“Egypt and Saudi Arabia have signed a pact in Cairo aimed at boosting military and economic ties between the two Arab allies”, Al Jazeera is reporting on July 31, 2015. In a statement made public at the end of a meeting of very senior Egyptian and Saudi officials - President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – Sisi’s office “said the two leaders also will work to create a joint Arab military force”. Open sources also indicate that “Arab defence and foreign ministers are to gather in Cairo to discuss the modalities of the force on August 27”[1]. The two very senior officials also “pledged to enhance cooperation and investments in the energy and transport sectors”[2], open sources report.

Some significant previous steps

President el-Sisi was already a very strong supporter of such a joint Arab military force almost half a year ago, in February, when he declared that “the need for a unified Arab force is growing and becoming more pressing every day”, and also that Egypt is ready to defend the a very large area in the Middle East “if required and in coordination with our Arab brothers”[3]. Also in February, some days before el-Sisi’s declarations quoted above, “Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have offered to dispatch military forces to aid Egypt”, immediately after the “beheading in Libya of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by fighters pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL)”.

Even earlier, in November 2014, “the Associated Press news agency reported that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait were discussing the creation of a military pact to take on armed groups, with the possibility of a joint force to intervene around the Middle East”, and later on, in January-February 2015, discussions of the plan were back on track after a hiatus, with Jordan, France, Italy and Algeria now viewed as possible additional partners”[4].

Meaning and possible dual consequences

Security and stability in the Middle East are now more fragile than in other occasions in the recent past. Some threats and risks are, in a way, very persistent. See, for example, the aggressiveness and expansionist mood of the political regime in Iran. But new threats and risks are also emerging – see, for example, the bold actions of the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS). And the U.S., massively present in the region for several decades, is more and more interested in concentrating its forces and resources in the Pacific, mainly in order to contain the quick rise of the Chinese power. In such a situation, Middle East is confronted with more risks and threats than before, and it can rely less than before – at least in the long run – on a massive presence of the U.S. military.

In order to cope with all these, a stronger, deeper and significantly more effective strategic partnership of Egypt and Saudi Arabia is really very good news, geo-strategically and militarily speaking. But we do not have to be exaggeratedly optimistic when we are speaking about such a strategic partnership. If it fails, chaos in the entire region – including the vital oilfields in the Persian Gulf Area, and also vital sea routes in the Persian Gulf, in the Gulf of Aden, in the Red Sea, and even in the Eastern Mediterranean – might be deeper and more dangerous than ever before in the recent past. If it does not fail, Western-style democracy in the entire region will be confronted with a very powerful partnership of two powerful and ambitious clearly non-democratic regimes. A situation which is strongly resembling (only up to a certain point, of course) that in Europe, after 1815, when success of any revolution was made impossible, for several decades, by the very existence of the Holy Alliance. Metternich might have enjoyed a lot, from this very perspective, the ‘Cairo declaration’ signed on July 31, 2015, by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But, as long as we talk not about the nature of political regimes, but mainly about strategic issues, and about vital regional and global strategic interests, the stronger is going to be the Egyptian-Saudi partnership, the smaller the chances of success for both ISIL and the expansionist Iran will be, in almost any situation we can imagine.

[1] “Saudi Arabia and Egypt sign 'Cairo Declaration'”, Al Jazeera, July 31, 2015, at the Internet address http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/saudi-arabia-egypt-sign-cairo-declaration-150731005229377.html

[2] Ibidem

[3] “Egypt president says need growing for joint Arab force”, Al Jazeera, February 23, 2015, at the Internet address http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2015/02/egypt-president-calls-joint-arab-military-force-150222173011568.html

[4] Ibidem

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