All Eyes Off Egypt

Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour (C) defense minister Abdlefatah al-Sissi (2ndR) meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (2-L), and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) on November 14, 2013 at the presidential palace in Cairo. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)
Egyptian President Mansour meets with top Russian ministers
While most of us have been watching the dramatic Iranian/Western rapprochement, the sands are shifting in again in Egypt.

Following the successful coup d'etat against Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood Government in July this year, the secular military Government, under the leadership of Adly Mansour has dumped some past friends, and headed into a new romance.

For Western democracies, the Morsi election was always a conundrum.

On the one hand, they were alarmed that the Islamic brotherhood had finally obtained power in Egypt, reminiscent of the Iranian revolution in 1979.

On the other hand, there was no denying that democracy had had its say. However unpalatable.

The Obama administration responded to the dilemma by cutting $260m/a US military aid to the new Government in Egypt, even though $1.5 Billion/a aid was a central part of the Camp David Accords of 1978.

Last week, Egypt entered into high level talks, involving the Foreign and Defence Ministers of both countries, with the declared aim of restoring "Soviet level relations between the two countries".

Defence contracts from Russia to Egypt valued in the billions are reportedly being discussed.

Meantime, Recep Erdogan's Turkey faced a different problem with the new Egyptian Government.

Erdogan's democratic Islamic (AKP) ideology had put him on a strong mutual footing with Mohamed Morsi, a fellow democratic Islamist. Erdogan brought a large delegation of political and business leaders to Cairo in September 2011, to show Turkey's solid support for Morsi's Government.

When the military coup of July 2013 overthrew Morsi, not only did Erdogan lose a potential ally, but it also brought back Erdogan's perennial fears of the Turkish army launching a coup against his own Islamist government in Ankara. (The secular bastion Turkish Army has led three coups during Turkey's recent history - and Erdogan's fears have prompted him to arrest and imprison hundreds of Turkish military leaders in the past five years, on charges of plotting a coup).

Erdogan was so displeased by the military coup in Egypt that he had the gall to link it to his usual behemoth - Israel.

Erdogan accused Mansour of conspiring with Israel to topple Morsi's government, and claimed he had "proof" of this. "This is what has been implemented in Egypt. Who is behind this? Israel. We Have evidence!"

Accusing Mansour of working with Israel to overthrow Morsi, is the equivalent of calling his mother a whore, or throwing a shoe at him.

Unsurprisingly, this week Egypt informed Turkey's ambassador that he is persona non-grata; the Turkish delivered a similar message to the Egyptian Ambassador to Ankara. Both ambassadors returned to their respective countries.

Here in Israel, whereas Israel clearly has strategic preferences for a secular military government in Egypt, rather than the (even) democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood, Israel has remained quiet in any support.

Israel reportedly lobbied the US Government NOT to declare the overthrow of Morsi as a "Coup", as this would have made continuing US aid to Egypt illegal under US law.

In return, Cairo has stamped down on an increasingly resitve Sinai, and the Gaza border, killing and rounding up terror groups and destroying hundreds of smuggling tunnels.

Israel has appointed Haim Koren as the new ambassador to Egypt. Cooperation has been quiet but strong between the Egyptian and Israeli armies since the Begin/Sadat Peace Agreement. Now Egyptian Army  are in power, this must be good for Israel.

While nowhere near as dramatic as the Iranian agreement with the P5 + 1, there have been quiet Egyptian re-alignments away from dependence on the USA (another one?) and from Turkey (finding itself increasingly sidelined internationally) - and towards Russia and (hush) Israel.


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