Labyrinthine MidEast Intrigues
"[Egypt is] seeking to signal that it has an independent perspective and position [on the Syrian conflict]."
Brian Katulis, senior fellow, Center for American Progress, Washington
"Russia lines up the regional dominoes."
"And the regime says, 'Great, now let's continue fighting this war."
"[The emerging] Sisi doctine [is] rigid anti-Islamism, and rigid anti-militancy, and a very vocal support for nation states and sovereignty."
Michael Wahid Hanna, senior fellow, Century Foundation, New York
"Clandestine talks between Jerusalem, Amman and Damascus were afoot for the restoration of the demilitarized zone on the Golan and steps to stabilize their common borders in southern Syria. Those talks are taking place with the knowledge of the Trump transition team and the Kremlin. They have already produced results in the return of UNDOF observers to their former posts on the Syrian Golan.
There are grounds to speculate now that the deployment of Egyptian aviators to Syria may be one more product of the secret inter-power diplomacy swirling in recent weeks over Syria’s bloody and intractable five-year war."
"For Saudi Arabia, the principal enemy is Iran, for Egypt it is not Iran but rather the Muslim Brotherhood, that’s where the gap between them appears."So Egypt has thrown in its lot, politically, militarily, with Russia, supporting Syrian tyrant Bashar al Assad to continue his bloody massacres of Syrian civilians. In concert with Turkey, no less. Turning its back, as it were, on Saudi Arabia which has given Egypt a lifeline of $25-billion in support since the overthrow of Mohammad Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood presidency, when Egypt was abandoned by the Obama administration and its financial support from the U.S. cut.
"In Egypt’s view, a victory for the Syrian opposition could give a push to the Brotherhood in Egypt. And a defeat of the Syrian military regime could be an introduction to similar occurrences to the regime in Egypt."
Ofir Winter, analyst, Institute for National Security Studies, Jerusalem
While the United States' administration played footsie with the Muslim Brotherhood, abandoning former President Hosni Mubarak to his unfortunate fate as a felon, Egypt's current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, then head of Egypt's military, fumed at the Islamification of Egypt under the Brotherhood, and led a rebellion that caused its downfall. Turkey, an enthusiastic supporter of the Brotherhood, as it is of Hamas, distanced itself from Egypt.
Now they are all aligned under the aegis of Moscow, itself having no truck with the Muslim Brotherhood, and nor does the Syrian regime, since many of the Sunni opposition in Syria are supported by the Brotherhood. Egypt's President el-Sisi, it should be recalled, was adamant in his rejection of Islamism, stating baldly that Islam is due for an enlightenment to turn it away from its rigid Salafist interpretation, extolled by Saudi Arabia's Wahhabism.
Both Egypt and Turkey were clear in their condemnation of Bashar al-Assad's reaction to his Sunni Syrian detractors demanding civic parity with the Alawite Shiites representing the regime's support. Another classic standoff between the two major Muslim sects, Shiite and Sunni. In one corner, the Islamic Republic of Iran, fashioning its Shiite stronghold encompassing Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. In the other corner, Saudi Arabia, with the majority Arab Sunni Muslim countries facing off against Aryan Iran's Shiite Axis.
Now, Russia's power play intervening in Syria's bloody civil war that has given the world and particularly Europe, millions of Syrian Sunni refugees to deal with, whom other Middle East Sunni majority countries prefer to slough off, has created a situation where, since the abandonment of the region by the Obama administration anxious to shed its image as an interfering superpower, a complete re-alignment has taken place.
Nuclear-ambitious Iran's growing confidence after the handover nuclear deal with the U.S. sees Turkey and Egypt, two of the most populous Sunni nations in the region, allying themselves with Vladimir Putin's growing eminence in power of influence in the Middle East, abandoned by President Obama. Russian President Putin is fully in support of defending regimes against their upstart rebellions. Rebels deserve the nomenclature of "terrorists" that Assad has given them.
Of course, for Mr. Putin there are always self-serving exceptions. Where, for example, the rebellion in Ukraine is deserving of Russian support and intervention, since ethnic Russian Ukrainians have every right to want Ukraine to reflect their particular political and ideological advantages. Russia's co-option of Crimea therefore fully justified, since Ukraine has historically been a satellite of the Soviets to be used and abused.
Egypt is anxious for allies, for powers that view the radicalized elements in rigid Islamism as a threat, as he does. Embattled in the Sinai by Salafist Bedouin, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic State, a joint military exercise with Russia on countering terrorist attacks taking place there, gave support to his need for allies. And Moscow, recalling their loss of Russian lives when an airliner conveying Russian holidayers from the Sinai was destroyed in mid-air by an Islamic State bomb, would be only too happy to engage in Egypt.
And though President el-Sisi has dispatched Egyptian forces to aid Russia and Turkey and Syria to dislodge the Islamic State presence, along with that of other terrorist groups, he has his own doubts over the trajectory Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking his own country toward' full Islamization of a nation that once prided itself as a passage between the Middle East and Europe, as both, itself.
All but Iran are invested in the issue of sovereign statehood in support of Arab states against the viral, violent threat of Islamist insurgents. In the process, they have seen no other option in their presence alongside Russia, than to give legitimacy to the Syrian regime they deplore. From originally supporting the rebel cause, to viewing that cause overtaken by Islamist jihadis with their very own agenda, they have turned their backs on that agenda in favour of reluctantly supporting a bloody tyrant.