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The Sisi Doctrine Aligns Egypt with Iran in Syria and against Iran in Yemen

March 9 2017

While Egypt’s regime and its sometime allies in the Persian Gulf share much in common—Sunni Islam, a pro-American outlook, antipathy to Islamist groups, and security cooperation with Israel—its regional priorities are fundamentally different, with important consequences. Eric Trager explains:

[M]uch to its allies’ chagrin, Egypt hasn’t become the anchor of a broader Sunni Arab alliance against Iran. Instead, President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has charted his own course—one that sometimes aligns with this Gulf allies’ interests and at other times contradicts them, but which always follows the same pattern: Sisi supports states whenever they are in conflict with non-state actors.

Sisi’s foreign-policy outlook is . . . an extension of his domestic one. At home, Sisi sees himself as a strongman combating those who seek chaos, foremost among them the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Egyptian government’s narrative, Sisi “saved” Egypt from the Brotherhood, which seeks the collapse of the Egyptian government and the establishment of an Islamist theocracy. . . . Sisi fleshed this out in his September 2016 address at the United Nations General Assembly, when he defined terrorism not as violence against civilian populations by non-state actors but as “a threat to the entity of the state.” To bolster Sisi at home, Egypt’s pro-government media routinely highlight the violence in Libya, Yemen, and Syria as examples of what might happen if the Islamists are allowed to challenge the Egyptian state.

Due to his strong preference for state actors over non-state ones, Sisi has diverged sharply from his Gulf allies regarding the Syrian conflict. The Gulf states have tended to see the Syrian conflict in terms of their broader concerns regarding Iran’s expanding regional influence, and they have strongly supported the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad’s Iranian-backed regime. . . .

Sisi, however, is less concerned about Iran’s regional influence than he is about the fallout if Sunni Islamist groups [fighting Assad] gain the upper hand, since, from Sisi’s standpoint, these rebels often look similar to the Islamists that he is fighting at home, and he has increasingly shown his preference for Assad. . . . [I]n October, Cairo supported a Russian UN Security Council resolution [on Syria] that Saudi Arabia strongly opposed, and a few days later it hosted the Syrian intelligence chief for talks that, according to Syria’s news agency, concluded with an agreement to “strengthen coordination in the fight against terrorism.” Egyptian-Saudi ties have been frigid ever since.

Read more at Caravan

More about: General Sisi, Iran, Middle East, Persian Gulf, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, Syrian civil war

 

The Palestinian National Movement Has Reached a Point of Crisis

With Hamas having failed to achieve anything through several weeks of demonstrations and violence, and Mahmoud Abbas reduced to giving rambling anti-Semitic speeches, Palestinian aspirations seem to have hit a brick wall. Elliott Abrams explains:

[Neither] Fatah [nor] Hamas offers Palestinians a practical program for national independence. . . . [The current situation] leaves Palestinians high and dry, with no way forward at all. Whatever the criticism of the “occupation,” Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. . . . There are only two other options. The first is the “one-state solution,” meaning union with Israel; but that is a nonstarter that Israel will reject no matter who is its prime minister. The other option is some kind of eventual link to Jordan.

In polite diplomatic society, and in Palestinian public discourse, such a link cannot be mentioned. But younger people who visit there, Palestinians have explained to me, can see a society that is half-Palestinian and functions as an independent nation with a working system of law and order. Jordanians travel freely, rarely suffer from terrorism, and [can vote in regular] elections, even if power is ultimately concentrated in the royal palace. The kingdom has close relations with all the Sunni states and the West, and is at peace with Israel.

The fundamental question all this raises is what, in 2018, is the nature and objective of Palestinian nationalism. Is the goal sovereignty at all costs, no matter how long it takes and even if it is increasingly divorced from peace, prosperity, and personal freedom? Is “steadfastness” [in refusing to compromise with Israel] the greatest Palestinian virtue now and forever? These questions cannot be debated in either Gaza or the West Bank. But as Israel celebrates 70 years and the “occupation” is now more than a half-century old, how much longer can they be delayed? . . .

The catastrophic mishandling of Palestinian affairs by generations of leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini (the pro-Nazi mufti of the British Mandate period) to Yasir Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas has been the true Palestinian Nakba.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians