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Russian action in Syria will intensify war in Egypt

Egypt, being in a very difficult geopolitical position, may be the next victim of the Syrian war. The Egyptian army has beens truggling with Islamic terrorists on the Sinai Peninsula for a long time, with he Libyan branch of Islamic State causing problems in the western part of the country. Unfortunately for President Abd al-Fattah as-Sisi, with Russian raids in Syria, Islamic militants are now moving to Libya through Sinai.

Egypt did not want to get involved in the war in Syria or in Iraq, directly or indirectly, trying not to spoil the relations with Saudi Arabia. Egypt shared with Bashar al-Assad  the common aim, which is to fight the Islamic insurgency. In fact, the nation is waging a war in the north of Sinai against militant groups loyal to the Islamic State. The worst is yet to come, though.

President as-Sisi, working against the Muslim Brotherhood supported by Turkey, could count on some support from Saudi Arabia, especially a financial support. However, low oil prices and a difference in the perception of Islamic fighters have weakened the alliance with the Kingdom. Egypt has diversified its military equipment supplies, diminishing its dependence on U.S.arms. It clarifies the purchase of French Mistrals, probably with Russian helicopters and hardware1. It would be the continuation of the process of warming relations with Russia.

Nevertheless, with the beginning of Russia’s intervention in Syria, the situation for Egypt becomes even more complicated. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry decided to back raids, as a means to ‘limit terrorism in Syria’2. But such a declaration overshadowed relations with Saudi Arabia, which condemned the Russian involvement as an attempt of thwarting the Syrian revolution3, while Egypt has always preferred allowing Syrians to decide the fate of al-Assad4.

The situation may develop dynamically. The chief of the Russian presidential administration Sergey Ivanov suggested that Mistrals and helicopters would make a ‘significant contribution to the fight against international terrorism,’5. Regardless of whether Egypt wanted to openly join the war against the Islamic State in Syria, this war is coming to a nation that is already torn apart. And it is because of its ally: Russia.

According to the International Business Times, recent Russian air strikes prompted bands of Islamic fighters to move into North Africa6. Terrorists are leaving Syria and going to Libya, directly through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. For Egypt, this could bolster the IS insurgence within its own, western and eastern, borders. It is very possible that destroying IS in Syria and Iraq means ISIS will strengthen its structures in the Sinai and the area formerly known as Libya. This will increase the security threat for as-Sisi’s Egypt, as well as other African countries and even Southern Europe.

References

1. Russia to outfit Egypt’s Mistral ‘tin can’ warships Source: RT 20-10-2015
Helicopter designer firm Russian Helicopters is prepared to supply $1 billion worth of equipment and aircraft for Egypt’s Mistral helicopter carriers. The two warships had initially been built by France for the Russian Navy.

2. Egypt says Russia’s intervention in Syria will counter terrorism Source: Reuters 03-10-2015
Russia’s intervention in Syria will curtail the spread of terrorism and help deal a fatal blow to Islamic State in the war-torn country, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Saturday.

3. Russia’s Syria raids may strain Egypt-Saudi ties Source: Middle East Monitor 07-10-2015
Egypt’s support for the Russian military involvement in favour of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad may strain its relations with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, analysts warned.

4. Why Egypt has a different take on Russian airstrikes in Syria Source: Al Arabiya 06-10-2015
Egypt stands unwavering in its support of Russia’s military intervention in Syria, a stance that reflects the strength of relations between the two countries, but also raises questions on Cairo’s policy towards the Syrian crisis.

5. Russia to supply equipment for Mistral helicopter carriers to be purchased by Egypt Source: 19-10-2015
Russia plans to supply equipment and helicopters for the Mistral type helicopter carriers which Egypt is buying from France. The transaction sum may exceed $1 billion, head the Russian presidential administration Sergey Ivanov told reporters on Monday.

6. Russian Airstrikes In Syria Push ISIS Fighters Out And Into Libya, As Islamic State Moves Toward North Africa Source: International Business Times 19-10-2015
Since Syria’s brutal civil war began four and a half years ago, 4 million Syrians have fled their country in the largest migration of people since the Second World War.


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