The Saudi-Egyptian Predicament

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Wed 7 December / Dec 2016. 01:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

Saudi-Egyptian ties are under immense strain these days. And even though there is an obvious attempt to cover it all up through diplomatic statements and the many Arab mediations to bridge the widening gap, it still expands as doubts build, which would explain the leaks and reports on a possibly failed recent summer between King Salman and President Abdul Fattah Sisi.

Chief among the list of conflictions is the Syrian approach. Sisi supports Syrian president Bashar Assad, and his army against armed Syrian opposition. It was more or less only expected of him since day one in the Egyptian office of presidency, since it aligns with his own political agenda; Sisi opposes popular revolution, and supports militarisation. He also is against Islamists and against Turkey. So why wouldn’t he side with Assad?

The only thing new about the Egyptian position, regarding the unfolding bilateral crisis, is the ever more crystallising support Sisi is extending for Assad, reinforcing agreement with the Russians too, the international sponsors of the Syrian regime, whether diplomatically at the Security Council, or militarily, which is even more shocking for the Saudis.

Despite the Egyptian denial of military cooperation with Syria, exposed by Syrian reports, including the participation of Egyptian pilots in the current operations in Syria, the leaks by Syrian and Iranian media do support the foreseen transition from rooting for to actually cooperation with Assad.

Most recent of these leaked reports was published Monday by Beirut’s own “Akhbar” newspaper; closely affiliated in position with Tehran and the Syrian regime, confirming the precise deployment of 200 Egyptian soldiers and officers in Syria, and their locations in military bases, to follow up on the Syrian, Russian, and Iranian methods and approaches against Jihadi groups, in order to learn and benefit of the expertise for the purposes of progressing the “war on terrorism” in Sinai, Egypt.

For the Saudis, Egyptian messages come through on two tiers; first, the Egyptian tendency, or rather ultra-Egyptian, which refuses to hand the helm over to the Saudis in terms of foreign police. Historically, there is a known dispute over leadership of the official Arab system between the two states, when once there was a system, while today I do not know whether or not it can actually be referred to as the Arab regional System anymore! Second, there is the pressure to corner Saudi into giving Egypt more aid and financial support, to fund the Republic’s suffocating economic and financial crisis.

Still, even though Saudi, and with it, the whole of the conservative Arab current, did play a vital and fundamental role in the success of Sisi and the Army in Egypt to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood, in order to suspend the revolutionary democratic discourse and restore the old order, truth is; Suadi shifts began with the arrival of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz into power, with his new lot, who reviewed the Saudi Arabian approach towards standing variables, and subsequently reconstructed their relationship with Turkey, leading to the designation of Iran, once again, as the foremost source of threat, in the stead of the “Turkish-Qatari-Brotherhood” axis. This shift, openly, did not appease to Egypt, explicitly, and the rest of the allies, implicitly!

The problem now is that Turkey, as well, is in trouble, and had to redesign their regional approach. The situation in Syria and Iraq slipped into the benefit of the Irani-Russian axis; the Syrian regime by proxy. Meanwhile the war in Yemen did not conclude any decisive results in the favour of the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia. All the while, as the crisis with Egypt unfolds, disparities within the ‘Khaliji’ house (Gulf States) crystallise; Oman sticking to its own, in addition major Qatari-Emirati disputes, atop culminating Saudi financial and economic problems. On the other hand, the Syrian opposition is frustrated, and recent Michel Kilo leaks prove it. In the meantime, the Arab system exposed, disintegrating, explains the progression of the Irani-Russian alliance, unravelling a fundamental crisis in the insights of the Arab regimes while dealing with unfolding surrounding fundamental changes.