Reports have surfaced claiming that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has called for the Saudi led boycott of Qatar to be extended to Turkey. The remarks allegedly came during Sisi’s meeting last week with King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, a state which many consider to be a prototypical puppet regime of Saudi Arabia.
These reports come as Egypt’s Parliament approved the effective sale of two Red Sea Egyptian islands to Saudi Arabia, a move which has proved deeply controversial for many Egyptians, but one which demonstrates the economic ties Egypt is building with Saudi, ties that it does not have on the other Muslim countries who have taken a strong line over Qatar.
While Sisi has not confirmed these remarks in a public statement, it is not difficult to believe. Turkey like Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood which briefly and controversially ruled Egypt under President Morsi between 2012 and 2013.
The Muslim Brotherhood is once again banned in Egypt as it is in many countries throughout the Arab world including states as diverse as regional enemies the Syrian Arab Republic and Saudi Arabia. The group was first banned by the secular revolutionary leader Gamal Abdel Nasser in the early 1950s.
One of the sad realities to emerge out of the Qatar crisis is that Egypt has gone from a leadership position which it exercised in the Arab world under President Nasser and also for a time under his successor President Anwar Sadat, to one where Egypt is resigned to following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia, a country which is by any consensus, far more backward than that of Egypt with its rich cultural traditions.
Saudi Arabia’s row with Qatar caught many off guard due to historically good relations and similar styles of government and social culture. By contrast, Egypt is not only a far more ancient civilisation than Qatar, but in respect of the modern Arab world, Egypt does have actual grievances with Qatar beyond the economic disputes Saudi is manufacturing against Qatar, disguised as they are in hypocritical allegations of state sponsorship of terrorism. While Saudi largely invented a provocative dispute with Qatar over future fears, Egypt has a past record of being politically molested by Qatari hands.
Egypt knows as the world knows that both Qatar and Turkey meddled in Egypt’s internal affairs by funding and backing a Muslim Brotherhood regime that was deeply hated by many Egyptians, not least by Egyptian Christians whose fortunes took a turn for the worse during Morsi’s rule.
Turkey has indeed taken a big gamble in backing Qatar, both militarily and politically. If Qatar ends up engaging in a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, Turkey will have ended up burning more bridges in the wider Arab world than it has already burnt under the regime of President Erdogan.
Egypt’s declining relationship will be the first major casualty of Turkey’s gamble if it ultimately fails. Egypt’s relationship with Turkey is frosty at the moment and if President Sisi actually does end up severing ties with Turkey, it would mean that Turkey has made an enemy not only of Syria and Iraq but also the most populous Arab nation, Egypt.