Egyptian Popular Diplomacy


The Salafi Al-Nour Party in Egypt just announced that it is in favor of negotiations with Israel, while the Muslim Brotherhood has promised that it does not intend to revoke the peace treaty with Israel. That’s OK: no one is relying on the Muslim Brotherhood or Al-Nour to do so, and the more they echo the social policies of the Mubarak government and remain quiet or cooperative in the face of the SCAF’s collaboration with Israel in encaging and destroying the Palestinian people, the more obvious their nature will become and, perhaps, the easier it will be for a leftist party to articulate a social program that can do better than the privatized social welfare networks that propelled the Brotherhood to power in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian people’s popular diplomacy continues: yesterday the gas pipeline through which Egypt used to export subsidized gas to Israel and Jordan was bombed for the 10th time. This time the bombing had no effect. The pipeline’s managers at Gasco have been unable to repair it since the last time it was attacked.

The attacks have had marked effects on the Israeli economy, which generates 40 percent of its electricity using natural gas, 43 percent of which Egypt provides. The attacks and the stoppage of flows of gas to Israel have sent Israeli electricity prices upwards – a tax on the Israeli working class. Such reductions in the standard of living of the Israeli poor help create the social conditions for another upsurge of unrest in Israel, once again directed against the state and the monopolies it serves. Popular direct action is much quicker than Western BDS. Elsewhere, in October, Egypt doubled the price of gas exports to the Hashemite kingdom, which has far less maneuvering room than the Arab petro-monarchies.

The core of Arab regional capitalism, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is aware that price inflation may lead to social fracturing within the Arab states and is moving to address it. Yesterday the GCC announced a $5 billion development fund to aid projects in Morocco and Jordan, slated to be the GCC’s newest members, alongside a $10 billion fund for Oman and Bahrain. Of course, the more money they slosh around, the more they become structurally reliant on high oil prices. The higher the oil prices, the more pissed the Western working classes are likely to become.

It’s rough to run a petrostate.

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