A former leading U.S. military commander asserted that the administration of President Barack Obama worked to destabilize the regimes of Bahrain and Egypt.
[Ret.] Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the administration’s drive against Bahrain, wracked by a Shi’ite revolt, was led by the intelligence community.
“America thought Bahrain was an easy prey that will serve as key to the collapse of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] regime and lead to giant oil companies controlling oil in the Gulf,” Shelton said.
In an interview on the U.S. network Fox News, Shelton said the administration plot was foiled by Bahraini King Hamad in 2011. He said Hamad agreed to a Saudi-sponsored decision by the GCC to send thousands of troops to Bahrain to help quell the Shi’ite revolt, attributed to Iran.
Shelton, who met Hamad during his assignment to the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet, based in Manama, said the administration plot harmed relations with both Bahrain as well as neighboring Saudi Arabia. He said Riyad ended any trust in Washington after it was found to have helped the Shi’ites in Bahrain.
The former Joint Chiefs chairman, who served under President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, said Egypt stopped a drive by Obama to destabilize Egypt in 2013. Shelton said Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul Fatah Sisi, a former intelligence chief, also detected a U.S. plot to support the ruling Muslim Brotherhood amid unprecedented unrest. On July 3, Sisi led a coup that overthrew Egypt’s first Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.
“Had Gen. Al Sisi not deposed Morsi, Egypt would have today become another Syria and its military would have been destroyed,” Shelton said.
Shelton, who did not disclose his sources of information, said Arab allies of the United States have moved away from Washington. He cited the new alliance between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Brotherhood.
“I expect calm to be restored in Egypt,” Shelton said. “Gen. Al Sisi has put an end to the new Middle East project.”
(Reuters) – The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideological affiliates in the Arab Spring uprisings has stoked fears among Gulf Arab governments that the United States may one day abandon its traditional allies as it warms up to Islamists.
While the ruling families in the Gulf are currently vital U.S. allies who buy large amounts of American military hardware and facilitate a significant U.S. military presence, some are apprehensive Washington may apply pressure on them to accommodate Islamists who could end up challenging their exclusive rule.
In a number of colorful online outbursts, Dubai’s outspoken police chief Dhahi Khalfan has warned of an “international plot” to overthrow Gulf systems of government with Western complicity. The Brotherhood, manipulated by the United States, is working to take over the Gulf by 2016, he said.
“Today the Americans are mobilizing the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab nation, for the benefit of America, not the Arabs,” he wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday. “There is an American plan that has been drawn up for the region.”
Though Khalfan insists his tweets are his personal views, analysts and diplomats say they reflect largely unspoken concerns among the United Arab Emirates’ ruling elite about the regional popularity of the Islamists and the possibility that the West will sympathize with them as political underdogs.
They also reflect fears among the region’s Sunni Muslim rulers that, despite being Sunni itself, the Brotherhood is soft on their arch enemy Shi’ite Iran. Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Mursi tried to dissipate such fears at a Tehran conference last week by condemning Iran’s ally Syria and urging attendees to back rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Despite pockets of Western-style liberalism in cities like Dubai, most Gulf ruling elites seek to project an image of Islamic conservatism.
So the threat they see is not religious or social but political: the Brotherhood advocates playing by the rules of parliamentary politics as a path to government, threatening inherited rights to rule and state-backed clerical establishments.
An opposition movement that gains ground in Gulf states could perhaps find the U.S. administration newly disposed to speak out in its favor.
Such an opposition has already emerged in the UAE, where more than 50 Islamists linked to Brotherhood thinking have been arrested since late last year. So far Washington has kept mum.
“While the U.S. security umbrella protects the UAE against threats from Iran, Washington would be much more reluctant to support a widespread crackdown against a local opposition movement,” said analyst Ayham Kamel of the Eurasia Group.
“This is making the political leadership in the UAE much more nervous about domestic threats,” he said.
The Brotherhood also has potential to draw support from Gulf Arabs who may see their countries’ foreign policies as overly pro-Western and are concerned about the social influence of their large Asian and Western expatriate communities.
SEEKING U.S. REASSURANCE
Washington was initially hesitant to openly support the uprisings that toppled Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, partly because of concerns they could bring Islamists to power.
President Barack Obama’s administration has since overcome its reluctance, and has made extensive efforts to engage Egypt’s Brotherhood over the past year.
Analysts say Washington is simply pursuing realpolitik given the new power centers in the region.
“I don’t think the West is keen on having a bunch of Islamists coming to power in the Gulf anytime soon,” said Michael Stephens, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute based in Doha. “It’s more the case that Washington is working with who they can work with, because Islamists are in power and they have to be dealt with.”
U.S. officials said privately that they addressed the Gulf’s concerns last year after Mubarak fell and that subsequent conversations have not focused on the issue. They declined to go into specifics.
“Gulf governments realize both the United States and Iran will want to have relations with the new regimes,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, senior analyst with Cornerstone Global. They just needed to be reassured that those regimes’ gain was not their loss, he said.
Diplomats said they were confident that building good ties with the Brotherhood was unlikely to strain the long-term strategic relationship between the U.S. and Gulf states.
“They (the Gulf states) need the Americans to protect them against Iran. Iran is the biggest worry for them in the whole region right now,” one Gulf-based Western diplomat said, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
YES, BUT …
Still, rumblings persist.
Saudi Arabia, which has long seen itself as insulated from political Islam because of its promotion of more conservative Salafi Islam, is feeling less secure these days, said Abdulaziz Alkhamis, a London-based Saudi analyst.
“After the Arab Spring they (the Islamists) are rising again. They start to use Islamist political rhetoric to gain publicity in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Prominent clerics such as Awadh al-Garni and Salman al-Odah, viewed as sympathetic to the Brotherhood, have become more outspoken, cheering Islamist gains in social media.
Brotherhood-linked Islamists are well-established in Kuwait, where parliamentary politics is most advanced in the Gulf. And in Bahrain the government has drawn closer to the Minbar party, another group inspired by the Brotherhood, as it shores itself up against a protest movement dominated by Shi’ite Islamists.
The angst over what the United States plans for the region is at its most public and visceral in Bahrain, whose government Obama has urged to enter dialogue with leading Shi’ite opposition group Wefaq, citing the group by name.
Sunni clerics and commentators in official media regularly raise the fear that Washington, currently at odds with Tehran over its nuclear program, is plotting to create a Wefaq-led government in a regional reordering of power that would open a new page of cozy ties with Iran.
TV presenter Sawsan al-Shaer denounced a “Satanic alliance” between Tehran and Washington in an article in the al-Watan daily last month, claiming Wefaq was a “Trojan horse, used by the U.S. administration and Iranian regime to redraw the region.”
The wild card in the region is Qatar. It has actively promoted the Brotherhood and its affiliates, giving them coverage widely seen as positive on its satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera.
At an early stage in the uprisings Doha stuck its neck out much further than other Gulf states in its support for protests in Egypt and Tunisia, and then rebel movements in Libya and Syria, supporting those among them close the Brotherhood.
Earlier this year the Dubai police chief railed against Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, a popular Brotherhood-linked Egyptian cleric based in Doha who criticized UAE policy towards Islamists on Al Jazeera. Khalfan threatened to arrest the cleric if he ever entered the country.
Alkhamis said opinion in Saudi Arabia was split over whether Qatar’s close links to the Islamists was a smart move to keep a close eye on a rising movement whose historical time has come, or a ruse to sow discord for its neighbor and sometime rival.
“The Qataris say that if we don’t have the Brotherhood (operating) openly then they will go underground and that it’s not against Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis are not happy with this,” Alkhamis said pointing to Qatar-backed Islamist seminars. “Some think the Qataris are not an honest friend, but have an agenda.”
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington and Raissa Kasolowsky in Abu Dhabi; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Sonya Hepinstall)
- Dubai police chief warns of Muslim Brotherhood threat (dailystar.com.lb)
- Egypt’s Outreach to China and Iran Is Troublesome for U.S. Policy Makers (jafrianews.com)
- ‘Brotherhood’ threatens Gulf (arabtimesonline.com)
Polarcus Limited, a UAE-based owner of hi-tech seismic fleet has announced second quarter 2012 financial results.
The second quarter 2012 was characterized by improved market conditions. This was reflected in the high utilization of 89% in the quarter. Revenues increased largely due to having two more vessels in operation and profitability rose as a function of improved utilization.
Rolf Ronningen, CEO Polarcus, commented on the results: “The second quarter has seen the start of another very active North West Europe season giving rise to a healthy improvement in market conditions, with further stimulus expected to come from major license rounds in both the UK and Norway. Coupled with our continuing focus on operational performance and the efficient and timely delivery of Polarcus Amani and Polarcus Adira, Polarcus has delivered a record utilization in the quarter of 89%, up from 72% in the same quarter last year.”
Looking ahead, Ronningen continued: “We continue to see tangible evidence of a globally developing market underscored by exceptionally high tender activity by the oil companies in the second quarter across all regions, including new exploration frontiers. We expect these tenders on award will contribute to maintaining a robust market outlook through the fourth quarter 2012 and first quarter 2013, effectively reducing some of the market’s traditional cyclicality.”
Highlights in the second quarter 2012:
Revenues of USD 114.3 million, up 74% from Q2 11
EBITDA of USD 42.9 million, up 157% from Q2 11
EBIT of USD 21.9 million, up 657% from Q2 11
Net Cash Flow from operating activities of USD 48.1 million
Polarcus Adira delivered on time and on budget
Fleet backlog extended to an estimated total value of USD 325 million
Vessel utilization at 89%, comprising Contract 81% and Multi-Client 8%
Repaid USD 55 million 13% bond and partly replaced by a USD 410 million fleet bank facility
Successful transfer of shares to the Oslo Stock exchange main list
(Reuters) – Dubai’s chief of police has warned of an “international plot” to overthrow the governments of Gulf Arab countries, saying the region needs to be prepared to counter any threat from Islamist dissidents as well as Syria and Iran.
The comments by Dahi Khalfan, one of the most outspoken security officials in the United Arab Emirates, follow the detention in the UAE since April of at least 20 dissidents, according to relatives of the detainees and activists.
“There’s an international plot against Gulf states in particular and Arab countries in general…This is preplanned to take over our fortunes,” Khalfan told reporters at a gathering late on Wednesday marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“The bigger our sovereign wealth funds and the more money we put in the banks of Western countries, the bigger the plot to take over our countries…The brothers and their governments in Damascus and North Africa have to know that the Gulf is a red line, not only for Iran but also for the Brothers as well.”
Most of the detainees since April are Islamists, targeted by an official clampdown amid concern they may be emboldened by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in other Arab countries such as Egypt.
UAE Interior Ministry officials have not been available to comment on the arrests. Last week, UAE officials announced that authorities were investigating a foreign-linked group planning “crimes against the security of the state”.
“I had no idea that there is this large number of Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf states. We have to be alert and on guard because the wider these groups become, the higher probability there is for trouble,” Khalfan said on Wednesday.
“We are aware that there are groups plotting to overthrow Gulf governments in the long term.”
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world poses a serious threat to Gulf states, Dubai’s police chief said, as he warned of an “international plot” to overthrow Gulf rulers.
Dahi Khalfan, one of the most outspoken security officials in the United Arab Emirates, also accused Shi’ite power Iran and its ally Syria of interfering in the Gulf states, most of which are ruled by Sunni Muslim monarchies.
At least 20 dissidents, most of them Islamists, have been detained in the UAE since April, according to relatives and activists, amid concern they may be emboldened by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in other Arab countries such as Egypt following popular protests.
Gulf Arab states are also wary of Iran which some governments suspect of stirring up unrest in their countries and harboring expansionist ambitions.
“There’s an international plot against Gulf states in particular and Arab countries in general … This is pre-planned to take over our fortunes,” Khalfan told reporters at a gathering late on Wednesday marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“The bigger our sovereign wealth funds and the more money we put in the banks of Western countries, the bigger the plot to take over our countries.”
Last week, UAE officials announced that authorities were investigating a foreign-linked group planning “crimes against the security of the state”.
“I had no idea that there is this large number of Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf states. We have to be alert and on guard because the wider these groups become, the higher probability there is for trouble,” Khalfan said.
“We are aware that there are groups plotting to overthrow Gulf governments in the long term.”
“The brothers and their governments in Damascus and North Africa have to know that the Gulf is a red line, not only for Iran but also for the Brothers as well.”
He did not mention other countries, but some Gulf Arab leaders have implicitly accused the United States, a key ally, of supporting Islamists including the Brotherhood as they came to power over the past year in Egypt and Tunisia.
The Gulf states have also been alarmed by pro-democracy protest movements closer to home in Bahrain and Yemen.
Khalfan’s comments have caused controversy in the past. Last month Egypt’s Foreign Ministry summoned the UAE ambassador to clarify statements by Khalfan on Twitter that were an “attack on Egypt”, according to Egyptian state-run media, which did not cite the remarks that caused offence.
The police chief said on Wednesday that his tweets on local and regional politics were personal and did not necessarily reflect the views of the government of Dubai.
(Reporting by Mirna Sleiman; Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Pravin Char)
- ICM worried over fallout from ‘sabotage cell’ bust (arabtimesonline.com)
- UAE urged to free arrested Internet activists (thehimalayantimes.com)
- UAE Govt afraid of the Arab Spring , speeds up the crack down against the Revolutionaries (jafrianews.com)
- Is West’s Dubai Playground Threatened by Islamist Radicals? (ibtimes.com)
Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan, Dubai’s police chief was quoted yesterday in an interview published in the Kuwaiti daily Al Qabas as saying that the Muslim Brotherhood, the main Islamist force that emerged after the Arab Spring, is plotting to take over Gulf countries.
“My sources say the next step is to make Gulf governments (their ruling families) figurehead bodies only without actual ruling. The start will be in Kuwait in 2013 and in other Gulf states in 2016,” Khalfan said.
Khalfan sparked a controversy after threatening earlier this month to arrest renowned Islamic scholar and leading Brotherhood figure, Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi, for criticising the United Arab Emirates for deporting Syrian protesters.
Reacting to the developments in the UAE, Mahmoud Ghazlan, Spokesman of Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the arrest warrant for Dr Al Qaradawi, Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
Challenging the UAE establishment, Ghazlan said: “The United Arab Emirates cannot dare to arrest Sheikh Al Qaradawi. It is just a physiological war and propaganda. The cleric cannot be arrested.”
Meanwhile, the UAE government has asked the Egyptian authorities to explain its stand on the statement of Ghazlan.
Notably, Dr Al Qaradawi recently criticised the decisions of UAE government to cancel the residency permit of Syrian expatriates for staging protests against Syrian regime in Emirates and withdraw the citizenships of six Islamists who were found involved in terrorism funding.
General Secretary of GCC Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayyan also criticised Ghazlan’s account as an ‘irresponsible statement’.
He added that the statement is also against the efforts of UAE and Egypt to strengthen the bilateral relations.
Khalfan, highlighting the credibility of his statement, said his information is based on “leaks” from Western intelligence sources and said this “had been known to us.”
“If these leaks from Western intelligence were to be correct, by 2016 all Gulf rulers will be just figureheads with no actual power. I am warning Gulf states about these groups”, Khalfan said.
All of the six hydrocarbon-rich GCC member states namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been governed for centuries by ruling families.
Khalfan said the alleged plot will begin in Kuwait because “it is ready more than any other Gulf state… this is a strategy.”
Sunni Islamists made an impressive show in a February 2 snap election in Kuwait, securing more than 20 seats in the 50-member parliament.
- Obama Recruits Qaradawi (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Arab Insult News (ifaynsh.wordpress.com)
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- France launches hunt for Islamic extremists after attacks (vancouversun.com)
- Muslim Brotherhood- History and Ideology (lettingfreedomring.com)
- Kuwait: Ahmad Mansoor, a UAE blogger denied entry (advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org)
- Syria troops shell; Muslim group wants democracy (goerie.com)