Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1164, (12 - 18 September 2013)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1164, (12 - 18 September 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Who will be next?

There is wide rejection in Egypt of a US military strike against Syria, both in government and popular circles, writes Doaa El-Bey

Beirut demonstrations
Beirut demonstrations
Al-Ahram Weekly

“The Americans have not learned from what happened in Iraq. They want to create another Iraq in Syria. And God knows who will be next,” said Ramadan, a gardener in Cairo.
“[Barack] Obama warned the US Congress that failure to respond to the Syrian regime would have catastrophic consequences. I tell him that striking Syria will have more catastrophic consequences on the region,” said engineer Ibrahim Ali.
These consequences could range from the fragmentation of Syria to redrawing the map of the whole Middle East, fragmenting it into small states based on ethnic, sectarian and religious groups.
Such views reflect the way a wide portion of Egyptians view threats of a US strike against Syria. Politicians and those more involved in Egyptian political life also agree with this viewpoint.
A US strike against Syria would weaken an important Arab state and negatively affect the Arab nation, according to spokesperson of the leftist Tagammu Party Nabil Zaki.
“We lost Iraq a few years ago, and now we could lose Syria, an important partner to Egypt in the 1973 War,” Zaki told Al-Ahram Weekly.
In the long term, he continued, terrorism would spread in the region as a result of the US strike. “The revolutionary forces that ignited the Syrian revolution back in 2011 have been marginalised. Now terrorist organisations, headed by Al-Nusra Front, lead the opposition against the Syrian regime. Weakening the regime will strengthen these organisations and spread their influence in the region,” Zaki said.
Hussein Haridi, Egyptian assistant foreign minister, said that while the military strike was rejected as a matter of principle, there was also the question of what would happen the day after were it to occur.
The fall of the regime led by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad would either give the US a strong ally in the region or would lead to an extremist regime in the country. In both cases, relations with Egypt would be tense.
“The advent of a post Al-Assad extremist regime in Syria would widely affect stability in the region and encourage extremist groups in Egypt to escalate their conflict with the government,” Haridi told the Weekly.
Commentators believe that a US strike against Syria would create conflict in the region that some believe could even lead to a third world war. Although that idea could be exaggerated, nobody can reliably assess the damage that a military strike against Syria, no matter how quick, could bring to the region.
The involvement of external parties in the Syrian conflict, especially Turkey and Qatar who are in favour of boosting the Islamist current in the region, raises question marks about their reasons for supporting the US-led strike.
Weakening the Syrian regime would improve the chances of the Islamist-dominated Syrian rebels. According to Zaki, Turkey, which has recently been critical of the Egyptian government, has been supporting the military operations against the Syrian regime.
Qatar has been supplying the Syrian rebels with weapons and smuggling them into the country via Turkey. Israel, he added, has been exerting pressure on the US to go ahead with the strike.
“It is clear that the enemies of the 30 June Revolution in Egypt are standing up against Syria. The issue is not the Al-Assad regime or chemical weapons, but destroying Syria as an Arab state and weakening the other Arab states, especially Egypt,” Zaki said.  
He warned against US, Turkish and Qatari plans to weaken the Egyptian military in the hope of allowing the Islamist current, influential in Libya and Iraq, to rise up in Egypt.
This explains Egypt’s opposition to any strike against Syria and its favouring a political solution that preserves the unity of the Syrian state.
Egypt opposes any unilateral decision by the US against Syria. Interim President Adli Mansour told a US congressional delegation that visited Egypt earlier this week that Cairo did not support any US decision to attack Syria.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi said last month that Egypt would not take part in any military strikes against Syria and that it strongly opposed any foreign military intervention in Syria.
Fahmi said that any decision should be postponed until after the report by UN investigators in Syria was published. This report could confirm whether chemical weapons were used or not in Syria, though it may not be able to determine who used them, the regime or the rebels.
Last month, US President Obama declared that he would direct a “limited and narrow” military intervention against Syria because of a chemical attack against civilians, allegedly by the Syrian regime.
Later, he decided to seek the approval of the US Congress for any military strike. The chemical attack is believed to have killed hundreds, including women and children. The Syrian regime denies using chemical weapons and has blamed their use on the rebels.
The Egyptian government’s stance against the strike is supported by many political parties, including the liberal Free Egyptians Party and the Strong Egypt Party.
There is a general mood in Egypt against a US military strike against Syria. A strike, according to Haridi, would lead to further hatred towards the US among Egyptians.
“The popular Egyptian stand that is against the strike in particular and the US in general would affect decision-makers in Egypt responsible for the country’s policies on Syria as well as on US-Egyptian relations,” he concluded.

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