Egypt Joins Saudi Arabia and Syria As Opponents of U.S. Attack On Iraq

by DEBKAfile

28 July 2002

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has decided after much agonizing and consultation to keep Egypt out of the upcoming American campaign against Iraq. This exclusive information reaches DEBKAfilefrom sources in Cairo and Madrid – Mubarak’s last port of call. He has also decided not to permit the US to use Egyptian military bases for the campaign.

The Egyptian ruler thus places himself on the same Middle East square occupied by Saudi crown prince Abdullah since last year.
In the last ten days Mubarak, hard pressed to make up his mind, sought advice from friends and allies in Europe. On July 20, he paid an unannounced call on Saudi king Fahd at his holiday palace on the shores of Lake Geneva, followed by a visit to the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Said Nayanan, who is vacationing nearby. Four days later, Mubarak came calling on French president Jacques Chirac in Paris and, on July 26, he held discussions in Madrid with Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar.

According to our sources, the Egyptian ruler solicited support for his decision in all those visits.

Mubarak’s stance has sharpened the divisions in the Arab world and heightened instabilities in at least one capital.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria now lead the opponents of an American military move against Saddam Hussein;
Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar head the proponents.

A. This realignment drops in the middle of a long festering dispute at the top level of the House of Saud. Fresh rumors picked up by DEBKAfile’s Gulf sources speak of a failed attempt on the life of the ailing king Fahd in Jeddah, on or around July 14, shortly before he departed for his summer vacation in Geneva. This incident added fuel to the running feud between the Sudeiri faction of the royal house, led by Fahd and his full brother, defense minister Prince Sultan (the leading contender for the succession against Abdullah and father of the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar), and the group led by their half-brother, the regent Abdullah.

B. Riyadh now shows an angry face to the Gulf Emirates siding with US action against Baghdad. The Saudis have stopped attending Gulf Security Cooperation Council meetings, refusing to sit at the same table as rulers they look down on as American collaborators. Saudi-Qatari ties have been effectively severed, with Qatari notables no longer welcome in the oil kingdom, while Saudi relations with Kuwait have likewise soured.

C. On the flip side of the coin, Jordanian military and businessmen are suddenly welcome in Kuwait for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War when Jordan sided with Iraq. Jordan and Qatar have also struck up a warm friendship.

The report of an attempt to murder King Fahd is the talk of the moment in the Gulf. It is claimed that on July 14, the monarch’s bodyguard fought off a band of 5 to 7 intruders, who gained entry to the palace courtyard in Jeddah through one of the main gates after setting off a large explosive charge. Three of the would be assassins were killed; the rest fled when armed reinforcements poured in from neighboring princely palaces, together with a contingent of the special Saudi counter-terror force. The bodies were identified as Saudi members of al Qaeda who fought in Afghanistan, escaped through Iran and arrived home last January. The identity of one of the dead assailants seriously heated factional tempers in the royal family; he is said to have been a member of the Wahhabist Uteiba tribe, loyal adherents of crown prince Abdullah.