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According to Egypt’s Foreign Minister, al-Arabi: “It is unbecoming of Egypt that its foreign policy be characterized by grave violations of the basic rules of international law, as is the case with Egypt’s stance on the siege of the Gaza Strip.”
For Israel – already angst ridden that Mubarak’s ouster will jeopardize its 30-year peace with Egypt — signs now point to a disturbing development. As one Egyptian political analyst explained, “In post-Mubarak Egypt, Cairo’s official position can be expected to gradually fall into line with the popular will…one freed from a close relationship with the U.S. and Israel.”
If the nature of Israel’s relationship with Egypt’s will now be dependent on the popular will of the Egyptian people, then Israelis can expect a severe chill. That was evident in recent comments by Arabi on the future of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty. As he threatened to review and amend security arrangements agreed to in the pact, he warned: “We will not be a ‘strategic treasure’ for Israel as they used to say during the time of Mubarak.”
Of course, all these actions by Egypt have served to threaten its longtime role as a stabilizing force for the region, one that has been predicated on its willingness to maintain peace with Israel and limit its regional role to protecting its own borders.
As one Saudi analyst said about Egypt under Mubarak, Egypt “was a very important element for Middle Eastern stability.” Unfortunately, Egyptian policy moves have now placed Mideast stability in an extremely precarious position.
Specifically, news of the Egyptian and Iranian reconciliation comes as Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Gulf State partners find themselves ensnared in an escalating battle with Iran over the raging Shiite rebellions overwhelming the region, unrest they claim has been deliberately stoked by Iran.
Already under siege by disaffected Shiites at home and long fearful of Iran’s military buildup and pursuit of nuclear weapons – Egypt’s diplomatic forays have led many of them to conclude that post-Mubarak Egypt may no longer be a reliable and effective bulwark against Shiite Iran.
Still, some may argue that it is far too early to discern which path Egypt’s foreign policy is truly on, preferring to wait at least until the results of the September 2011 Egyptian presidential and parliamentary elections to better formulate an answer.
As they argue, it is still uncertain if Egypt will completely abandon its long established foreign policy agenda and pursue a course supporting opposition movements in Arab Gulf State autocracies or countries or groups that are still at war with Israel, such as Syria, Iran and Hamas.
While the jury may still be out on that question, it’s becoming clearer that Egypt’s early movement toward an Iranian-Syrian-Hamas strategic alliance indicates — at the very least — a preference for the latter course.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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