President Vladimir Putin is set to visit to Cairo – possibly next Wednesday Aug. 7 – on the advice of Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, debkafile reports exclusively. The prince landed in Moscow Wednesday, July 31 without warning. He told Putin that Saudi King Abdullah was in favor of the Russian president going to Cairo as soon as possible and did not rule out the visit occasioning the signing of a large Russian arms sale to Egypt, bankrolled by the oil kingdom.
Putin will find Egypt’s strongman, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, in full cry with his next steps against the Muslim Brotherhood, after unseating its president in a coup on July 3.
El-Sisi is holding urgent discussions with the heads of the judiciary to have the movement outlawed. The unwritten pact between the generals and judicial system is the most potent political force in Egypt today, which the Brotherhood will find hard to beat.
The army’s first action will be to break up the round-the-clock protests which tens of thousands of supporters of the ousted president Mohamed Morsi have been staging in Cairo for the past month for his release and reinstatement.
Wednesday, July 31, their sit-in was ruled a threat to national security. For the next step, soldiers of the Republican Guard division, whose normal duties are guarding the president, have been issued with police uniforms for a more acceptable appearance when they clear protesters off the streets of the capital any day now.
The prospect of a Russian presidential visit has fired Gen. El-Sisi with redoubled energy and impetus for his crackdown on the Brotherhood.
For Putin, this will be his second trip to Cairo; his first took place in 2005 when Hosni Mubarak was president. He will play it to the hilt as a platform to show the world, and especially Arab Muslims, that he alone of the world’s five leading powers is openly committed to fighting radical Islam and ready to assist any Arab leader sharing this commitment.
He will also try and use his Cairo visit for much needed image repairs over his backing for Bashar Assad and Hizballah terrorist fighters in their savage war against a rebellion led by the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda affiliates. Putin hopes to come away from Cairo as champion of the war on radical Islam in two important Arab countries and the most reliable ally of forces for moderation.
His next stop around mid-August is Tehran. This will be hard to explain away as a gesture of support of a moderate regime, but with some fast footwork, the Russian leader will use the double exposure to underscore Moscow’s solid presence at the power centers of the Middle East – in striking contrast to Washington.
The Obama administration is already seething over the Kremlin’s decision to grant the fugitive former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden temporary asylum in Russia for escaping trial in the States on a charge of espionage.
Even more painful knocks are in store for Barack Obama’s Middle East policy and prestige when Egypt’s military strongman proceeds to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood movement in defiance of his wishes and Putin turns up in Cairo with more provocations.
Secretary of State John Kerry, aware of the shoals ahead for Washington, sent European Union foreign policy executive Catherine Ashton to Cairo earlier this week, followed by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerweller Friday, Aug 2, to try and hold El-Sisi’s hand.
When they got nowhere, Kerry assigned US Undersecretary of State for the Middle East William Burns with paying a second visit to Cairo since the coup. He has an appointment to meet interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy Saturday, Aug. 3, and is waiting for one with the defense minister.
Burns came away from his first trip to Cairo empty-handed.