US military intervention in Egypt is prompting speculation over motives. Extraction of American citizens is the stated objective, but does evacuating the American expat community in Egypt warrant the flotilla of US warships recently positioned in the Suez Canal? Does evacuating this expat community warrant the helicopters, Special Forces squads, and 2,200 Marines aboard those ships? Here in the land of endless budget cuts, the obvious answer is “doubtful”.
While protests flare across North Africa, why would the US stir up already seething anti-American sentiment in the region with such a move? Could today’s intervention lead to a long-term, “stabilizing” US presence in Egypt? Or could these events presage something far greater? What of Egypt’s neighbor to the East – Saudi Arabia – home to a quarter of world oil reserves?
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is clearly defying US pressure to step down from an office he’s held for nearly 30 years. Continued port strikes and unrest threaten vital ship traffic along the Suez Canal, and the likelihood of imminent military extraction of American citizens may present a tantalizing opportunity for oil elites to close the circle around the Arabian peninsula and place a major US force presence in Egypt – a presence with a potentially ominous goal: the eventual destabilization and Balkanization of the Arabian peninsula.
The Saudi royals are clearly opposed to US intervention in Egypt. See here, here, and here. This opinion regarding US meddling is understandable, as even the slightest provocation could spark similar civilian revolt on the Saudi side of the Red Sea.
US forces were evicted from Saudi Arabia in mid-2003 and relocated to neighboring Qatar, but material and troop strength in US CENTCOM’s theatre of operations – including the permanent US “mega bases” in Iraq, might suggest a more lucrative alternative to Iran as the central target of US military strategic planning (see map below). Read more...