Could Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Egypt be under threat?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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New F-15 warplanes, Harpoon missiles and M1 tanks are being shipped to Egypt’s armed forces, who are engaged in a difficult fight against extremist groups in the Sinai Peninsula and are also protecting borders with Libya, the second front. But why does the U.S. suddenly seem to love President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s administration?

The reason is that Washington has retreated from its decision to punish the Egyptian authorities for toppling the Muslim Brotherhood. U.S. President Barack Obama has since contacted his Egyptian counterpart to reconcile and inform him of the decision to resume delivering military and economic aid - a policy in place since the era of former Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat which Washington froze in late 2013.

The chapter of Muslim Brotherhood rule - from 2012 to mid-2013 – has completely ended in the international arena. However, it continues on the virtual world of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

After the Muslim Brotherhood lost U.S. support of its “legitimacy,” it began to sabotage Egyptian-Arab relations and spread stories and interpretations on the apparent absence of Egyptian forces fighting alongside their ally Saudi Arabia in the kingdom-led coalition against Houthi militias in Yemen, with the rest of Saudi’s coalition partners saying the relations between the two countries have relapsed.

Years ago, the world was divided into two camps where each party mostly handled a war on the side of their ally and whoever was outside the alliance ended up being easy bait

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

This supposition ignores the activity of Egypt’s navy south of the Red Sea. It also ignores what’s more important: the strategic relations between the two countries have actually become more solid and in this current era of chaos which our region hadn’t seen before now, both parties greatly value this partnership.

Precious ties

Therefore, we can understand how precious bilateral ties are and how they cannot be given up just because a few journalists have an opposite opinion or because there are some among the opposition who want sabotage relations.

The region needs a balance which is not easily shaken by differences, rumors or voices of another agenda. As long as the vision regarding the nature of the threats is clear, collective relations will be deepen and will be better able to confront differences and whatever rivals may incite.

It’s normal that in this diplomatic jungle around us, the best guard for the region’s countries are their interrelations and alliances to confront the threat of being singled out and weakened by the wolves both outside and in.

Without solid relations, these countries can easily fall prey, one after the other. Egypt is a big country and even Egypt needs regional relations that can assist the level of threats posed on it - threats like those posed on Saudi Arabia, which was dragged into its first war in a quarter of a century.

The situation today is more difficult than before. Years ago, the world was divided into two camps where each party mostly handled a war on the side of their ally and whoever was outside the alliance ended up being easy bait. But today, the chances of counting on pledges from foreign camps have become limited and there are no alternatives to them other than building a regional network of alliances to balance the terror around.

Clear aims

By building relations with clear aims and commitments, we can later go to the table of negotiations which the U.S. suggests we go to in order to reach regional understanding.

However it’s not possible to sit and negotiate with a party when its gun is laid on the table and when they are - quite frankly - involved in destroying the region. Iran and its allies have spread terror that has reached southern Syria, not far from Jordan’s borders.

Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Houthi militias have taken over two neighborhoods in the Yemeni city of Aden.

Iraqi militias - who are also supported by Iran - stirred up a battle near the Kuwaiti border a month ago. Egypt, as I said at the beginning, is fighting using heavy weapons in Sinai against the so-called “emirate of Sinai,” and Egypt may find itself forced into direct military action in Libya due to the establishment of terrorist statelets.

Politicians don’t need us to remind them about the situation of a massive regional war and its threats - as they live through them every day. But there might be a need to remind them of the importance of teamwork and building an alliance which outweighs the calculations of regional and foreign powers.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 8, 2015.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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