Global Migration & Politics
Analysis and commentary on the politics of the Middle East, of the power games that defines the region, and the economic, religious and ethnic problems the region is often facing.

The power balance is tipping in the Middle East

There is a cold front between Saudi Arabia and Egypt these days. It has been done for some time, but the strained relationship was further emphasized recently when a Saudi chief secretary was raping a joke referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and his refrigerator. It resulted in a bill of lords and submission of official appeal from Egypt to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The whole misery started at a youth conference held in October in Egypt. Here, President Al-Sisi tried to Farmer a little with future politicians. He explained to the young people that he had been exactly the same as them once. The president pointed out that in his youth he had a refrigerator for 10 years without any content other than water.

The story resulted in an instant tide of ordinary Egyptian sarcasm on Twitter with hashtag “#Sisis refrigerator” and newspaper articles with headlines like “ what’s in Sisi’s fridge?” Egyptians are known throughout the Middle East for a widespread use of sarcasm to their politicians and their chores. The president himself also slipped the twitter storm and failed to react.

However, when the Secretary General of the OIC, at an opening ceremony shortly after in Tunisia, joined the Tunisian and Egyptian President together, he apologized apologize, pointing out that there had to be more in the fridge than just water. This little subtle joke with reference to al-Sisi and his fridge certainly did not fall in good land in Cairo. On the contrary, the fox was loose in Laksegade. An official complaint was immediately lodged against the Secretary-General who shortly afterwards withdrew from the post with reference to poor health. Everyone knew that it was really a bill of fire, which at best meant the relatively strained relationship between Riyadh and Cairo in those years.

A Saudi Arabian ATM

Since the Saudi king Salman stepped up to the throne in 2015, there has been frown on the line between the two countries.

First of all, because the new king is familiar with al-Sisi’s view of Saudi Arabia as something of a generous ATM that would like to share money, just as it ensures Egypt’s stability. And the picture of a Saudi Arabian money machine is historically also not completely skeletal, considering that it has financed Egypt firmly since 1946.

Saudi Arabia expects loyalty in return for the ever-increasing cash flow that has gone to Nile’s country in recent years. A loyalty that Egypt’s President has not honored completely – at least not according to Saudi Arabian scale.

In this light, it may be understandable that al-Sisi regards Saudi Arabia as the happy giver. However, there are usually conditions attached to such gifts.

The use of UN resolution as deleting hidden message to Saudi Arabia

There are several examples of this. Among other things, Egypt recently chose to vote for a Russian-draft UN proposal for a UN resolution requiring the termination of all hostilities in Syria applicable to all but Russian and Syrian combat aircraft.

It must be considered a somewhat unusual step to vote for the Russian proposal, partly because Egypt is not involved in the Syrian war, and has not even tried to play a role in the conflict.

It was obviously an act that had a clear address to the board of Saudi Arabia, which, in line with many other Arab states, has demanded a complete stop for hostile acts, including the use of Russian and Syrian aircraft. In other words, there was a clear message from Cairo that you do not necessarily match orders from Riyadh, regardless of the generous cash flow.

A dangerous move to lay arm with Egypt’s most stable carpenter?

The question is whether it is a dangerous move for Egypt to try to lay arm with the country’s most stable charity. And although President Al-Sisi was allegedly one of the first to get the newly elected Donald Trump in the pipe and congratulated him on presidential elections, there is no guarantee that Trump, as president, will give Egypt a more prominent role in the Middle East. There is therefore no guarantee of generous US loans. All in all, it is uncertain for Egypt to bet on the Trump card at this time.

The reaction to Egypt’s voice in the UN Security Council was also prompted by Saudi Arabia. Oil deliveries from Saudi Arabia to Egypt were immediately stopped indefinitely . When these may be resumed, apparently, Egypt is correcting and correcting. This can be done, for example, by supporting Saudi Arabia in the war against Yemen. A war like al-Sisi has no interest in being involved in.

The war against Yemen is in itself an unexplained failure, and terribly expensive for Saudi Arabia. But no country will voluntarily enter into a war that is already being judged to be a violent strategic error. There is, in other words, no reason for Egypt to be associated with that war.

An Egyptian flirt with Iran

Something suggests that Cairo rather rely on an alliance with Iran.

If Saudi Arabia was a mother, it was true that Madam Mother, in the best Arabic theatrical way, would now throw herself on the floor, screaming and screaming with heartbreaks and dots for her eyes.

Shortly after the Saudi crisis for oil delivery, the Egyptian Minister of Oil announced that the government was planning to visit Iran for cooperation on oil supplies. It is seen in Riyadh as the least of a provocation of dimensions to Saudi Arabia. Yes, in fact, it is – seen with Saudi Arabian eyes – “the mother of all provocations” from Egypt. Because Iran about any country is Saudi Arabia declared enemy number one.

Skolegårdens nye enfant terrible

The question is then why, Egypt wants this role as provocateur , like the new enfant terrible in the schoolyard?

Indeed, it is not a role that the country can afford to play on the basis of economic considerations. With Saudi Arabian deposits in Egyptian banks of over $ 8 billion and investments in the country for over 20 billion US dollars, Cairo is not immediately in a position that qualifies to play the grubby kid. And what started as a massive support from Saudi Arabia to al-Sisi three years ago when it became president, has gradually evolved into a disappointment of greater dimensions – not just economic but political.

Saudi Arabia would probably be able to withdraw its money and investments out of the country without much effort. The question is whether it will ever be applicable. And more importantly, Egypt is probably quite aware of it. No matter where provocative Egypt had to behave in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia will still hold the country because there is no alternative.

In this light, it is less strange why Al-Sisi dares to challenge and challenge the Saudi Arabian agenda. Because he knows that no matter how many oil deliveries that are discontinued from Riyadh, and no matter how many Egyptian meetings will hold Iran, Saudi Arabia will still need Egypt in its fight against Iran.

It also explains why the Saudi Arabian Secretary-General had to withdraw for health reasons after the small innocent remark on Al-Sisi’s refrigerator. Because Saudi Arabia eventually wants to lay down on the cold front of Cairo. Because Saudi Arabia no matter what still needs Egypt as a stabilization factor in the region. In this context, it is certainly true that Egypt has just rounded a population of 100 million citizens. Most of them are Sunni Muslims. A very important detail, now seen from Saudi Arabia, sees the greatest threat from Iran and its Shia Muslims.

In this light, it is less strange why Al-Sisi dares provoke and challenge the Saudi Arabian agenda. Because he knows that no matter how many oil supplies are being discontinued from Riyadh, and no matter how many Egyptian meetings will hold with Iran, Saudi Arabia will still need Egypt in its fight against Iran. If Egypt’s president suddenly gets the role of the tongue on the scales of the eternal power of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, it makes a very good sense to suddenly oppose Saudi Arabia.

Power balance is ticking

It seems that Egypt with this latest move is preparing for a position like the region’s new darling , which has been transformed by both Saudi Arabia and Iran. A position such as former President Anwar Sadat also landed during the Cold War in the 1970s when Egypt was favored by both the United States and the Soviet Union.

In other words, the power balance in the Middle East is tipping. With this strategy, Egypt can again take its seat in the Middle East and push Saudi Arabia into a sidewalk. If an alliance between Egypt and Iran is being further consolidated, it will cause tremors throughout the region. The fact that the largest population-rich and state-of-the-art state cooperates with the largest Shi-Muslim nation will potentially be able to turn up and down the entire region, including the sectarian conflicts that constantly lie and swarm around the area.

Some analysts will think that this scenario is as unlikely as both Brexit and Donald Trump as American president. The analysts are likely to mistake.

Machiavelli certainly did not live in vain.

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