Sunday, May 06, 2012

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood bows down to House of Saud

"Saad al-Katatny, the current speaker of Egypt’s parliament, led the high-level delegation to Riyadh and was filmed sitting prominently next to the Saudi king. Katatny is a major Brotherhood leader, having been a member of its Guidance Bureau and the secretary general of its Freedom and Justice Party, which this year won 47 percent of seats in Egypt's lower house of Parliament. Katatny was also elected head of the now-defunct constitution writing panel in March. The delegation also included Ahmed Fahmy, the speaker of Egypt’s upper house, also a Brotherhood member, as well as senior officials from various Egyptian parties including the Wafd and Nour parties, in addition to politicians, media personalities and academics (an extensive list of the delegates can be found here).
Attendees from the Saudi side were King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Defense Minister Prince Salman and Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, as well as the speaker of the Saudi Shura Council. The Saudi information minister and the withdrawn ambassador also attended.
Equally if not more significant is who was absent. Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Nayef (who returned to Saudi Arabia from the US on 11 April) did not attend. The crown prince is known for his animosity toward and distrust of the Brotherhood. He is known to have said “without any hesitation I say it, that our problems, all of them, came from the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood." Prince Nayef publically received the Brotherhood's arch enemy, former Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, last November.
It is also worth mentioning that Egypt was not represented in this visit by any Cabinet members, such as Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri or Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr. The Brotherhood has made its displeasure with the Ganzouri cabinet very clear, demanding its dismissal over and over again.
Such an opportunity to meet with the Saudi king would likely not have arisen in the short to medium term had Gizawy's case not been escalated by Egyptian activists. During the visit, Katatny clearly stated, “We will not interfere in Gizawy's case,” adding that “the Saudi justice system is fair.” Katatny stressed the “historic relations” between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and said that Saudi has “white hands” (Arabic for “a shining track record”) in backing Egypt. Katatny again remarked that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, “the two greatest powers in the region,” could lead the region into a bright future.
In an exclusive interview with Saudi paper Okaz, Katatny recounted how the visit of 113 Egyptian officials to Saudi Arabia came about: “As soon as the news broke that Saudi Arabia had withdrawn its ambassador, I called Dr. Abdullah al-Sheikh, head of the Saudi Shura Council. At the same time there was a phone call from Al-Sayed al-Badawy, chairman of the Wafd Party, to the Saudi ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed al-Qattan, and we decided to form a delegation of parliamentarians and citizens to visit Saudi Arabia to express our pride in the kingdom and its mission.” Katatny predicted that relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia would go back to normal and “maybe even improve.”" (thanks Sultan)

PS Liberal Egyptian opportunist/charlatan, Ayman Nur, also took credit for the idea of the trip.