Things in the Middle East may be about to heat up even more, if the former military head of Egypt wins the presidential elections in the country later this month. Egyptian media have reported that former Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has promised to improve relations with Saudi Arabia and even offered the Egyptian military’s arms in defense of the Arab states.
There’s only one nation that genuinely threatens the powerful Saudis and their Arab friends: Iran. So with the Egyptian army taking on militant Islamists in their own country, the possibility exists that they’d be willing to take on the leader and sponsor of the militant Islamic world if need be.
Sisi said that the Egyptian army can operate outside of Egypt in defense of Arab security, according to The Egypt Independent, translating an article from Al-Masry Al-Youm that quoted Egyptian Columnist Mostafa Bakry. During the same meeting with reporters, Sisi specifically highlighted his openness for defending the Gulf states—the Arab nations around the Persian Gulf and neighbors of Iran.
The comments came as Sisi, in a televised interview covered by Ahram Online, said that Saudi Arabia would be his first visit as President.
Daily News Egypt, meanwhile, noted that the Saidis have been big supporters of the Egyptian transition from the former government led by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist group was overthrown in a popular coup by the army last year.
Considering Sisi’s military background, that Saudi support has to mean a lot.
The Saudis have spearheaded some of the Middle East efforts to thwart Iran’s plans for the region, including by backing the rebels in Syria, where the regime is an ally of Iran. In some ways, the Saudis have appeared interested in an informal alliance among anti-Iran states to combat Iran’s friends in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.
And if Sisi wins the Egyptian presidency at the end of this month, the Saudis can count Egypt as a key part of that alliance.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, May 8, 2014)