Future Of Egyptian-Saudi Relations in Light of Al-Sisi’s Anti-Saudi Actions

Despite the Saudi aids poured to Egypt since the military coup in 2013,al-Sisi continues to move against the Saudi interests and foreign policy in an explicit way.

Saudi Arabia along with U.A.E. and Kuwait, have poured billions of dollars to support al-Sisi regime after he led a military coup in 2013 against Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi. Egypt has received more than $20bn in aid from Gulf countries since then.

In return, Saudi Arabia expected Egypt to return the favor to Saudi Arabia by aligning with the Saudi foreign policy regarding crucial regional issues . However, al-Sisi’s commitment to the Saudi interests has been very weak and suspicious. Egypt’s recent stance towards different files stood far from the interests of the Saudi counterpart.

Another blow in the Egyptian Saudi relations:”Egypt votes to in favor of the Russian resolution”

Yesterday, Egypt’s delegation in the security council voted in favor of the Russian resolution, a situation that raised  concern among Saudi political bureau.

The Saudi’s ambassador to the UN Abduallah al-Mouallimi condemned Egypt’s vote to the favor of the Russain resolution and described it with the “painful” stance. After the voting, al-Mouallimi said,”It was painful that the Senegalese and Malaysian stance was closer to the Arab’s consensus than the Egyptian delegation.”

He also said that he feels pity for these countries that voted to the Russain resolution, stressing that his country will continue in backing the Syrian people by all means.Al-Mouallimi continued saying,”It was an absurdness series to present an anti resolution that didint have except four approvals.”

The latest Egyptian vote in support for the Russian resolution represents another blow in the light of the Egyptian Saudi relations.

Moreover, last month Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has recognized that there are differences with Saudi Arabia regarding Syria, stating the reason is that each country has “different visions regarding changing of the Syrian leadership,” according to Middle East Monitor.

Shoukry’s comments came at the at the annual UN General Assembly meetings in New York,as he said,”Saudi Arabia adopts a position that focuses on changing the ruling system of government or to change the Syrian leadership. Egypt does not adopt this idea.”

Shoukry’s remarks were widely reported by Egyptian newspapers, noting that he also said: “We estimate that all the developments in the Syrian arena must lead to a new Syria that meets the desires of all…sides.”

He avoided giving a direct answer to a question related to the removal of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, saying that “this is a Syrian issue and we do not have to link everything to a certain person and waste our time expecting what would happen if he was removed.”

When he was asked whether the Syrian situation has deteriorated after it had been on the verge of a possible solution following the US-Russian brokered ceasefire that collapsed, Shoukry said: “Of course, there was a glimpse of hope after the American-Russian understanding to halt all hostilities.

“But the situation on the ground, increasing terror, mergers between terrorists and the opposition such as what happened with Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham), the targeting of the Syrian army [by US airstrikes] and the targeting of humanitarian aid convoys (by Russia) undermined the understanding and pushed us into a vicious circle.”

Accordingly, Egypt declared in both an implied and explicit way being closer to the Russain stance than the Saudi stance regarding the Syrian crisis.

Saudi Arabia has called for regime change in Syria after it deemed the Assad regime to have committed grave abuses against its own people, a position largely adopted by the US-led coalition and international political alliances such as the Friends of Syria. Since 2011, the Assad regime has been backed  by the Iranian government and, increasingly, Russia since Moscow intervened a year ago-which in fact threatens the national security of the Saudi kingdom.

This wasn’t the first blow: Egypt’s participation in Grozny conference

last month, Egypt slammed the Saudi interest by participating in Grozny conference in Chechnya .Grozny Conference in Chechnya, which was initiated by the Yemeni scholar Ali al-Gafry- close to the Egyptian agencies and high-ranking officials to redefine Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’ah term, has increased more suspicions.

Egypt’s religious official institution has participated in the conference with all its entities and figures as Al-Azhar, the Endowment, the Grand Mufti as well as the al-Sisi’s official counselor and the former Mufti. In addition to their attendance, AL-Azhar’s participation in the conference has caused unprecedented outrage among the Saudi circles in protest against excluding the Salafists from Ahl- al-Sunnah’s definition when the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb enlisted those who are included in this term during the conference.

The conference aims to isolate Saudi Arabia religiously and politically as the Saudi religious institutions and scholars weren’t invited to the conference.

Moreover, the conference has also accused the Saudi kingdom and its ideology with fueling extremism which are in fact dangerous accusations to the kingdom and a stab in the back from a close ally as Egypt at the time Saudi Arabia faces many threats from Iran and its arms in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

In the same context, in an interview with Iranian Fars News Agency, Dr. Ahmed Kerema, a professor of Islamic Sharia (Islamic Law) at Al-Azhar University attacked the Saudi operations in Yemen on an Iranian media!

Dr. Kerema said, “The fighters from UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Coalition, who are killed in Yemen, are aggressors and they will go to hell.” On the other hand, he said,” The dead Yemeni people, who are the helpless aggrieved party, are the martyrs,” Kerema said stressing that this is a “fatwa” (certified religious opinion) from Al-Azhar, and from him.

Dr. Kerema also defended Grozny Conference which was held at Chechnya. The Conference and its participants were accused of treason for excluding the Salafists from Ahl- al-Sunnah’s (Components of Sunnah -those who adopt the real traditions of Prophet Mohamed and adhere to his teachings, uniting upon them- a controversial issue over the Islamic ages).

Kerema defended Grozny conference saying,” Ahl- al-Sunnah conference was held to adjust the term that was lured by the Salafist Wahhabis, who claimed that they are alone the only Sunni Community.”

He also defended excluding the Salafist Wahhabism from the term of Ahl-al-Sunnah saying that Wahhabism is the core of violence and unrest in our world and “If the world seeks to eradicate the sources of terrorism, it has to stand decisively against Wahhabism.”

When Dr. Kerema was asked why Saudi Arabia religious institutions were not invited to Grozny Conference, he said that “Frankly speaking, the countries of Central Asia have endured from the Wahhabist ideas for destroying their youths’ mentality.” He continued, “They made their youth the main fuel of terrorism and terrorist operations.” Kerema also opened fire on the Saudis “fatwas”, accusing them of destructing Yemen, Iraq, and now Syria.

Many Saudis refuse to assume that all these moves have occurred away or against Egypt’s political will. Accordingly, Saudi circles, who were once supporters of the al-Sisi regime,  protested against Egypt’s participation in the conference as well as excluding the Salafists from Ahl- al-Sunnah’s definition when Al-Azhar Grand Imam enlisted those who are included in this term during the conference. As a result, a well-known Saudi writer called to leave Al-Sisi “to face his fate,” for taking the decision to participate in this conference.”

One of the prominent comments on the issue was that of Mohammed Al Ash-Sheikh, a famous writer, who said on Twitter, “The participation of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Grozny Conference, which excluded the Saudi Kingdom from the definition of Ahl al-Sunnah requires to change our treatment with Egypt.”

He added, “Our nation is more important and let Egypt of al-Sisi go to ruins.” He continued, “We were supporting al-Sisi because our joint enemies were the Muslim brotherhood (MB) and the pro-MB Salafis.” Al Ash-Sheikh said that after Sisi showed ingratitude in Grozny, “he should face his fate alone”.

Al Ash-sheikh said that the conference “clearly targets the Kingdom”, accusing the Russian and Iranian Intelligence of standing behind the conference to “exit the Kingdom out of Ahl Al Sunna. He ended his comment saying, “I have disagreed with the extremist and I had enough from them but if the case is related to the nation’s underestimation and marginalization, I will turn to the greatest hardliner because the nation is a case of life or death, according to my criteria.”

On the other hand, the well-known academic Mohamed Abdullah Azzam said on Twitter, “The former Grand Mufti Aly Gomaa was tutored by Sheikh Hamud Al-Tweirgy and he has been generously treated by the Saudis Scholars … however, I am astonished at the silence of al-Sisi supporters in Saudi Arabia toward the Chechnya Conference treason. He added that after the Kingdom’s enormous projects in al-Azhar, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar is awarding Saudi Arabia through engaging in a coalition with Putin to expel the Kingdom out of the Islamic world.

In the same context, Khaled al-Dakheel, a well-known political researcher at Al-Hayat newspaper, said on his Twitter account, “Egypt’s stability is a Saudi and Arabian interest but al-Sisi’s political commitment is still suspicious, “He also that al-Sisi came to power by a military coup but he insists on calling it a revolution. Al-Dakheel also said, “I was never convinced that al-Sisi has the ability and the wisdom to lead Egypt in this critical situation , as his reign is the worst since the death of Abdul Nasser as said by the Egyptians.”

Is Saudi Arabia withdrawing from its generosity with al-Sisi regime?

It seems that Saudi Arabia is steadily withdrawing from being too much generous with al-Sisi regime as spending billions of dollars wasn’t useful to the Saudi foreign policy and national security interests.

Recently, Reuters reported that Egypt has not received October allocations of petroleum aid from Saudi Arabia, forcing its state oil buyer to rapidly increase tenders even amid a severe dollar shortage and growing arrears to oil producers.

During a state visit this year by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Saudi Arabia agreed to provide Egypt with 700,000 tonnes of refined oil products per month for five years under a $23 billion deal signed between Saudi Aramco and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC).

“Delivery of the Saudi Aramco products was halted as of October 1 though the reason remains unclear,”reported  Reuters.

The oil aid provided by Saudi Arabia has saved Egypt hundreds of millions of dollars per month at a time when it faces a sharp shortage of hard currency that has forced it to ration dollars for key commodities and negotiate long term credit arrangements with oil producers to keep critical supplies flowing.

Reuters cited EGPC official saying, “Under the 700,000-tonne monthly supply deal, Saudi Aramco agreed to provide 400,000 tonnes of gas oil, 200,000 tonnes of gasoline and 100,000 tonnes of fuel oil per month, all on a credit line with a 2 %interest rate to be repaid over 15 years.”

The EGPC has re-entered the spot market in recent weeks to fill the gap, traders said, announcing its largest purchase tenders in months, including calls for some 560,000 tonnes of gas oil for October arrival, a steep rise from the roughly 200,000 tonnes sought in September.

The state oil buyer announced additional tenders on for 665,000 tonnes of gas oil and 132,000 tonnes of gasoline for November arrival, levels that could suggest a protracted delay or suspension of Saudi Aramco products.

Egypt’s oil ministry spokesman told Reuters he had no information suggesting a suspension of aid.The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum spokesperson said that Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) didn’t receive an official letter from Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco) regarding suspending  the delivery of the agreed oil shipments.

The Saudi oil aid and other grants provided by the kingdom have been a mainstay in helping Egypt shore up its foreign reserves, which the central bank governor has said need to top $25 billion from their end-September total of $19.6 billion before the country can float its currency.

However, the Saudi support to al-Sisi regime has been shrinking gradually overtime.Firstly,Saudi aids were in the form of governmental grants but the Saudi government’s grants and financial aid deposited previously to the Egypt’s Central Bank directly have come to an end when the Saudi’s support suggests a new trend. Accordingly, money shipped to Cairo is coming as investments and loans.

secondly, reports mentioned that Saudi Arabia is about to halt some of its projects with nearly 20 billion dollars- which was a blow to the Egyptian economy that has already been suffering from a decline in foreign investments.Some experts say that the Saudi investments which are supposed to be pumped in Egypt will shrink as a result of the internal economic crisis in the kingdom due to the decline in oil prices.

In fact, there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia is facing domestic problems as result of the decline in oil prices, however the divergent in the Egyptian stances from the Saudi policies would probably affect the Saudi decision in rearranging  its priorities when it comes to aids especially at time when the Kingdom is already facing a sharp decline in its oil resources, representing almost 75% of the Kingdom’s revenues, which was reflected in the state’s public budget and has caused a major deficit.