Whatever the result of the Egyptian elections – which Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will certainly win – the change they will bring about will not be limited to Egypt but will affect the entire region.
Egypt broke the regional mold in February 2011. It remained in an unknown state for a year and then entered unchartered territory when it was ruled by a Muslim Brotherhood president. Before his ouster, Mursi ‘s regional camp included Qatar, Turkey, Tunisia and the rest of Libya and Sudan and Gaza under Hamas governance.
Before Mursi made it to power, the camp was fragmented. Iran left, realizing it had to protect Syria’s decaying government and strengthen its long-standing alliance with Hezbollah. The Qatari-Iranian alliance thus ended in favor of the Qatari-Turkish-Brotherhood alliance.
The change elections will bring about will not be limited to Egypt but will affect the entire regionAbdullah Kamal
On the other hand, what was known as the axis of moderation, which included most Gulf countries, Jordan, Ramallah and Egypt under Mubarak’s rule, witnessed a phase of imbalance for some time. Before the Egyptians decided to topple the Brotherhood in June 2013, this camp restored its coherence mainly due to Saudi Arabia and the UAE displaying regional awareness.
Last year, the June 30 regional alliances were established, and they linked Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt (sans the Brotherhood), Kuwait and Bahrain. As Egypt established its new authority all over again, regional balances had witnessed some new changes including the unprecedented Qatari-Gulf confrontation, reaching an American-Iranian agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program, an implicit international agreement to maintain the tragic Syrian status quo, the growth of the Russian role in the Middle East - a role entangled with Iranian, Syrian and Egyptian issues, neutralizing the issue of Yemen and controlling it so it doesn’t explode in the face of concerned parties, the rise of the Saudi-Emirati alliance particularly following the recent bilateral commission between the two countries and the reorganization of internal Saudi politics. Other factors include Egypt’s pursual of Hamas until the latter signed a reconciliation agreement with Fatah, Erdogan’s rule coming under domestic pressure and the neutralization of Lebanese affairs.
At least seven of these ten changes are directly linked to the ongoing changes in Egypt. Most of these seven points are directly linked to Palestinian and Gulf affairs and are indirectly linked to Syrian, Iranian and Turkish affairs. They are also linked to what’s happening in Libya.
During three years of Egyptian absence, the al-Qaeda organization and its different branches succeeded in regionally expanding. The organization is no longer just active in the Levant and has expanded to Morocco and North Africa. Al-Qaeda expanded from the Arabian Peninsula to Iraq and to Syria. While it was building itself in southern Algeria, Mali and Morocco, it almost succeeded in creating a hotbed in Libya. It also succeeded in seizing Egypt’s Sinai, a geographic focal point that connects the Arab Levant with the Arab Maghreb. This spread wasn’t directly linked to Egypt’s absence. However, the Brotherhood project certainly contributed to granting al-Qaeda a regional presence - a presence that wouldn’t have been possible unless the Brotherhood won governance in Egypt. The most important thing that Mursi’s governance granted to al-Qaeda was “the geographic contact point” between the organization’s wings and branches in the Levant and Arab Maghreb.
Confronting regional terrorism
As Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi makes it to the presidency, confronting regional terrorism will be one of the major challenges in the Middle East. As the image of the coherent state is restored - to replace the failed state which was expected - the major struggle will be between the “state” and the “lack of a state.” If we go back to the previous ten points, we’d realize that most of them indicate such a struggle.
Al-Qaeda, with the Brotherhood’s backing, in addition to some countries which use both as tools in their struggles, are the basis of the new process to reorganize the Middle East. They will also lead to redefining struggles and reestablishing alliances.
Take Syria as an example. Unfortunately, what’s happening there is no longer a struggle between people angry at a regime that must leave power. It’s become a struggle between three projects: terrorism, a savage authority and a democratic state. In Libya, the struggle is no longer between people and an authority. It’s become between defeated people and militias pushing the country towards divisions. In Palestine, the struggle is no longer between people and occupation as much as it’s a struggle of people confused about two projects – one of which is linked to the Brotherhood project and al-Qaeda organizations.
Egypt’s return to the regional formula will affect all affairs not because the Egyptian state is capable to finalizing affairs - after all, it needs time to restore its capabilities - but because it’s an influential country that’s currently at the heart of the most important regional alliance, along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Abdullah Kamal – Egyptian journalist and political analyst, an adviser to Al Rai Kuwaiti newspaper in Cairo, working now on writing a book about the end of Mubarak era under the title of The Penultimate Pharaoh. The writer had been editor- in- chief of both Rose El-Youssef magazine and newspaper (2005 – 2011) and a member of Shoura Council (2007 – 2011)