Alwaght– Syrian crisis is the main reason behind Saudi Arabia and Egypt tensions, Medhat Hamad, the Egyptian researcher and head of Iran and Persian Gulf Arab States Studies Center in the Tanta University said in an interview with Alwaght, adding Cairo is after a political solution for the 6-year crisis while Riyadh sees the chaos as beneficial to its kingdom. Following is the full text of interview with Mr. Medhat Hamad that is translated from Arabic.
Alwaght: Following tensions in Saudi-Egyptian relations, we saw an escalation anti-Saudi rhetoric in the Egyptian media, especially after Riyadh halted aids to Cairo. What is your take on the issue and how do you predict the future?
Hammad: First of all, I need to note that the primary reason behind the Saudi-Egyptian tensions is the Syrian crisis. Egypt has a view on the Syrian conflict quite different from that of Saudi Arabia. The Egyptian leaders see the political solution as the best way to end the devastating crisis rather than pressing for President Assad’s removal or resorting to the military solutions. Actually, the military solutions will do nothing but bringing about instability and division to the region, like what we see in Yemen and Libya. Riyadh seeks this chaos in the region. Saudi Arabia sees stay of President Assad as directly affecting the kingdom’s position and influence in the east of the Arab world. Stay of the Syrian president in power while Saudi Arabia strove after his fall for over five years is considered as a political defeat for Saudi Arabia in the West Asia.
Concerning escalation in anti-Egyptian measures, I must say that if Saudi Arabia insists on that, it will lead the two sides’ ties to a full collapse and will influence the West Asian region altogether as we know they are big Arab countries with strategic power and are very effective in the Arab world, so any rifts between them reflects negatively on the whole region.
One of consequences of the tense Saudi-Egyptian ties is an effect on the Egyptian-Persian Gulf Arab states relations. This, in turn, will lead to a rebellion by other Arab states against the kingdom because, for example, the UAE and Oman will not take an anti-Egyptian course. Once this happens, Kuwait with be expected to join the UAE and Oman camp. Such a situation will mean a deep division inside the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council which is dominated by Saudi Arabia.
Alwaght: Some Egyptian media recommended that Cairo think about normalization of diplomatic relations with Tehran. Do you think Egypt will resort to such an option in the face of Saudi pressures?
Hammad: I personally hope that the four regional powers, namely Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey, gather under one bloc. I also call for them to sit and negotiate because they hold the key to all of the region’s troubles. Actually their disagreement reflects on other countries, for example it showed itself in Yemen and Syria and Iraq. So, it is unavoidable for these powers to agree and unite.
Additionally, I think that non-existence of diplomatic relations between Iran and Egypt presents a negative effect on the two nations. A thaw works in favor of the two sides. As the Persian Gulf Arab states have relations with Tehran, I see Iran-Egypt direct ties a necessity, because it will solidify stability in the region.
I think that Iran-Egypt rapprochement should not come at the cost of damage to the Iran-Persian Gulf Arab states relations. At the same time, I do not think that normalization of Egypt-Iran ties should necessarily lead to damaged ties of Cairo with other Arab states.
Concerning the reaction to escalation in Saudi Arabia’s actions against Egypt, I think that no matter what the media say about that, the Egyptian leaders are well aware of the risks of counter-action against Riyadh. This will negatively affect an array of cases in the region. This is not favored by Egypt. I think Egypt will find alternatives to the Saudi Arabian economic aids, specifically the oil supply. A couple of days ago, Libya announced it will provide Egypt with 2 million barrels a day, and perhaps Iran one day will be another alternative to Saudi Arabia for Egypt. This should not damage Saudi Arabia, because Egypt cannot die just to make sure that Saudi Arabia is contented with it.
I think that Egypt will not hurry up, and will deal with these Saudi pressures with wisdom. The choices will be perfectly calculated by Cairo because the Persian Gulf Arab states are suffering from a phobia, an Iran-Egypt closeness phobia. Such an Arab concern, I think, will stand as a hurdle, among others, ahead of a diplomatic thaw between Iran and Egypt, though I think that Iran-Egyp rapprochement will work for assurance of the Persian Gulf Arab states. Actually, Egypt could have a positive role as a mediator for bridging the gaps between Tehran and Arab states.
Regarding recent regional developmenmts, Iran and Egypt have a new opportunity of rapprochement ahead of them. This will positively influence the Syrian crisis as they are two influential countries.