In his speech before the recent Arab Summit held in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, the head of the Egyptian regime warned of the challenges — described as systematic and unprecedented — that threaten the existence of the Arab countries, which are to be replaced by sectarian entities and terrorist organisations. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi stressed that regional countries are seeking to achieve this in order to establish their own zones of influence within Arab countries. He mentioned an example without naming any specific country, but hinted that one of the non-Arab countries in the region has a presence in two Arab states, describing this presence as outright occupation with the help of neighbouring states.
Despite the fact that this man and his allies are too craven to name the regional state he hinted at, it was fairly obvious that he was referring to Turkey and its presence in Syria, supporting the Free Syrian Army (the popular revolutionary army), representing the people’s liberation movement that aims to get rid of dictatorial rule. Such an objective is a right guaranteed and encouraged by the UN Charter, which stipulates that the legitimacy of a government is based on the popular support for the ruling authority. This means that Turkey’s support for the Free Syrian Army does not violate any international conventions, unlike Al-Sisi’s supply of rockets and military experts to the illegitimate Syrian regime, all paid for with Gulf petrodollars. Sisi’s support aims to supress the revolution and return the people to a dictatorship. It is also, foolishly, a means of support for the spread of Iranian and Russian influence in Syria.
The second state with a “non-Arab presence” hinted at by Sisi is Iraq. Despite the Iraqi representative being at the summit and the absence of any complaints from him about the Turkish military operations in his country, Sisi took it upon himself to play the role of a benevolent statesman at the head of a great state — which is no longer the case for Egyptian Presidents — to defend Iraq. He denounced the Turkish military operations targeting terrorist elements of the pro-independence Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the group which attacks civilians in Turkish villages and cities from within Iraqi territory. International law allows countries so affected to take the necessary measures to protect their citizens from terrorist groups, even if they are based beyond their borders. America established this principle in both Afghanistan and Iraq; it is not something that Turkey has invented.
Sisi’s talk about the regional state and its occupation of Arab states is reminiscent of the old saying about “the pot calling the kettle black”. He may have forgotten about his intervention in South Sudan, but history hasn’t; it is on the record that he was exposed after the arrest of Egyptian officers and soldiers by the Sudanese army. This is a disastrous example of interfering in the affairs of neighbouring countries, as Egypt and Sudan are not only brought together by location and a historical relationship, but also interests and strategic national security. Sisi’s move in South Sudan can, therefore, only be described as politically foolish.
The Egyptian President also forgot the fact that his army, which he has transformed from a force of which the Arabs were proud into a bunch of mercenaries who work for whoever pays them, have been rented out to Abu Dhabi for use whenever it pleases. He has thus sold the will and sovereignty of what was once a major country which led the Arab nation; the Egyptian army now does the bidding of the UAE government along the border of Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The truth of this was uncovered after Ethiopia dealt with the situation wisely, creating a major scandal for those who call — hypocritically, it must be said — for the sovereignty of nation states to be respected. Furthermore, an Ethiopian minister revealed Sisi’s support for the Oromia region rebels in their bid not only to overthrow the government in Addis Ababa, but also to dismantle the state itself.
Egypt is also involved in Libya, giving air and land support to the forces led by Alnazouri in Derna. This operation is not the first by Sisi’s military; his air force has been attacking rebels in Libya since the coup brought him to power in 2013.
Moreover, the government in Egypt continues to support the Gülenists led by Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey believes was behind the 2016 coup attempt. The investigations into the coup ended with court rulings affirming Gülen’s involvement.
I would like to ask the following question to those who condemn the intervention of regional powers in the affairs of Arab states: how do you justify your interference in your neighbours’ affairs? President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has provided the justification for his military operations in Syria and Iraq, and both are understandable. He is the one who has sheltered the Iraqis since the US occupied their country in 2003, and Turkey hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees. Now he wants to provide the latter with areas free of the Assad government’s brutality in order that they can return, at their request, in order to rebuild Syria, which has been destroyed by a criminal whom you support. So, what is your justification for planting the seeds of unrest for the sake of transient influence and wealth, and the implementation of a mini-state’s agenda?
The idea of alliances under which governments known for dividing areas of influence are operating only benefits the enemies of the Arabs. Such government are active in killing what began as the people’s desire to liberate themselves from the control of the colonisers and their agents. They are like the Merchant of Venice, but Antonio’s ships — Erdogan, who represents the will of the Muslim nations — will arrive safely and its merchants will profit, while Shylock will taste the bitterness of loss. Just wait and see. Sisi clearly has no shame, so is doing as he wishes.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 18 April 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.