“…President Obama’s trip to Israel was widely hailed as a great success. Though, in the opinion of many, long overdue [State Department officials were urging the White House to reach out to the Israeli public from the time of his 2009 Cairo speech to the Moslem World]. Nonetheless, even the President’s most vocal critics, privately conceded that it was, at least, a major public relations coup. And by pulling off a last minute phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Turkish counterpart Prime Minister Erdogan, which seems to have resulted in the beginnings of a rapproachment between the one time allies and close friends of the US, he also appeared to add substance to his visit..
Nonetheless, his visit and that of his newly minted Secretary of State, John Kerry, made little in the way of progress on the most intractable problems in the region. As one State Department official put it, “We have gotten nowhere on the Iranian nuclear issue, Syria continues its slide into ever more violent chaos and little remarked upon but uppermost in the minds of many of us, is the downward economic and political spiral that is occuring in Egypt.
The latter issue was the subject of intense discussions between Kerry and Gulf leaders in Riyadh. While Syria may have topped their list of concerns, the US pressed first and most vigorously on the question of aid to Egypt. The Moslem Brotherhood-led government of Mohamed Morsi has, in the words of one US expert “badly mismanaged” the Egyptian economy. An International Monetary Fund delegation, which visited Cairo 10 days ago, was again frustrated in its attempts to get Morsi & Co. to deal with the ruinous state of the Egyptian economy, first by reducing, if not eliminating state subsidies [To be fair to Morsi, says one State Department veteran, when former President Mubarak tried to reduce food subsidies, his efforts were met by wide spread rioting]. Still, Kerry tried to push the wealthy Gulf States to provide financial support, or at least investment in Egypt. But the answer, according to well-placed US officials, was a resounding `No’.
In fact, US officials consider some of the Gulf states to be working against the current Egyptian regime. In particular, the United Arab Emirates has been vocal in its opposition to the “Brothers”. Meanwhile, there are a number of wealthy Saudi supporters of the even more radical Salafists in Egypt, and they have become more active than ever. As one veteran US official sums up the situation: “Egypt is too big to fail. This is a country that controls one of the world’s most important waterways [The Suez Canal] and whose population comprises one quarter of the Arab world]….the US has been unable to “light a fire” under the Gulfis on Egypt, the reverse can be said to be the case with the Gulf states’, led by Qatar, to get the US more involved in the chaos that is now Syria. Once again acting like “The Mouse that Roared,” Qatar has led the charge to overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus. …. But to the Gulf states and increasingly our French and British allies, the goal of Assad’s removal as soon as possible trumps the concerns about which group will gain the upper hand if the regime in Damascus collapses. …
If published reports are accurate, there has been some movement by the Administration towards greater involvement. “With increased humanitarian aid, some covert support based in Jordan and the high profile visit by Kerry to Baghdad to persuade the Iraqis to stop facilitating Iranian supplies to Assad, we are, says one US official, willy-nilly winding up on the side of the Sunnis, in their fight against Iran” (and the so-called Shia-arc that stretches from Teheran to Beirut). …”