Saudis Round up Egypt and Turkey under Same Umbrella

DEBKA Weekly’s sources in the Persian Gulf report that the Saudis are working hard to set up the bloc consisting of Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to confront a Shiite bloc led by Iran. For this purpose, 80-year-old Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made a five-day visit to Egypt last week even though he had little strength for the rigors of such a trip. He even had difficulty finishing a six-minute speech that he made to the Egyptian parliament on April 10.
Senior Saudi officials led by Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made every possible effort to demonstrate that the two main members of the bloc are working together smoothly and optimally. These included:
1. According to the Saudis, the strategic alliance between Cairo, led by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Ankara, led by President Tayyip Erdogan, has been reestablished. In other words, the strategic alliance that the US tried to establish in 2012 between Egypt (then ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood), Turkey and Qatar along with Israel as a silent partner, has been replaced by a similar alliance with different members. Erdogan agreed to give up his complete support for the Muslim Brotherhood, including his demand that Egypt stop cracking down on the organization and executing its leaders, in return for an alliance with El-Sisi, the organization’s biggest enemy.
This concession came in parallel with the Turkish president’s concession to the alliance’s silent partner, Israel, regarding his support of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Erdogan gave up his demand that Israel lift its naval blockade on Gaza and stop attacking military infrastructure of Hamas. Our sources report that military ties between Turkey, Egypt and Israel will be renewed in the very near future.
2. Riyadh’s provision of a $21.5 billion aid package, part of which is defined as a long-term loan, although officials pretend not to know that there is no chance of repayment by Cairo. As far as the Saudis are concerned, Egypt is now a brother whose president has decided to become a partner in their country’s diplomatic and military plans.
Demonstrating the seriousness of this process, President El-Sisi agreed to a step that no ruler in his country’s ancient or modern history had ever taken, namely the handover of sovereign Egyptian territory to a foreign country.
El-Sisi agreed to relinquish sovereignty over Tiran island, an 80-square-kilometer territory at the entrance of the Straits of Tiran (see map), the only access from Jordan and Israel to the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. He also agreed to hand over Sanafir island, a 33-square-kilometer territory east of Tiran.
This diplomatic achievement not only enabled Saudi Arabia to expand its defensive belt around the northern part of the kingdom including the military city of Tabuk, the location of King Faisal Air Base, the nerve center of the Saudi air defense system. It provided a strategic position controlling access to and from the Gulf of Aqaba, as well as a position where the Red Sea meets the Suez Canal, where a third of all global maritime traffic passes.
Considering the fact that an American special forces unit is based on Tiran island, and Riyadh did not consult with or inform Washington regarding this step, the Saudi royal family has left the Obama administration with two options: either to withdraw the troops, or accept the handover and leave the troops on the island that is now Saudi territory.
If Washington decides to keep the forces in place, it will need to coordinate its operations with Saudi and Egyptian steps which the US opposes. If it decides to withdraw them, it will generate a crisis in ties between the three countries in addition to those that already exist ahead of Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia for a summit with regional leaders.

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