Egypt’s rejection of a military intervention in Syria runs counter to the positions of the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, toward the Syrian issue.
Many observers have wondered why the transitional authorities in Egypt are going against the Gulf countries’ Syria policy, despite the tremendous support that Egypt has been receiving from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait since the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in early July.
While the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Gen. Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal were holding talks with Egyptian officials on regional developments, and while the Arab foreign ministers were discussing the latest developments in the Syrian crisis in light of the US threats, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy issued a clear official statement that Egypt rejects a military strike. That happened a few hours after Al-Azhar announced its “categorical rejection and condemnation” of President Barack Obama’s decision to strike Syria.
Despite the Gulf countries’ support, which has not stopped since Morsi was ousted on July 3, the Egyptian-Saudi attitude toward the Syrian crisis was not unified. The Saudi foreign minister demanded that the international community use all its capabilities to intervene against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, contrary to his Egyptian counterpart’s remarks. Unlike Egypt, the UAE has not yet taken a clear position toward a military strike.
The Gulf gives Egypt massive financial support that is valued at more than $12 billion. It comes in multiple forms, including treasury bonds and oil products.
This Gulf aid is directly helping Egyptian citizens, because it has contributed to the disappearance of long lines at gas stations. In the days leading up to June 30, when the Egyptians toppled Morsi, the country was in crisis because of gasoline and diesel shortages. It seems that the Gulf aid will continue despite the Egyptian-Gulf disagreement over the Syrian issue.
“The UAE, both its leadership and people, will continue to be a strong supporter of Egypt and its brotherly people.” That’s how the meeting of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi and Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi can be summarized.
For his part, Prince Saud al-Faisal said during a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart that the kingdom “will continue to support Egypt politically and economically during the current period and the next because of the close and historic relationship between the two brotherly peoples and because of the shared interests between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. … The Western countries’ threats to cut off aid to Egypt will not be implemented and are just threats, because the interests are mutual.” He described Egypt as “a big country. … Cutting off aid [to Egypt] is not in [the Western countries’] interest.”
A few days ago, after talks with EU officials, Faisal confirmed that Riyadh “will support Egypt financially if sanctions are imposed on it.” Some have raised the possibility of imposing sanctions on Egypt because of the violence that followed Morsi’s ouster.
Mohammed Said Idris, an expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said in an interview with As-Safir, “The different positions of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE regarding the Syrian crisis will not affect the Gulf’s material support to Egypt, because there are relations between Egypt and the Gulf and these relations force the latter to maintain its financial support. … [The Gulf’s financial] support is partly to help Egypt continue to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood’s project and put an end to the horror experienced by the Gulf, amid concerns that the [Brotherhood] may extend their control over the Arab countries. … Things have significantly changed after the Jan. 25 and June 30 revolutions.” He pointed out that Egypt has officially announced its opposition to a US intervention in Syria, despite the Unites States’ $1.3 billion annual military aid and $250 million in economic aid to Egypt.
Political researcher Ammar Ali Hassan considers the Gulf’s support to have clear messages, most notably emphasizing Arab support for Egypt and resisting any external interference in Egyptian affairs, because if the West successfully intervenes in Syria — as the Muslim Brotherhood wants — the shape of the Arab region will change for many years.
Ali Hassan said the position toward Syria is different for each country and Egypt rejects US intervention, because otherwise Egypt would be obliged to participate in the military strike, something that the Egyptian army cannot withstand. Moreover, Egypt's participating in a strike against Syria is incongruent with Egypt’s current political conditions.