Egypt’s plan for 'joint Arab force' a non-starter, but shows cooperative intent against threats

Expert to ‘Post’: Whether it is a nuclear armed Shi’ite Iran or ISIS, Saudi Arabia may be seeking a way to rally support.

By
March 2, 2015 08:27
2 minute read.
An Egyptian military helicopter, trailing a national flag, circles over Tahrir Square

An Egyptian military helicopter, trailing a national flag, circles over Tahrir Square. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

Egypt's President Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi said in interviews with Saudi-backed media prior to his visit on Sunday to meet Saudi Arabia’s King Salman that he supports the establishment of a “joint Arab force,” though likely for rhetorical flourish.

However, Egypt and other Sunni Arab states are under external threat and feel the need to unite in some way.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Whether it is a nuclear armed Shi’ite Iran, Islamic State terrorism, or the wish to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, Saudi Arabia may be seeking a way to rally support, Brandon Friedman, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a researcher at its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told The Jerusalem Post.

Sunni states that oppose revolutionary Sunni movements have been intensively consulting on how to deal with the threats.
With the exception of Qatar, the Gulf states have been extremely financially supportive of Sisi’s regime, and in return the Egyptian president has been quoted as saying Gulf security is critical.

“The security of the Gulf is a red-line for us,” Sisi said in the interview with the London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat published over the weekend.

The Egyptian leader sees Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan as countries that could begin work on creating such a force, he said in another interview with Al-Arabiya.

While joint military drills and limited cooperation in certain military theaters could be possible, an integrated joint force is highly unlikely. Even within the group of Sunni states that oppose revolutionary Islamic movements, disagreements and egos are likely to get in the way of any functioning combined force.



Tensions have been rising between Egypt and Gulf states according to highly informed Egyptian sources quoted in a report in Ahram Online on Saturday. Saudi financial support to Egypt declined during the last months of former king Abdullah’s rule, they said.

The report noted that the alleged leaked conversation of senior Egyptian officials taking Gulf aid for granted and the accusation of Egypt against Qatar for supporting terrorism may have increased tensions between Egypt and the Gulf.

A Saudi commentator, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, raised the idea last week in an article in Asharq al-Awsat and republished on the Al-Arabiya website that if “Tehran signs a nuclear agreement with the West, Turkey can work with major blocs to prevent Iranian regional expansion.”

Friedman says that the Saudis may be seeking to rally the Sunni bloc and overcome past points of contention, particularly with Qatar and Turkey, which have supported Islamists in the region.

The new king’s policy may be seeking to repair relations with Qatar and Turkey, even if Egypt disapproves.

Ahmed Al Omran, the Saudi correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, tweeted on Sunday that Sisi’s trip to the Kingdom lasted less than four hours and that soon afterwards, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Medina.

Sisi’s suggestion of a joint force is an important symbolic statement, even if a fully integrated force is not currently in the cards, said Friedman.

An important point, he adds, is how a joint force would be defined. “If it means an effective way of cooperating in an alliance, then this is a step forward from typical regional behavior,” he said.

Friedman questions whether the Saudis would be comfortable having the Egyptian president playing a leading role. Clearly, the Saudis want a strong Egypt, which is the only Sunni Arab state capable of leading, partly because of its strong military and large population, said Friedman.

Related Content

August 15, 2018
Nasrallah: We're stronger than the IDF, will soon be victorious in Syria

By JULIANE HELMHOLD