It is interesting that Egypt has announced its support for Russian intervention in Syria. “The information available to Egypt through direct contact with the Russian side affirms Russia’s eagerness to counter terrorism and restrict its spread in Syria,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. “Russia’s entrance, given its potential and capabilities, is something we see is going to have an effect on limiting terrorism in Syria and eradicating it.”
This statement means that there are some serious points of dispute with Egypt. There is the problem that Egypt believes that the Russians are serious about combatting terrorism, despite that fact that the Russians are bombing the Syrian opposition and only targeted Daesh in 5 per cent of their strikes. The other problem is that these Egyptian statements show leniency – I will not say sympathy – towards the criminal Bashar Al-Assad. The statements do not suggest that his crimes are the reason Syria is where it is today and that Assad is the official sponsor of terrorism and the reason for the emergence of Daesh.
This Egyptian position reveals the problem of Cairo not concerning itself with the Russian-Iranian coordination to support Assad, especially since Damascus is under Iran’s protection. Does Egypt consider this enough of a guarantee to combat terrorism? Or to protect the unity of the Arab state?
It must be said – better late than never – that there is a real flaw in the understanding of the Syrian crisis in Egypt, both politically and amongst the elites. Egypt is not Syria and Tunisia is neither Libya nor Yemen; there is no one resolution for all of the crises known as the Arab Spring. As such, there is no consistency in the positions and events, except with regards to stopping the bloodshed and preserving the state, not the head of the state, especially in the case of a criminal like Assad.
What some people in Egypt do not bear in mind is the fact that Assad’s army is sectarian, and has now been supplemented by Shia and Iranian militias as well as Russian forces; it is different from the Egyptian army.
They also do not realise that Assad is being assisted by Iran and its supporters to torture the Syrians, unlike the Egyptian military council which supported its people and took action under this cover, thus affording it Arab support. However, in Egypt, they are also unaware that Assad, who has caused the death of a quarter of a million Syrians and displaced millions of others, heads the first Arab government to resort to a foreign country to attack its own people, after having resorted to sectarian militias. Again, this is not the case with Egypt.
Nor do some people in Egypt keep in mind the fact that foreign military intervention in the region has never helped any country. This is actually occupation rather than liberation, as was the case with Kuwait, and at that time there was an international coalition to free it.
There was no benefit from the American occupation in either Iraq or Afghanistan and the Russian intervention will benefit neither Syria nor even Assad, just as the Iranian hostility has not benefitted anyone in the region.
Hence, the Egyptian position is strange and a concern for those counting on or hopeful for the country. I must say that politics are not arguments and nor are they black and white. There are a lot of grey areas and, in Syria’s case, there is also a lot of blood red.
Translated from Ash Sharq Al Awsat, 5 October, 2015