Only a few months ago Saudi King Salman visited Cairo to inspect “his newest acquisition”. Or so jubilant Salafis and opinion-ators in Saudi and Gulf media screamed. Many fell for it. Even an astute person like myself, born and raised amidst the sandstorms and the annual locust invasions and under the loving truly burning sun of the (Persian) Gulf. But I did express some doubt.
At that time Saudi media claimed the King had a ‘pleasant’ surprise for the Egyptian people. It turned out that surprise was anything but pleasant. It was the draft of an agreement that cedes two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir in the Gulf of Aqaba, to the Saudis. The people of Egypt, with the exception of Saudi-financed Salafis, were furious at the Sisi regime. Other Arabs were also skeptic, except for the Salafi-Tribal types of the Gulf region. The whole thing backfired on the Cairo regime. Now the islands issue looks unresolved.
Then there is Syria. The Saudi-Qatari-Turkish axis, although frayed by now, has been consistent in its resolve to help replace the secular Assad regime with an Islamist-Jihadist one. More recently the Turks have given in to American pressure and tightened border controls a bit. They have also developed some focused worries about Syrian Kurds and their drive for autonomy. The Egyptian regime has been skeptic of the Saudi-Turkish position on Syria. Now they are openly so, as reflected in their latest UN Security Council vote on Syria.
The Saudi ruling elites are not very subtle or classy about showing their displeasure. They can be called “Indian Givers”, a politically incorrect term now here, I know, but succinctly describes them. Now they have retaliated by cutting off the billions of promised aid, starting with oil shipments. Reports claim Kuwait has stepped in to replace the promised Saudi oil shipments to Cairo. Their is a media war brewing between the two countries.
But it is not realistic to expect an ancient country like Egypt to remain long subservient to a bunch of tribal oligarchs in Riyadh
Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir used to go around the world asserting that the Syrian Assad regime will go, peacefully or by military means. Tough words for a Saudi minister whose well-armed country has been losing a war to the lightly-armed tribal Houthis of Yemen and their allies. For a few weeks Mr. Al Jubeir was silenced, by order. Now he is back, again threatening that his country is considering arming “moderate” Syrian rebels. Moderate by Wahhabi standards, no doubt.
That requires agreement by Washington which supplies most of the Saudi weapons in question.
And that is where the sisterly, or is it brotherly, relations stand now.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum