The Arab revolutions have opened up conflicts within the ruling classes of the Middle East. Along with crushing any opposition movements and the working classes in their own countries, they are also fighting amongst themselves to be the dominant power in the region.
In this war of attrition, friends become foes and vice versa. However, these rulers have clear class interests and want at any cost to safeguard their own luxurious lifestyles in this decaying capitalist system and its brutal state apparatus. But the contradictions that have piled up over decades are coming to the fore and blowing away all their efforts to maintain the status quo and some semblance of normality under the rule of Capital.
In one of these events the killing of hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood activists in Egypt by the Army has not only raised concerns from many quarters around the world but also brought to the surface the rivalry between two puppets of US imperialism in the Middle East.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar have long served the interests of US imperialism in the whole region and have become bastions of reaction and counter-revolution. From providing Ben Ali of Tunisia a safe home in Saudi Arabia to financing the Taliban and reactionary Islamic Fundamentalists in the whole world, the House of Saud has long been a pawn of Imperialism since it was brought to power by the imperialists in 1932. However, the Arab revolution that erupted in 2011 has had a strong impact inside Saudi Arabia and movements in Al Qatif and other parts of the Kingdom have erupted time and again. Along with the crushing of these movements inside their own country the Saudis also introduced a reform package of $10 billion for the youth using a traditional ploy of the carrot and the stick. At the same time the Saudi Arabian army is also fiercely crushing the recurring revolutionary mass revolt in neighbouring Bahrain. Recent legislation and crackdowns against immigrant workers are also causing unrest in Saudi Arabia and the regime is shaking with fear of an upsurge inside the kingdom.
Qatar too became the blue-eyed boy of US Imperialism when Sheikh Hammad bin Khalifa al Thani came to power in 1995 after toppling his father in a bloodless coup. In the 2003 US invasion of Iraq Qatar served as the headquarters of the US central command (CENTCOM).
With large reserves of oil and gas Qatar has a total population of 1.87 million out of which only 15 percent are Qatari citizens while the rest of them are immigrant workers from south Asian and Arab countries. These large reserves of gas have helped make Qatar the richest country in the world with the highest per capita income. However, the incomes of immigrant workers, who make up 94 percent of the working class, are not included in these statistics.
The brutal exploitation of a working class which endures harsh living conditions alongside the amassing of huge wealth has pushed the Qatari rulers towards a policy of regional domination and it started exporting Capital for its imperialist ambitions. Sheikh Hammad of Qatar was the first head of state to visit the Hamas controlled Gaza strip in October 2012 and the visit inaugurated a project to build 1000 homes in Gaza for poor families. This was an effort to salvage the declining popularity of Hamas, a sister organization of the Brotherhood, in Palestine and Qatar openly promoted its Imperialist goals in the region. This clearly shows the hypocrisy of Imperialist forces and Islamic fundamentalists.
The US and the European Union, despite declaring Hamas a terrorist organization, conveniently support the conniving of their pawns in Hamas’s activities.
This hypocracy of Imperialism exposes a covert agreement between the Imperialist powers and Islamic fundamentalism. After the fall of Mubarak these Islamic fundamentalists have once again become a key ally of Imperialist policy in the region. Qatari Emir Sheikh Hammad has been in the forefront of executing this policy in the region.
Sheikh Hamad’s visit to Gaza, and around 5 billion dollars of financial support to Morsi’s government in Egypt after it came to power, reveal its vested interests in the Brotherhood and its network in the whole region.This aid is more than the total loan from the IMF which Morsi applied for after coming to power.
This influence is not only limited to Egypt and Gaza but also extends to Tunisia where Ennahda’s Ghannuchi came to power after the over throw of Ben Ali. Ennahda is also a sister organization of the Brotherhood and Ghannuchi is frantically trying to balance between his support from Qatar and opposition from the Saudis. In the meantime he is facing the wrath of the Tunisian masses that have come out in huge numbers against his government. His frequent trips to Washington are a reflection of his diminishing role and the weakness of the Tunisian state.
Apart from agreements between the US imperialists and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, the Saudi Arabian regime strongly differs from the Brotherhood and wants to continue its policy through its own proxies. In the first place, it tried to save Mubarak from falling even after the US was in no position to save him amid growing protests. There were reports of a heated conversation between King Abdullah and Obama when the US later tried to ditch its long time ally and allowed the army to depose Mubarak and take the situation under its control. King Abdullah saw his own future in what was happening to Mubarak and he fears that the US may try to ditch him if his regime should face a similar situation. This prompted the Saudis to pursue their own policy of regional domination by supporting proxies loyal to them.
After the electoral farce in Egypt under the control of the Army, the Brotherhood came to power after an agreement with the US in which Qatar played the mediating role.
The Saudi regime has a long history of dislike for the Brotherhood due to its political ambitions even inside the Gulf kingdoms. The Brotherhood was never able to win trust from Saudi Arabia. However, after the presidential election that brought Morsi to power, the Saudis had to be satisfied with their protégé Salafists getting a share in Morsi’s government.
The Salafists and the Brotherhood both ensured the US and other Imperialist powers their complete subjugation by following their dictates slavishly. Loans from the IMF and other financial institutions were allowed, although Islam as a religion forbids usury in the form of interest payments of any kind.
While supporting Morsi in Egypt, Sheikh Hammad of Qatar has been strengthening his influence in Yemen. The eruption of the Arab revolutions without any clear Bolshevik leadership to overthrow the rotten capitalist system, has given space to regional players like Qatar to intervene in the region and bring their puppet regimes to power. After the eruption of the movement against Saleh in Yemen, Qatar was the first country to demand his abdication. Since then the Brotherhood has been getting huge funds from Qatar enabling them to gain enormous influence inside Yemen and they recently pushed President Mansur Hadi to visit Doha in July. The Saudis have revealed their displeasure over this visit. Qatar has also funded the establishment of the Yemeni Youth TV channel, which is affiliated to the Brotherhood. These strategic ties with the incumbent Yemeni regime have seriously threatened the Saudis and they were looking for ways to get rid of the Brotherhood and Qatari influence in their own backyard.
After the second revolution in Egypt on 30th July, when close to 20 million people came out onto the streets against Morsi, the Saudis got their chance to intervene. Once again the revolution succeeded in overthrowing Morsi and claimed victory but the whole Capitalist system with its draconian state apparatus was left intact. The bourgeois media portrayed this unprecedented revolution of the masses as an Army coup and tried to create a phantom of a conflict between Democracy and Dictatorship. In reality, people came out onto the streets to protest against their falling living standards, unemployment, price hikes and other economic issues. They had realized that even after the fall of Mubarak their economic conditions were declining and the government was following the same capitalist policies. But due to the lack of a revolutionary party this revolution could not succeed in overthrowing Capitalism.
At this time the Saudis intervened and completely backed the Egyptian generals to take control of the whole situation and prop up the monstrous state to prevent it from falling under the pressure of the revolutionary movement. The Salafists had already distanced themselves from Morsi when they saw a mass movement growing against him. Since then they have again been brought to power in the interim government under Al Sisi. The Saudis also manoeuvered for Mubarak’s release from jail. They might be thinking of using him in the future if the situation warrants it in order to re-impose all the “monsters” hated by the working class and even to take back even the symbolic gains of the revolution.
The business tycoons behind the Brotherhood want to cling to power and continue to plunder the booty through state power. They have no objections to complying with policies dictated by US imperialism. Qatar also saw itself losing its major influence in the region and heavily funded the Brotherhood to regain its lost position. Though the Qatari Foreign Minister has openly denied any allegations of funding the Brotherhood after the fall of Morsi, the overall situation tells another story.
Recently, Saudi media outlets have leaked reports of Qatari support to the tune of $80 million to the Brotherhood in Yemen. Also according to these reports, “Muslim Brotherhood figures loyal to Qatar stood behind the recruitment of tens of thousands of conscripts into the Yemeni army and security forces in the years since the Arab Spring revolutions began.”
With the Saudis getting a stronghold again in Egypt huge sums of money to Al Sisi were pumped in as aid. There were pledges of $12 billion from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE out of which $6 billion have already been transferred. With the Saudis backing Al Sisi he doesn’t even have to worry about loans and funding from the IMF and other Imperialist financial institutions. The reason behind these loans, however, is to crush the Brotherhood and Qatari influence in Egypt and beyond.
Recently, in an interview with the French daily newspaper Le Monde, the Egyptian General Amr said with remarkable frankness that he is prepared to oversee a campaign that would essentially be aimed at “purging” Egypt of political Islam. “There are 90 million Egyptians and there are only three million [members of] the Muslim Brotherhood. We need six months to liquidate or imprison them all,” he said in this interview.
But the slogan of purging political Islam while at the same time having Salafists in the interim government seems contradictory. ‘Political Islam’ here means the Brotherhood and their ideology of forming political governments even in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Whereas the Salafists are faithfully following the Saudi dictates and consider the kingdoms in the Gulf as Islamic. In frustration, the Brotherhood has even attacked Coptic Christians in Egypt and burnt their churches to show their wrath. The Brotherhood’s bullets also killed many soldiers, though they have denied this.
Another religious outfit to suffer in this rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the Taliban in Afghanistan. They had started negotiations with the Americans as US forces are planning to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. After these friendly negotiations with the same enemies against whom the war was started in 2001, and during which time hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed or injured, the Taliban were offered the opening of an embassy in Doha.
The Taliban have never been a homogenous force and until now dozens of groups supported by various imperialist powers have been operating as the Taliban. So it was difficult to choose who would represent these mercenaries in Doha. A careful list was prepared on advice from the Pakistani ISI and the ‘office’ was opened with the news flashed in all the media. But soon after that the puppet president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, spoke openly against his masters and objected to this move. Also many important mercenaries of the Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists objected to the list of representatives, as they had not been included. But since the Saudi fallout with Qatar, this embassy in Doha has already been in the doldrums and the Taliban have been asked to shift it to some other country. According to their statement it could be either Saudi Arabia or Dubai. This shows the strong grip of the Saudis over the vital Taliban factions.
Meanwhile, the Saudis have once again brought their favourite protégé Nawaz Sharif back into power through a farce of a general election in Pakistan. Sharif was living in exile in Saudi Arabia for ten years when General Musharraf toppled his government in a bloodless coup in 1999. He is also a favourite of some sections of the Taliban and other fundamentalist outfits operating in Pakistan.
Another battlefield of this proxy war is Syria. Qatar is supporting the Ahfad al Rasul Brigade in the war against Assad. While, according to some reports, Jabhat al Nusra is also being supported by the Qataris. The Syrian Brotherhood is also getting its support from Doha. However, there are many fundamentalist organizations sponsored by the Saudis, including Al Qaeda. Even the Taliban are being exported to Syria from Afghanistan and Pakistan to defend the interests of their Saudi masters.
With the increasing hostility between Qatar and the Saudis and the killing of hundreds of Brotherhood activists in Egypt by the Army, the rivalry between their proxies in Syria has intensified. Despite the war and the fierce attacks from Assad’s army, these factions of Islamic fundamentalists are fighting among themselves for loot and plunder. Dozens of them have been killed not by the bullets of the Syrian army but by Jihadists from other militant outfits. This made them more desperate for financial and military support from the US and European imperialist powers. Although no one is sure who used chemical weapons in Syria the other week, with the desperation of these fundamentalist forces and the frustration of the Saudis to strengthen their stronghold in the region, the allegations of the Syrian and Russian governments that opposition forces in Syria were responsible are not out of place. Already Al Qaeda linked mercenaries had killed a leading figure of the Free Syrian Army, Kamal Hamai, in July, which exposed the rift between the various factions of the opposition.
However, this entire situation has exposed the complete hypocrisy of the diplomacy and politics of the bourgeoisie on a world scale. For many years people around the world were told that the US Army and Al Qaeda are bitter enemies and that is why billions of dollars had been spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, both will be fighting together in Syria against Assad’s army if there is an attack by the US on Syria. The Taliban, we were told, were also the enemies of the civilized world and now they are once again friends and have diplomatic relations after thousands of tons of bombs were dropped in Afghanistan.
The Muslim world was told that the Jews were their enemies and Israel has to be destroyed at any cost. But now we see the protectors of holy places in Saudi Arabia having a covert close friendship with Israel aiming for a joint operation against the Syrian Army. From a “clash of civilizations” and the “war against terrorism” we now see former enemies becoming friends of terrorism. All those who were terrorists not so long ago are now allies. The so-called conflict between democracy and dictatorship in Egypt is nothing but a fight within the ruling class to own and control the wealth of the system. Both these methods of class rule are used to continue this capitalist brutality. And above all while the US wants “democracy” in Iraq and Syria the reactionary and despotic rulers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are its best friends.
All this diplomatic farce has been exposed due to the revolutionary movements in the Arab world. These brutal monarchs are trembling in their shoes with the prospects of revolutions in their own countries and meeting a similar fate to that of Qaddafi or Mubarak. Though they have common class interests in getting a hold of the situation and preserving the status quo and the brutal state apparatuses they have built, the rage and anger of the working class is unfolding and therefore big events and unprecedented conflicts in the whole region and beyond will undermine their grip.
With a serious economic crisis at home, the US Imperialists are worried about the conflicts among their allies in the Arab world. Turkey’s Erdogan, who is also a key ally in the region, has been facing the wrath of his own people in the largest demonstrations in the last twenty years. He was pursuing imperialist designs in the region when the movement inside his own country thwarted all his ambitions. His speeches against Assad in the refugee camps on the Syrian border have backfired. His intervention in Iraq and the military operations against the Kurds have met with fierce resistance. All this is leading Iraq yet again into a sectarian bloodbath. The Kurdish national question has again flared up with both Assad and Erdogan using it for their own vested interests.
Israel is continuing its Imperialist expansion and is building more colonies in Palestinian territory. A revolutionary movement inside Israel has already shown the way forward on the Palestinian issue. It clearly lies in the solidarity of the Palestinian and Israeli working class against the ruling class of Israel and Palestine. The only way to bring back peace in the region and create employment and better living standards for the masses is to overthrow the Zionist state of Israel and move towards a socialist federation of the Middle East, within which all peoples would have a right to live.
In addition, opposition to the US from the Russian, Chinese and Iranian ruling classes is creating more worries for them. The rulers of these countries have a common interest in maintaining capitalism so in this sense they have a common interest with the US, despite their apparent differences. But they are battling with growing class contradictions in their own countries and regions and are forced to act in opposition to the US. Putin already crushed a mass movement against him in the winter of 2011. Iran is facing a serious economic crisis and a revolutionary movement is brewing inside. Their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Assad in Syria is only there to salvage their regional authority and save their own imperialist interests. Iran has also tried to derail the revolutionary movement in Bahrain along sectarian lines. It is also giving out huge sums of money to Shia militant outfits in Pakistan to accentuate its own domination. China’s economic growth is already shrinking and the labour movement is gaining momentum.
Wars breed revolutions.This situation will lead to big social explosions in the coming period and we will see unprecedented revolutionary movements of the masses in the whole region. If there had been a genuine revolutionary party on the lines of the Bolshevik party of Russia in 1917 in any of these countries, the situation would have been entirely different. However, the time is now ripe to consolidate the revolutionary forces and move towards the overthrow of the whole capitalist system, which the reactionary regimes are trying to perpetuate.
In the coming period there will be more splits in the ruling classes and apart from fighting with rulers of other imperialist countries there will also be fights inside the ruling classes of each country. Also efforts to consolidate all the forces of the ruling class will be made and short periods of relative stability can come, but all this will end up in more splits and infighting. Even fierce enemies will turn into friends and friends at one time will become bitter enemies at another. Even an alliance between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian Army cannot be ruled out in the future but at the same time splits in the ranks of the army and coups are also likely. The Brotherhood is already splitting and further breaks in its rank and file are possible.
Wars and civil wars can’t be avoided in this situation and in the meanwhile the warmongers of the military industrial complex and manufacturers of weapons of mass destruction will have an eye for more profits and sales from these bloody conflicts. Germany has already increased its arms sales to the Middle East. In first six months of 2013 Germany sent more than 800 million Euros of combat weapons to this region out of which Qatar has bought 635 million Euros. In 2012 record sales of weapons to the Middle East by Germany were worth 1.42 billion Euros, a record sum which seems to be on the way to being surpassed in 2013. Out of the 1.42 billion Saudi Arabia bought weapons worth 1.24 billion Euro. Huge sums of money are being used to buy weapons while millions are forced to live in poverty and misery without basic health facilities.
Military Industrial complexes around the world will push the ruling classes towards more wars. At the moment the economic crisis and movements of the working classes against austerity measures are hampering their ventures. But they are already cultivating excuses to swing public opinion in favour of these wars for regional supremacy.
Mass movements have already torn apart this farce and movements in Israel and the Arab world have expressed the unity of people along class lines. Events unfolding on a world scale are once again exposing the false divide imposed on people on religious, national, ethnic, sectarian and linguistic lines. New upheavals will help more to understand the real class nature of these conflicts. In the heat of this volatile situation a revolutionary party has to be built.
The working masses of the Middle East will learn fast under the hammer blows of these events and revolutionary conclusions will be drawn. It is the duty of Marxists to lead them forward towards the final goal of socialist revolution and build a socialist federation of the Middle East to end this continuing holocaust of Capitalism once and for all. This is the only way forward to peace and prosperity in the Middle East and the whole world.
Originally published on In Defence of Marxism