egyptian Coup a Coup.

The Egyptian police's killing of 82 protesters in Cairo who were demanding the the deposed President Morsi be reinstated, has led to accusations of Western hypocrisy for not calling the coup a coup or condemning it forthrightly as they should have been doing.

This is seen as standing in contrast to when Britain and the US lambasted Assad in Syria for crushing opponents in 2011 with his military and thus precipitating a civil war. Typical was Nabila Ramdani's column in The Observer yesterday,(The Arab spring is being stifled by the force of arms.)
'The grotesque murders of ordinary Egyptians by their own military says everything about the non-progress of the Arab spring.. ..Tahrir Square came to symbolise the fleeting glories of the Arab leaders such as Barack Obama endlessly pledged to stop dictators "killing their own people".' 
The fact is that the 'Arab Spring' of 2011 took Washington by surprise no less than the coup and the military takeover of June 3 2013. Obama was content enough to allow Mubarrak to rule provided he looked after US interests, glad to see him be removed peacefully and satisfied enough with Morsi being president.

Instead of bewailing US foreign policies for their supposed inconsistencies, it is better to understand that Washington is less bothered with democracy so much than with stability. If democracy serves stability in Egypt, then the US would support that. So, at present, Washington is hoping that the 'new transition' suceeds.

Clearly it is highly improbable that a military takeover and the use of force to quell pro-Morsi protesters is not going to radicalise those Islamists who were always wary of the MB embracing the ballot box was a waste of time. To a certain extent, the army can then benefit from posing as a 'force for order'.

Moreover, a great number of Egyptians themselves clearly welcomed the coup as protecting the 'Arab Spring'. The army could only act because it knew that Sisi would have popular support. That was nothing to do with Washington and there is no evidence the US authorised them to act.

It is strange that Nabila Ramdani expected the situation to somehow be different. The US funds the Egyptian army to an annual tune of $1.3 bn to uphold Egypt as a bulwark of Western geostrategic interests, especially its pacific relations with Israel and the rich Gulf states that provide the West with oil.

That economic overdependence upon oil from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf has not changed since the growing involvement of the US there and in Egypt and its determination to prevent another oil price shock such as that of 1973. Egypt is a strategic oil transit state with pipelines heading West and the Suez Canal.

In Libya, the West obviously welcomed the popular armed uprising against Gaddafi's regime. Western politicians invoked Gaddafi's threat to destroy the opposition in Benghazi as a pretext to justify providing air support and determine an outcome that was suited to its interests.

Britain and France in particular were prepared to intervene to remove the dictator because, de facto, he no longer could preserve stability in an oil rich land.  Yet, as usual, the idea a military intervention to hasten regime change would create stability was an illusion.30,000 have died since the war ended.

The fact that the British PM David Cameron is not condemning the coup while he was prepared to protect civilians in Libya is because it was in what he believed to be both Libya's and Britain's best interests. Again why Nabila Ramdani expects Britain not to act to protect its perceived energy security interests is odd.

Moral outrage from critics of Western foreign policy is as boring and predictable as politicians trotting out humanitarian concern as a way of rationalising their interventions both to themselves and to a public that demands cheap oil but does not like the idea of wars to ensure that.

Countries such as the US and Britain need start to take overdependence upon oil from the Middle East itself as a national security issue. Pretending they can reorder the region to will when the autocratic regimes they once backed crumble by then switching to backing democracy is a recipe for disaster.

Western foreign policies are based on an inconsistent devotion to being greedy for resources and feeling guilty about the necessary consequences that stem from a history of incessant interference in the affairs of Middle Eastern nations, a recipe for disaster that could drag down Western powers along with it.


  1. In my opinion, there are two aspects to US/UK and other nations' dependence on oil: it is dependence, sure, but on the other hand, it lets these nations 'control' the overall oil supply in the world. (I can't really point to any figures here, and I might be entirely wrong :-) )

    Did you know that the US is experimenting with something called shale gas? They are getting good with it. Other nations like China too are interested if not already using it. India also wants to make use of shale gas technology, and the Americans are using it as one of the deal-makers in our bilateral dealings, but there are environmental and feasibility problems.

    I am not so sure about countries like US and UK, but countries like my India should surely be treating oil over-dependence as a national security issue.

  2. In cases such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the aim was to control the second largest supply of oil in the world. Saudi Arabia was becoming increasingly unreliable as China has made inroads into the Middle East. To 'diversify' supplies and have diplomatic leverage globally, controlling Iraqi oil was considered a 'solution'.

    That backfired almost completely. The billions of dollars squandered on the invasion and occupation only deepened US debt levels and, along with the financial crash of 2008, weakened the position of the US against China. Consequently, the need Iraqi government, dominated by the Shia, parcelled out more oil concessions to China !

    As for shale gas, I doubt if it is going to be substantial enough to reduce the dependency on the Middle East. The other thing is that its not only supply but the price of oil that the US needs to keep down as it tries to recover from the crash. That's why stability in Egypt is important-the oil traffic through the Suez Canal.

    It's difficult to predict exactly what will happen in Egypt. But the US & Britain will only utter token condemnations of the Egyptian army because they have no alternative to tacitly allowing it to repress the Muslim Brotherhood. The US could stop funding it. Yet it would not want chaos in Egypt even if it might get that anyway.