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Sisi's attempts to rehabilitate Assad... A different tune to the Gulf

The statement made by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in which he stressed that the security coordination with the Egyptian intelligence did not stop, not even during the term of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi,, coincided with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi's visit to Russia. During his visit, he met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed regional issues, mainly the Syrian crisis.

Al-Sisi, along with Putin, is seeking to find a solution to the Syrian crisis by proposing a plan to form a regional alliance against Daesh, in which Al-Assad will be involved. This measure has been interpreted as a measure to "re-launch" Assad's regime onto the international arena.

During his interview on Tuesday with Hezbollah's Al-Manar television, Al-Assad praised Egypt and its president by stressing his country's keenness to maintain its relationship with Cairo. He said: "Communication between Syria and Egypt did not break even under Morsi. Despite his harm to Syria, we did not try to harm Egypt."

He asked Egypt to "play the role of the important country…the brotherly important influential country that helps the other Arab countries," stressing that his country stands in the same trench with the Egyptian army and with the Egyptian people against terrorists.

Singing a different tune

However, many observers believe that Al-Sisi's actions, which represent a marketing campaign for Al-Assad and his regime as those combatting terrorism, may threaten his relationship with the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, which has said on numerous occasions that "there is no future for Al-Assad in Syria".

It seems that the Egyptian rapprochement with Al-Assad, by means of Russia, will not pass without impacting Saudi-Egyptian relations. The Arab League announced it would postpone signing the agreement to form a joint Arab force. This was an idea proposed by Al-Sisi during the most recent Arab Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh. This announcement was made hours before it was due to be signed.

Observers also believe that Al-Assad hopes that by getting closer to Egypt it would distance itself from the alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in general. These countries have backed Egypt by providing financial support to Al-Sisi's government at a critical time and at a time when they announced their hostility towards Al-Assad.

Since the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries was signed, and the consequent American-Russian reconciliation which Moscow took as a green light to look for a solution, Al-Sisi has hoped that his meeting with Putin would allow him to play an active role in this regard, based on the strong relations between Egypt and Russia. In addition to this, he is encouraged by the fact that the Egyptian-Jordanian-Emirati axis is pushing towards finding a political solution for the Syrian crisis and an agreement to combat "terrorism".

A hesitant endorsement

Meanwhile, other observers suggest that Al-Sisi's current actions are being endorsed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, albeit hesitantly. The Gulf states are now aware that there can be no military solution in Syria. There are even signs of a Saudi-Russia reconciliation, which can be read in the context of giving Egypt a margin to act in.

Syrian affairs analysts think the Gulf states have realised that the region is in a state of "to be or not to be", starting from Yemen, and moving on to Iraq, Syria and Libya. This allows everyone to welcome any measure or attempt to reach a "consensual political" solution, provided that it is granted international-regional consensus that would guarantee its success. An example of this is the Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war in 1990.

Experts also note that Al-Sisi's position on Al-Assad and his attempt to re-launch and rehabilitate his regime has a "political-doctrinal" aspect, as the anti-Arab Spring Egyptian government sees the Syrian revolution as an extension of the Arab Spring. Many decision-makers in Egypt believe that Al-Assad and his regime are the symbol of the "Arab republican regime" with its traditional "60s" structure. Therefore, its protection and survival is important and vital in order to hinder any future ideas that are inspired by the Syrian revolution model.

Political action in Moscow

The Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, Jordanian Monarch Abdullah II, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, all arrived in the Russian capital on Tuesday to attend the MAKS Air Show, but Kremlin media outlets reported that the leaders would conduct meetings with their Russian counterpart to discuss a number of issues, including the Syrian crisis.

The Gulf states are conducting intense discussions with their American allies and Western countries in order to resolve the Syrian crisis. The Russian capital of Moscow witnessed a number of talks this month between Gulf officials and Syrian opposition leaders regarding the Syrian issue. During his visit to Moscow earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said his country refuses any role for Al-Assad in the future of Syria, and that Saudi Arabia's position has not changed; it still supports a peaceful solution in accordance with the Geneva Accords I.

Translated from Al-Khaleej Online on 27 August 2015.

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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