Egypt – Saudi Military Relations … Apparent Alliance and Different Paths

Egypt’s Cheif of Staff Mohamed Farid ended his official visit to Saudi Arabia after attending” Gulf Sheild 1″ joint military training. He also attended the meeting with US Central Command with the participation all the chiefs of staff in the Middle East region.   

In the same context, Abdel Fatah al Sisi attended the close of Gulf Shield 1 military drills in Saudi Arabia, according to Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Radi.

Al-Sisi accompanied King Salman of Saudi Arabia to oversee the final day of the drills which included military forces from 24 Arab and Muslim states.

The exercise was conducted on the following day of the 29th Arab Summit, which held earlier Sunday in Dhahran city, east of Saudi Arabia, with the participation of 16 Arab leaders.

Elements of the Egyptian Armed Forces left on March 19 for Saudi Arabia to partake in (Gulf Shield 1) joint drills with the participation of ground, naval and air forces from the GCC member states and a number of Arab countries.

The Egyptian Armed Forces have previously stated that the drills aim at exchanging expertise in the fields of planning, organizing and implementing different training activities and developing the military readiness of participating countries to secure vital targets, face possible threats and protect maritime corridors.

“Gulf Shield 1” is organized by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense with participants from the land, air and naval forces of 23 countries. Tens of thousands of soldiers have arrived in the Kingdom to join the military exercise, which is considered the largest in the region in terms of the number of participating countries and the equipment used.

Most analysts agree the exercise is focused towards Iran and a possible confrontation across the Gulf. The advancements in Iranian missile capabilities are driving Gulf Arab countries to cooperate militarily. Accordingly, it is believed that these military maneuvers in the Gulf aim to counter the Iranian threat in the region.

In this case, will Egypt’s Al-Sisi allow Egyptian ground troops to participate in any operation in the Gulf region? 

It is worth to mention that Egypt’s al-Sisi has always denied any participation of Egyptian ground troops, concerning its participation in the Suadi led coalition in Yemen and said it is limited to the naval and air forces only.

During the seven-hour meeting with the editors-in-chief of state-owned newspapers in 2016, al-Sisi said, “We have Air Force elements in Saudi Arabia, but we do not have any ground forces in any Arab country. All of our forces abroad work within the framework of the United Nations peacekeeping forces.”

Egypt’s air force has been participating in the Saudi-led military coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen since the coalition was launched in March 2015, according to Al-Ahram (state-owned newspaper).

In January 2017, Egypt’s National Defense Council agreed in a meeting to extend the deployment of Egyptian Armed Forces units in the Red Sea and the Bab Al-Mandab strait.

Moreover, in April 2017, Brig.General.Ahmed Asiri, former Saudi Defense Minister’s adviser and spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said In a televised interview on al-Arabiya Saudi TV Channel, that Egypt had previously offered to send 40,000 soldiers to Yemen for protecting the Saudi-Yemeni border.

Asiri said, “Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered the Saudi government and the coalition to send ground troops to Yemen but the coalition policy in Yemen does not allow the presence of any foreign ground troops on the Yemeni territory.”

He also commented on the number of the Egyptian forces participating in the Arab coalition supporting legitimacy in Yemen saying, “the Egyptian army currently cooperates in the naval and air efforts, but what we were talking about happened earlier (at the beginning of operations) was the participation of almost 30,000 to 40,000 Egyptian soldiers as ground troops.”