mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
Middle East Mess
Saudis Stop Oil Shipments to Egypt

The rift between the two most important Sunni Arab nations is growing as Saudi Arabia cuts oil shipments to Egypt, and Egypt threatens to ask Iran for help. Reuters:

Saudi Arabia’s state oil firm Aramco has not commented on the halt. But on Monday, Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek El Molla confirmed it had halted the shipments indefinitely.

An oil ministry official told Reuters: “They did not give us a reason. They only informed the authority about halting shipments of petroleum products until further notice.”

The move comes as a source in Molla’s delegation said late on Sunday evening that he would visit Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main political rival, to try to strike new oil deals.

It’s unlikely that Iran can or will bail out the Egyptians; Egypt’s foreign policy—pragmatic and deep cooperation with Israel over Sinai, relentless pressure on Hamas in Gaza—is hardly the stuff that makes the mullahs’ hearts race, and is no basis for a deep partnership between the two countries.

But the Saudi cut-off matters. Apparently, the Saudis, like others, are deeply worried about what they see as the failure of economic policy under Sisi. With Saudi Arabia facing increasing problems at home as the consequences of low oil prices ripple out through its economy, it’s politically costly for the government to commit to big aid programs. Egypt is clearly reluctant to sign up for Saudi’s regional anti-Iran foreign policy: it wants no part of wars in Syria and Yemen when it has its own hands full with domestic unrest and the trouble in Sinai.

The next U.S. president is likely to face some ugly choices over Egypt. Unless we are ready to watch the Middle East spiral down into even worse madness and mayhem than anything we’ve yet seen (a madness that could engulf the oil sheikdoms and cause massive problems in the global economy), the U.S. is going to have to work with the Saudis and others to help stabilize Egypt. Given the Sisi government’s human rights record, the corrupt nature of the Egyptian economic/military complex, and the difficult problems facing its inefficient and badly-managed economic structure, that’s going to be difficult. But that does not mean it can be ignored: Egypt remains the indispensable country in the Arab world for any hope of stability in a fragmented region.

None of this can be addressed effectively without closer U.S.-Saudi cooperation than we’ve seen in the Obama era—and that, too, will pose problems for the next U.S. president. One of the common interests that binds the U.S. and Saudi Arabia together is our joint concern for the stability of Egypt; we can get more done more cheaply by working together. The lack of understanding of Sunni Arab dynamics that has characterized Washington’s approach to the region during the Obama years—a mix of naive hopes for democracy, fantasies that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was the key to the region, and a failure to grasp the consequences for U.S.-Sunni relations of the choice to delink the Iranian nuclear negotiations to its regional behavior—has left U.S. Middle East strategy in tatters and will present the next president with a series of ugly policy alternatives—far worse than anything Obama faced in 2009.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Ellen

    As Shimon Peres would say, welcome to the “New Middle East.” If Hillary Clinton becomes president, at least she went on record claiming that the Mubaraks were great friends of the Clintons, right before Obama insisted that Mubarak give up power. In other words, she stuck by the 82 year old kleptocrat until near the end, rather than throwing him under the bus so quickly, like her boss.

    That might win her some points with General Sisi, who was part of the military clique that runs the country. Except that Egypt appears to be going bankrupt under Sisi’s poor economic stewardship. It looks like the Clinton’s will have 10 mideast crises to handle before they get around to worrying about the nonexistent peace process. This is the real mideast, as it always was, but no one was paying attention to costs of Arab misgovernance until the peons revolted 5 years ago.

    The Palestinian-Israeli peace process is the least significant issue that Clinton will have to deal with in this disintegrating region. The death spiral of Egypt and Saudi Arabia next will be the bookends of her first term. Enjoy.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    What is not well understood is that the economic crisis effecting Egypt has been fomented by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is hoarding US dollars, sugar and other staple products thus creating shortages to bring about economic instability in yet another attempt at a murderous takeover of the government. Egypt now is adopting a law that to trade US dollars a person must show proof of where they bought the dollars.

    The Brotherhood recently murdered a high ranking army general whose forces control the Sinai. What choice does the military have but what Western media calls “civil rights abuses” of arresting those who are found with stockpiles of dollars or goods they are hoarding? The Brotherhood are not some persecuted minority. They bomb police stations, kill cops, judges, Christian Coptic priests and throw young boys off tall buildings as a media spectacle and they are a tiny minority of the country.

    Egypt apparently wants neutrality from the US-Saudi-Qatar-UAE and proxy ISIS wars. But what did neutrality buy them when Obama-Clinton backed the murderous Brotherhood takeover of the county in 2012 of a nation that was our ally and posed no security threat to the US or Saudis or other neighbors? The only form of government that works right now in Egypt is an authoritarian government which at least still has a court and parliamentary system in place and must seek legitimacy from the public as it did with the Couch Party Movement in 2013.

    The Brotherhood has taken over in Turkey and is purging judges, prosecutors, generals and any who hold separation of powers of government. The US should step in and sell Egypt oil but under either Obama or Clinton it won’t because they both have an agenda to put a Left wing revolutionary minority group back into power in Egypt.

    This is now what Egypt and other neutral nations face under a likely pending Clinton presidency. And all we get is talk of voting for the “lesser evil” in the US, as if the murderous and destabilizing foreign policy of Obama-Clinton is morally equivalent to Trump’s sexist speech as a PAID actor on an unscripted reality TV show meant to say outlandish things for ratings; or his “authoritarian” advocacy of eminent domain when in reality he offered a widow four times the market value for her property.

    Woe is Egypt now that Saudi is doing the US-Obama-Clinton bidding of further destabilizing their economy. Now will Russia step in to help Egypt just as Eisenhower’s failed foreign policy forced Nasser to the Soviets? And when Clinton assumes the presidency she will go to war against Russia; a nuclear war?

    “Woe to those who go down to Egypt (U.S.-Obama-Clinton) for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord” (Isaiah).

  • CaliforniaStark

    Actually it would be in Iran’s strategy interest to help Egypt, and move it away from cooperation with Saudi Arabia. It would be in Russia’s interest as well. Saudi Arabia is bordered by hostile regimes in Iran, Iraq & Syria; and involved in a civil war in Yemen. It is burning through its monetary reserves like there is no tomorrow, and could face a restive population in the future. Rule by the House of Saud is in itself an anachronism.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Reuters did not get many important aspects of its source story for the above article correct.

    First, Saudi is a Wahhabi State not a Sunni State.

    Secondly, the so-called economic crisis affecting Egypt has almost no impact on the bulk of the population dealing in everyday transaction in pounds instead of dollars. Life is going on quite normal in Egypt.

    The discrepancy in the stories apparently comes from a TV station in Istanbul, Turkey controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood but claiming the story of an economic crisis was written in Egypt. Also distorting the accuracy of the story is an entire army of Facebook writers in Gaza fabricating a fictional parallel universe of an economic crisis in Egypt.

    Behind these distorted stories is a group called the “Revolution of the Famished” claiming there is a food shortage in Egypt led by Muslim Brotherhood preacher Takfirist and agitator Wagdi Ghoneim. They are planning a huge demonstration in Egypt on November 11 to show how starved Egyptians are. To indicate how “famished” Takfirist and Ghonheim are one only needs to gander at the following photo from the Constitution Party of Egypt showing the feast they are consuming.

    See link:

    Recently, Egypt devalued the US dollar from $18 per Egyptian pound to $12, thus pulling the rug out from under those who were deviously speculating in dollars to drive the price of imported goods up and to break the banks. To trade in imported goods Egypt must use dollars. But Egyptian Pres. al-Sisi devalued the dollar and stopped the fear mongering about an economic crisis and dealt a blow to the black market. Sisi also required that anyone dealing in dollars must show a certificate where they bought them.

    Saudi may have stopped exporting oil to Egypt due to this devaluation not because of some contrived crisis.

    The story also ignores that 5 million Syrian, Libyan and Lebanese refugees have fled to Egypt and are living peaceably and doing better in Egypt than refugees that fled to Europe. Many have started up restaurants and businesses and are part of the economy and not dependent on aid.

    The source story also mentions corruption on the part of President Sisi, who has only come into power since mid 2014. What crimes and corruption? A militia of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated Egypt for decades (see The Encyclopedia of Muslim Terrorism, 2016). To combat the Brotherhood certain martial laws have had to be put into place such as indefinite detention and banning of protests. These have been misreported as civil rights violations. The Egyptian courts have condemned 529 member of the Brotherhood to death for high crimes against the state including threatening to execute Egyptians who opposed them when they briefly came into power in 2012. The Brotherhood had thrown out the Egyptian Constitution and dissolved the upper house of Parliament. The Brotherhood came into power in 2012 after intimidating Egyptians not to vote against them by murdering cops, judges, generals, Coptic Christian priests and throwing children off tall buildings.

    Sisi has brought justice against the terrorists and has used the court system to do so. Between 2012 and 2014 the Chief Justice of the Egyptian Supreme Court ran the country. So false stories of corruption and civil rights violaltions have been fabricated and put on Istanbul TV, Facebook and even Wikipedia and swallowed whole by the western media.

    So the Reuters story and other sources of the so-called economic crisis in Egypt are a blend of the real and the unreal meant to influence Western public opinion and give legitimacy for an invasion of Egypt on November 11. In the meantime, the Brotherhood continues to try and undermine Egypt including shouting and threatening people in prayer in Mosques.

    The Saudis have shut off oil to Egypt several times in the past. The recent cutoff is driving Egypt to seek oil from Iran according to, but this was denied by Egypt. The Russian fleet is scheduled to arrive in the region soon and the Saudi cutoff may have more to denying fuel to them than any political destabilization in Egypt.

    There is a “Great Game going on in Egypt right out of a Rudyard Kipling novel and disinformation, scaremongering and attempts at destabilizing Egypt after Clinton’s election are all part of the game.

  • I-want-peace

    With the way that the Mid-East is now shaping up, which includes Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, things are starting to look very bleak for Egypt…. Sisi is no more than a hired thug, for Western Nations, especially benefiting the Khazar occupying Israel, the United States and it’s Western Allies!

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service