Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Egyptian collusion in Syria

By: Khalil al-Anani


Comment: The Egyptian regime is playing a supportive role to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, however it risks alienating allies such as Saudi and the US, argues Khalil al-Anani.
As was probably expected, the Egyptian regime has welcomed the Russian airstrikes on Syrian opposition positions, and the statement of Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri reflects the support of the coup regime towards Bashar al-Assad.

The Egyptian position goes beyond tacit approval of Russian intervention in Syria, and reaches the level of collusion - and perhaps even participation - in the war against the Syrian opposition.

According to many reports, Egyptian weapons and ammunitions have been shipped to the Assad regime to be used against the opposition, and pictures of Egyptian-made Grad missile and bullets in Syria have been circulating.

Assad himself admitted to Egyptian support and said that security coordination was taking place between Damascus and Cairo.

The Egyptian position towards Assad and its recent support of Russian airstrikes can be explained by a number of points.

Coalition of oppressors
    The mindset of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi does not differ from that of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin

We are witnessing a coalition of oppressors, as the common thread between Cairo, Moscow and Damascus is the existence of repressive authoritarian regimes in power, which fear their collapse and have no problem using all the means of violence and repression at their disposal against their opponents.

The mindset of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi does not differ from that of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin, as all are willing to do anything to remain in power - even if that means eliminating those that threaten their positions.

It is also notable that their regimes despise their own populations and believe they are not mature enough to deserve freedom and democracy.

"Democracy in Egypt needs a generation or two to be born," Sisi once said. Meanwhile, the Russian people "are backwards and need a long time to learn democracy", said Putin.

Preserving the status quoA recently created regional and international bloc aims not only to stop the changes sweeping through the Arab region during the past four years, but also aims to create regional balances that would fix the current status quo in the interest of the bloc.

The bloc is composed of Egypt, Russia, Iran and Syria and it is doggedly fighting for the survival of the Assad regime - not only because the regime achieves the interest of the bloc through providing it with strategic depth of Syrian territories, but it also safeguards against other powers dominating the region.
    The bloc is composed of Egypt, Russia, Iran and Syria and it is doggedly fighting for the survival of the Assad regime

Since taking power, the Sisi regime has been attempting to strengthen its relationship with the Putin regime as part of its manoeuvres with Washington, and due to the common interest between the two authoritarian regimes.

There are even reports of an Egyptian-Iranian courtship, which is perhaps one reason for the lukewarm relations between Cairo and Riyadh.

Israeli interestsFurthermore, one cannot understand the Egyptian position towards Russian airstrikes without understanding how the airstrikes relate to Israel, as the latter has clearly believes in the importance of preserving the Assad regime - as has been stated in its media.

Additionally, the Israeli prime minister visited Moscow two week ago - just a few weeks after Sisi's visit to the Russian capital - which give credence to the theory that
there is a developing understanding and harmony between Moscow, Tel Aviv and Cairo.

This also comes at a time when Sisi attempts to present himself as a "sponsor" of peace with Israel, and he called for the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement to be extended to include all Arab countries in his speech at the UN General Assembly last week.

Therefore, it is not far fetched to assume that Israel is also a secret member of the bloc that wants to preserve the status quo.

However, despite the common interests of the bloc members, they are taking a huge gamble and risk alienating their traditional allies by being part of this new state grouping.

Egypt, for example, risks its relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has supported the Sisi regime since its power-grab in 2013. Riyadh completely rejects the notion of Assad staying in power - and the Saudi Foreign Minister has given Assad an ultimatum of either "leave or face military action".

Sisi also risks his relationship with the United States, not because Washington wants to get rid of Assad, but because Sisi is submitting to Russia's orders and supporting strikes against groups trained by the Pentagon.

Furthermore, no rational person would think that the relationship between Tehran and Tel Aviv would change just because of their common desire to see Assad remain in power.

Thus, we are witnessing a rare moment in the regional conflict where all the cards have been shuffled, and no-one is quite sure of strength of the hand they are about to be dealt.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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