Is Egypt in Play & Why is it the Prize?

August 16, 2002

Comment:: #457

Discussion Thread - Comment #s - 453, 435

Attached References: [1] Jack Shafer "The PowerPoint That Rocked the Pentagon: The LaRouchie defector who's advising the defense establishment on Saudi Arabia," Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2002, at 4:49 PM PT,,  Excerpts attached.

This blaster contains two short email messages which respond to the astounding reference to Egypt made in the conclusion of the infamous 10 July Rand briefing to the Defense Policy Board by Laurent Murawiec [Reference 1 below gives one reporter's view of Murawiec and reproduces the text of the briefing—you may want to read both before continuing].

As you may recall from the world-wide flurry of reports about this briefing, Murawiec declared Saudi Arabia to be the enemy of the United States. He advocated that the United States invade the country, seize its oil fields, and confiscate its financial assets unless the Saudis stop supporting the anti-Western terror network. He concluded the briefing with amazing statement of what he called a Grand Strategy for the Middle East, namely, that—

  • Iraq is the tactical pivot

  • Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot

  • Egypt the prize

Deep thinking or Hogwash?

Not only is the briefing an assemblage of selectively sloppy history [it implicitly assumes, for example, that actions of the West have nothing to do with the evolution of today's problems in the Middle East—for example, that the duplicity of the Sykes-Picot agreement has no force in that evolution—see Comment #435], the author's statement about grand strategy shows that he does not understand the difference between the (destructive) aims of a military strategy and the (constructive) aims of a nation's grand strategy—in effect, making the same mistake the German General Staff made before and during World War I with its infamous Schlieffen Plan and its subsequent invasion of neutral Belgium in 1914 [see Comment #453]—a mistake the entire world paid dearly for.

But set aside Murawiec's obviously dilettantish mistake, his grand-strategic misstatement about Egypt raises an puzzling question—a question that does not seem to have interested the American press, other than being labeled as a "tad loopy," according in the Slate report attached below.

Is Egypt in Play? And why is Egypt the prize?

The two short notes below may provide some initial insights into these questions.

Note #1 is from a source who lives in and has lived and worked in Egypt for many years. He is temporarily in US on personal business and will return in a few weeks. Note #2 is from an international banker who specializes in the Middle East—I asked him to comment on Note #1.

Beneath Note #2 is the article from which reports on the background of the author of the briefing and contains a text version of the briefing's slides

Note #1

Perhaps my pessimism about Egypt will lift again in the fall when I return there with refreshed spirits; my assessment of the place often goes up and down. However, the basic facts of the situation do not look good.

Egypt's economy is quietly teetering on the brink of an Argentina-style fiasco, as measured not only by rumors but also by the now near-impossibility of obtaining hard currencies there. (I had to beg even to get some Saudi Riyals for this trip; Euros and Dollars were absolutely impossible.) Mubarak seems increasingly unpopular with the Egytpian people.

Saededdin Ibrahim has, incredibly, been returned to prison after a ridiculous second trial. That poor guy. The true story of his case, as you may have read somewhere, is that he made the mistake of saying in public that Mubarak is grooming his son Gamal as successor, which is true of course. This is a highly sensitive issue, with most of the Egyptian public completely opposed to it. (I am also not too impressed with Gamal based on the one time I saw him.)

Best wishes,


Note #2

I am not very current on the specifics of Egyptian affairs these days but there are few places though where the boundaries of life care so stark. When I lived there in 1977 - 78 the population was around half of the current 70 million or so and the place was gagging then. When you consider that the livable land area is around the size of Rhode Island (compared to a total land area some three times New Mexico, it is mind boggling that the place has been as stable as it has. I don't know how much money we have pumped into it via arms sales and other programs, but it must have been a lot. The political system is flexible in many ways, but succession is not one of them. I can understand why the writer [of Note #1] is so pessimistic, especially in light of events of the last year.

It is funny that you brought this up; I have been thinking about Egypt ever since reading [the conclusion of] Murawiec's briefing [see Ref 1 below]: "Iraq is the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot and Egypt the prize." This makes no sense unless you are a "Nile to the Euphrates" Zionist, but there seem to be lots of those emerging from the woodwork these days. An Arab axis financed by oil from Iraq and Saudi Arabia with an employment safety valve for surplus Egyptian labour in the Gulf area is of course an idea that goes back at least to Nasser.

Conversely if you are intent on being a Zionist, it makes sense to attack the financing leg of this structure because that neutralises your inferiority in numbers against Egypt. Talk about mind boggling - the idea that these guys might want to carry the war to Egypt is really something.

Say it ain't so.

Who know what is so in the virtual reality that Versailles on the Potomac? Perhaps Dr. Werther will be able to answer this question.

Chuck Spinney

Reference 1

"The PowerPoint That Rocked the Pentagon—The LaRouchie defector who's advising the defense establishment on Saudi Arabia."

By Jack Shafer

Posted Wednesday, August 7, 2002, at 4:49 PM PT



The briefing declared Saudi Arabia an enemy of the United States and advocated that the United States invade the country, seize its oil fields, and confiscate its financial assets unless the Saudis stop supporting the anti-Western terror network.


 Murawiec's PowerPoint scenario, which is reproduced for the first time below, makes him sound like an aspiring Dr. Strangelove. Just who the hell is Laurent Murawiec?


 According to Newsday, Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard N. Perle, a former Pentagon official and full-time invade-Iraq hawk, invited Murawiec to brief the group, so Perle can't exactly distance himself from the presentation. But he can do the next best thing-duck reporters' questions. Murawiec also declined reporters' inquiries, including one from Slate.

The first half of Murawiec's presentation reads calmly enough, echoing Fareed Zakaria's Oct. 15, 2001, Newsweek essay about why the Arab world hates the United States. Its tribal, despotic regimes bottle up domestic dissent but indulge the exportation of political anger; intellectually, its people are trapped in the Middle Ages; its institutions lack the tools to deal with 21st-century problems; yadda yadda yadda. But then Murawiec lights out for the extreme foreign policy territory, recommending that we threaten Medina and Mecca, home to Islam's most holy places, if they don't see it our way. Ultimately, he champions a takeover of Saudi Arabia. The last slide in the deck, titled "Grand strategy for the Middle East," abandons the outrageous for the incomprehensible. It reads:

  • Iraq is the tactical pivot

  • Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot

  • Egypt the prize

Egypt the prize?


 It sounds a tad loopy, even by Dr. Strangelove standards. The Post report does mention a "talking point" attached to the 24-page PowerPoint deck that describes Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East. That's extreme talk even by the standards of the anti-Saudi editorialists at the Weekly Standard and the rest of the invade-Iraq fellowship.

Who is Laurent Murawiec, and where did he learn to write like this? The George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs' Web site lists him as a faculty member, but it lists no current or future classes by him.


Murawiec's résumé would predict many Nexis hits, but a search of his name reveals just five bylines: Twice already this year, Murawiec has contributed to the neocon publication the National Interest, on the subject of Russia. [Correction: Murawiec wrote for the National Interest once in 2000 and once in 2002. The topic both times was Russia.] In 1999 he wrote for the Post's "Outlook" section on "internationalism," and in 1996 he contributed a piece to the Journal of Commerce on Russia. His only other Nexis-able byline is a dusty one from the Jan. 23, 1985, edition of the Financial Times, which describes Murawiec as "the European Economics Editor of the New York-based Executive Intelligence Review weekly magazine."

Executive Intelligence Review, as scholars of parapolitics know, is a publication of the political fantasist, convicted felon, and perpetual presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.


Now that Murawiec has assumed such a vocal place in the policy debate, the man who gave him the lectern owes us the complete back-story. Over to you, Richard Perle.

Laurent Murawiec's 24-slide presentation to the Defense Policy Board was obtained by Slate and is presented here in type-treatment that approximates the original.

Taking Saudi Out of Arabia

Laurent Murawiec RAND
Defense Policy Board
July 10, 2002



Taking Saudi out of Arabia: Contents

* The Arab Crisis * "Saudi" Arabia * Strategies



The Arab Crisis



The systemic crisis of the Arab World

* The Arab world has been in a systemic crisis for the last 200 years * It missed out on the industrial revolution, it is missing out on the digital revolution * Lack of inner resources to cope with modern world



Shattered Arab self-esteem

* Shattered self-esteem * Could God be wrong? * Turn the rage against those who contradict God: the West, object of hatred * A whole generation of violently anti-Western, anti-American, anti-modern shock-troops



What has the Arab world produced?

* Since independence, wars have been the principal output of the Arab world * Demographic and economic problems made intractable by failure to establish stable polities aiming at prosperity * All Arab states are either failing states or threatened to fail



The Crisis of the Arab world reaches a climax

* The tension between the Arab world and the modern world has reached a climax * The Arab world's home-made problems overwhelm its ability to cope * The crisis is consequently being exported to the rest of the world



How does change occur in the Arab world?

* There is no agora, no public space for debating ideas, interests, policies * The tribal group in power blocks all avenues of change, represses all advocates of change * Plot, riot, murder, coup are the only available means to bring about political change



The continuation of politics by other means?

* In the Arab world, violence is not a continuation of politics by other means—violence is politics, politics is violence * This culture of violence is the prime enabler of terrorism * Terror as an accepted, legitimate means of carrying out politics, has been incubated for 30 years ...



The crisis cannot be contained to the Arab world alone

* The crisis has irreversibly spilled out of the region * 9/11 was a symptom of the "overflow" * The paroxysm is liable to last for several decades * U.S. response will decisively influence the duration and outcome



"Saudi" Arabia



The old partnership

* Once upon a time, there was a partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia * Partnerships, like alliances, are embodied in practices, ideas, policies, institutions, people—which persist after the alliance has died



"Saudi" Arabia

* An instable group: Since 1745, 58% of all rulers of the House of Saud have met a violent demise * Wahhabism loathes modernity, capitalism, human rights, religious freedom, democracy, republics, an open society—and practices the very opposite * As long as enmity had no or little consequences outside the kingdom, the bargain between the House of Saud and the U.S. held



Means, motive, opportunity

* 1973: Saudi Arabia unleashes the Oil Shock, absorbs immense flows of resources—means * 1978: Khomeiny challenges the Saudis' Islamic credentials, provoking a radicalization and world-wide spread of Wahhabism in response—motive * 1979-1989: the anti-Soviet Jihad gives life and strength to the Wahhabi putsch within Sunni Islam—opportunity. The Taliban are the result



The impact on Saudi policy

* Wahhabism moves from Islam's lunatic fringe to center-stage—its mission now extends world-wide * Saudis launch a putsch within Sunni Islam * Shift from pragmatic oil policy to promotion of radical Islam * Establish Saudi as "the indispensable State"—treasurers of radical, fundamentalist, terrorist groups



Saudis see themselves

* God placed the oil in the kingdom as a sign of divine approval * Spread Wahhabism everywhere, but keep the power of the al-Saud undiminished * Survive by creating a Wahhabi-friendly environment—fundamentalist regimes—throughout the Moslem world and beyond



The House of Saud today

* Saudi Arabia is central to the self-destruction of the Arab world and the chief vector of the Arab crisis and its outwardly-directed aggression * The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader * Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies * A daily outpouring of virulent hatred against the U.S. from Saudi media, "educational" institutions, clerics, officials—Saudis tell us one thing in private, do the contrary in reality






What is to be done?

* During and after World War I, Britain's India Office backed the House of Saud; the Foreign Office backed the Hashemites. The India Office won * But the entire post-1917 Middle East settlement designed by the British to replace the Ottoman Empire is fraying * The role assigned to the House of Saud in that arrangement has become obsolete—and nefarious



"Saudi Arabia" is not a God- given entity

* The House of Saud was given dominion over Arabia in 1922 by the British * It wrested the Guardianship of the Holy Places—Mecca and Medina—from the Hashemite dynasty * There is an "Arabia," but it needs not be "Saudi"



An ultimatum to the House of Saud

* Stop any funding and support for any fundamentalist madrasa, mosque, ulama, predicator anywhere in the world * Stop all anti-U.S., anti-Israeli, anti-Western predication, writings, etc., within Arabia * Dismantle, ban all the kingdom's "Islamic charities," confiscate their assets * Prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including in the Saudi intelligence services



Or else ...

* What the House of Saud holds dear can be targeted: -Oil: the old fields are defended by U.S. forces, and located in a mostly Shiite area -Money: the Kingdom is in dire financial straits, its valuable assets invested in dollars, largely in the U.S. -The Holy Places: let it be known that alternatives are being canvassed



Other Arabs?

* The Saudis are hated throughout the Arab world: lazy, overbearing, dishonest, corrupt * If truly moderate regimes arise, the Wahhabi-Saudi nexus is pushed back into its extremist corner * The Hashemites have greater legitimacy as Guardians of Mecca and Medina



Grand strategy for the Middle East * Iraq is the tactical pivot * Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot

* Egypt the prize