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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 Threats Posed to Israel by a Palestinian State

Oct. 23 2017

To the IDF reserve general Gershon Hacohen, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would, given the current circumstances of the Middle East, create a graver danger for the Jewish state than either Iran or Hizballah. More damaging still, he argues, is the attitude among many Israelis that the two-state solution is a necessity for Israel. He writes:

Since the Oslo process began in the fall of 1993, dramatic changes have occurred in the international arena. . . . For then-Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin, Oslo was based on the superpower status of the U.S. . . . At the time, the Arabs were in a state of crisis and aware of their weakness—all the more so after the U.S. vanquished Iraq in the First Gulf War in the winter of 1991. . . . It was that awareness of weakness, along with the PLO leadership’s state of strategic inadequacy, that paved the way for the Oslo process.

[But] over the [intervening] years, the America’s hegemonic power has declined while Russia has returned to play an active and very influential role. . . .

Something essential has changed, too, with regard to expectations in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere. At first, in the early days of Oslo, the expectations were of mutual goodwill and reconciliation. Over the years, however, as the cycle of blood has continued, the belief in Palestinian acceptance of Israel in return for Israeli concessions has been transformed in the Israeli discourse into nothing more than the need to separate from the Palestinians—“They’re there, we’re here”—solely on our own behalf.

The more the proponents of separation have honed their efforts to explain to Israeli society that separation is mandated by reality, enabling Israel to preserve its identity as Jewish and democratic, the more the Palestinians’ bargaining power has grown. If a withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state is a clear-cut Israeli interest, if the Israelis must retreat in any case for the sake of their own future, why should the Palestinians give something in return? . . . Hence the risk is increasing that a withdrawal from the West Bank will not only fail to end the conflict but will in fact lead to its intensification.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Oslo Accords, Russia, Two-State Solution