Saturday,18 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)
Saturday,18 November, 2017
Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

No room for war

The surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri while on a visit to Saudi Arabia last week led to series of repercussions that created serious fears that the region might be on the brink of a major war. Al-Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen, blamed Iran for his resignation, saying that it was interfering in his country’s internal affairs and pushing it to take part in outside wars in nearby Syria, Iraq and Yemen through its armed Shia ally, Hizbullah.

Hardly a few hours after Al-Hariri’s resignation, a ballistic missile fired from Yemen came close to hitting Riyadh International Airport. Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman blamed Iran for the missile attack, saying that Tehran was the key military supplier for Houthi rebels in Yemen who fired the missile. He dubbed the missile attack “an act of war”, and vowed that his country would provide a response. Saudi Arabia and a few Arab Gulf allies have been waging a war against Houthi rebels in Yemen for over two years without success in ending their control over the capital, Sanaa.

Moreover, the Saudi crown prince led an unprecedented campaign of arrests against prominent members of the ruling Saudi family and internationally renowned Saudi businessmen over corruption allegations. That created fears over future stability in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers.

While most world countries called for caution and the need to avoid escalation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the resignation of the Lebanese prime minister, while more and more Lebanese parties refused the move and claimed that Al-Hariri was being kept in Riyadh, together with his family, against his will. The statements made by Netanyahu increased fears that Israel might take the opportunity to launch a new war against its arch enemy, Hizbullah. Israel would never forgive the humiliating defeat it suffered after it failed to crush Hizbullah in its failed war against Lebanon in 2006.

Egypt, being an influential regional power, felt that serious effort was needed to calm the sudden escalation in tensions. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, while attending the World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh, said that Cairo would not support any military action against Lebanon or Hizbullah. He also ordered Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri to embark on a tour of six Arab countries, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia, to deliver a key message: that the region cannot take any new wars, especially if key regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia would be involved.

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman after Shoukri’s meeting Sunday with the Jordan king, Egypt’s policy is that all effort should be exerted in order to avoid creating any new crises in the region. He added that there was an urgent need to lower tension and polarisation to avoid instability negatively affecting the entire region.

Egypt maintains very close ties with Saudi Arabia and many Egyptians are grateful for the economic support Riyadh provided following the removal of former president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013. Therefore, Egypt came forward to communicate with all concerned parties in order to calm Saudi fears without recourse to force or military adventures.

Newly appointed Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi explained Egypt’s policy in this regard. He said that Egypt rejected war as an option, particularly while dealing with the ongoing crisis in Lebanon, and opted instead for dialogue and peaceful settlement for any dispute or existing misunderstanding. 

He added that Egypt’s policy was clear: Cairo supported the territorial integrity of all Arab countries, the role of national armies in protecting nations, and opposed the creation of armed militias that act outside the control of the central state, a clear reference to Hizbullah in Lebanon, or the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Radi also stressed that Egypt was in favour of citizenship rights, and rejected dividing countries along sectarian or tribal lines.

At a time when Syria has broken into several parts following one of the bloodiest civil wars in the region, Iraq is in a constant state of war since the United States illegally invaded and occupied the country in 2003, Libya is torn between east and west over ideological and tribal lines, and Yemen is facing famine, cholera and a bloody war, there is certainly no need for any new armed conflicts. It would simply be a disaster that the entire region would suffer from for decades to come, especially if such a war broke out over sectarian lines — Sunni and Shia.

There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia is much closer to Egypt than Iran, but this doesn’t mean supporting military adventures, especially if all our recent experiences proved that wars only make the situation worse and far more complicated.

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