Cairo & Riyadh standoff – political displacement and the new axis of resistance (Part 2/2)
Posted Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2016
The first real blow came when Egypt voted this October in favor of Russia’s draft proposal on Syria to the United Nations Security Council, thus directly positioning itself against Saudi Arabia and its ambition to see Syrian President Bashar Assad fall from power. In an analysis for al-Monitor, Khalid Hassan wrote: “The draft was unacceptable to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which seeks to depose the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and which viewed Egypt’s vote for the resolution as a deviation from the Arab position.”
Riyadh responded in kind this November when it froze all oil imports to Egypt. Reuters reported: “Saudi Arabia has informed Egypt that shipments of oil products expected under a $23 billion aid deal have been halted indefinitely, suggesting a deepening rift between the Arab world's richest country and its most populous.”
Note that Riyadh’s snub came as Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek El Molla was rumored to have scheduled a visit to Iran, as part of an economic and energy broadening effort.
Whether Egyptian officials will break bread with their Iranian counterparts in the near future or not is irrelevant. What matters are long-term political alignments, and if anything, the past few months have proven that Cairo and Riyadh sit on very different political tables altogether. As for Iran, experience has proven that for every misstep the Kingdom has taken, Tehran’s traction has amplified tenfold. When one needs only to sit still to grow in strength, the impatient tend to miscalculate.
Although a reconciliation with Egypt is still possible, Saudi Arabia’s latest stunt in the Horn of Africa is likely to further aggravate grievances, and awaken Egypt’s national anger.
Earlier this December, news broke that Saudi Arabia would open a military base in Djibouti. The Egyptians were not amused.
The New Arab quoted an official Egyptian source as saying: “Cairo is totally against the deal because it considers Djibouti to be under the Egyptian sphere of influence and because its location is important for national security... This move goes against the generally accepted customs between Arab countries as the area has a direct influence on the passage of ships towards the Suez Canal. If Saudi Arabia wants to ensure that Iran does not take control of the area, that is understandable – however, this must take place with Egyptian oversight and permission.”
But why is the Horn of Africa so crucial to Egypt’s national security? One word: water.
A dispute over access to water resources in the region would ignite an existential struggle which would explode the MENA and feed dangerous fires given Africa’s recent descent into radicalism. Nigeria comes to mind.
I will say this: the kingdom’s belligerence will only further strengthen those resistance movements which have emerged across the MENA, each in reaction to both imperialism and Wahhabism.
How long before those different movements merged into one to tumble al-Saud’s house, and like dominoes those monarchies fall...