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Has Egypt just used Yemen?

Saudi Arabia has attacked the Houthi rebels in Yemen with damaging air strikes targeting their military sites, ammunition and arms stores. These strikes were successful in military and strategic terms and the government in Riyadh has vowed to launch more if the Houthis do not stop their advance, withdraw from Sana’a, and bring an end to their coup, thus restoring the legitimacy of Yemen’s President, Abed Rabbo Hadi Mansour. Some Arab countries rushed to support and take part in the strikes. They formed a Saudi-led coalition consisting of the Gulf Cooperation Council members, apart from Oman, plus Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Egypt.

The Egyptian foreign minister went as far as announcing in the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh that Egypt would intervene by air, sea and land if necessary. He added that three naval vessels left the Suez Canal for the Red Sea because Egypt supports legitimacy and is opposed to military coups and the forceful imposition of a political fait accompli. You couldn’t make this sort of stuff up. These words were actually said by the Egyptian foreign minister of the government which came to power through a coup; the same coup that took control of Egypt with tanks and abducted the legitimate Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was elected by the people. This coup imposed a fait accompli on Egypt through the use of military force.

What is the difference between what Al-Sisi and his followers did and what the Houthis are doing? Nothing at all, except that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates participated in the coup in Egypt and gave it unlimited support, while in Yemen, the situation is different. This is because Saudi Arabia and the UAE have waged a war against the Muslim Brotherhood in all Arab countries, and they incited the judiciary against the Brotherhood in Yemen and the Islah Party associated with the movement; this was the ruling party in ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government, and he made an alliance with the Houthis with the consent of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in order to overthrow the Brotherhood government. However, the Houthis took this golden once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and took control of Sana’a in September last; the Saudis and UAE kept quiet, as if they had blessed this move. The Houthis then spread to the other Yemeni cities, taking control of one after the other, until they reached the gates of Aden and bombed the presidential palace. That’s where President Mansour was staying after fleeing from Sana’a; the bombing caused him to flee once more, this time out of the country.

He is now in Saudi Arabia and there is talk of him attending the Arab summit in Sharm El-Sheikh. This suggests that under the reign of the late King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia made a serious strategic mistake in its inexcusable war against the Muslim Brotherhood. It has brought Iran into its own backyard, allowing Tehran to besiege Saudi’s southern borders after it has already surrounded it in the north by means of the strong presence of Iranian troops and proxies in Syria and Iraq. The absence of a sound strategic vision has allowed the spread of Iran’s influence in the Arab region aided by Saudi foolishness, which manifested itself as a hysterical phobia of the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is ironic that Egypt, which announced its participation in this alliance, opened its embassy in Yemen after the Houthis took control of the country and even appointed a new ambassador. It also met with the Houthis and declared joint cooperation between the two counties in a number of fields. The Houthis also made a promise not to close Bab Al-Mandab at the mouth of the Red Sea, while Egypt hosted a Houthis delegation and welcomed them warmly, all of which was broadcast on Egyptian television. “What has happened to Egypt?” asked one Houthi leader. “They were supporting us just yesterday!”

What has happened, dear Houthi leader, is that Al-Sisi was exploiting Saudi Arabia and used you as a playing card. The threat was clear: either Saudi Arabia continues to support him financially, just as it did during the reign of the late king or he will join its historical enemy, Iran. When this message was delivered and understood, he was back under the command of Saudi Arabia and he did as he was told. “They plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the Best of Planners.”

 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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