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Flights to Egypt, in the context of strategic relations

Reader comment on item: Murky Details Surround Crash of Russian Plane over Sinai

Submitted by Michael S (United States), Dec 11, 2015 at 16:08

There are three issues underlying everything that happens surrounding the crash of the Russian plane in Sinae:

  1. Russian-Egyptian relations
  2. Egyptian-Saudi relations, and
  3. Israeli-Egyptian relations.

1. Russian-Egyptian relations

Russia initially reacted to the crash, by banning all Russian flights to Egypt. This may have been justified for dometstic political reasons in Russia, but immediately struck a sour blow to Russian-Egyptian relations. The Russians had been courting the Egyptians recently: helping the Egyptians acquire two prestige helicopter carriers, plus aircraft, from France that were originally destined for Russia. Since the shooting down of the Russian jet by the Turks, though, and Russia's subsequent embargo against Turkish agricultural products, both the Putin and Sisi have good reasons to mend fences. The results have been dramatic: Not only have the Russians resumed flights to Cairo, but the Egyptians have begun commercial flights to Damascus and Aleppo in Syria! If new trade with the Russians is able to offset potential losses from a break-up with the Saudis (see below), we may see Egypt sidling over to the Russian side in the current conflict as the Saudis sidle over to the Turks.

2. Egyptian-Saudi relations

Egypt has strategic interests that are diametrically opposed to those of the Saudis. The former, particularly President Sisi, is primarily concerned about the potential for a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt; whereas the new Saudi leader is primarily concerned about growing Iranian influence on his borders. As a result, the Saudis have been trying to forge an alliance with Turkey, which is led by the AKP, a Muslim Brotherhood sister party. On the other hand, the Saudis are immediately threatened by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. In order to stop them, they need Egyptian help -- not only because of Egypt's prestige, as the most populous Arab country, but also because Egypt's navy is capable of confronting the Iranians in the waters around Yemen. Sisi, on its part, is utterly dependent on funding by the Saudis and their allies in order to maintain his grip on power. A compromise is thus in place: The Egyptians are actively helping the Saudis in Yemen, while the Saudis are funding Egypt and have outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups. Lately, however, the Saudis have shown signs on renegging on their end of the deal: While banning MB and other terrorists, they are actually helping them through "bridge" groups that the Saudis do not recognize as terrorists, but who freely associate with the MB, Al-Nusra and even ISIS. Meanwhile, it is getting increasingly hard for the Saudis to come up with the money, because of low world-wide oil prices.

3. Egyptian-Israeli relations.

I have not heard any talk about Israel's part in the aircraft crash affair, but I should be; because the Sinai has been officially demilitarized as part of the 1979 peace agreement; and Egypt is not allowed to send large amounts of troops and equipment there (such as that needed to fight Islamist terrorists on the peninsula) without Israeli permission. Whether Egypt decides to go to bed with the Saudis or the Russians, therefore, Israel is in bet with them.

Submitting....

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