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Egypt dragged to war in Yemen?

With the possibility of a ground operation in Yemen growing, Egypt’s domestic front is concerned

Amira Howeidy , Dina Ezzat , Thursday 9 Apr 2015
Yemen
Smoke billows from a Saudi-led airstrike on Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, April 8, 2015 (Photo: AP)
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Having initially questioned the nature of Egypt’s participation in the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, which has entered its third week, the country’s political class is now voicing reservations on the increasing likelihood that ground troops will be called and sent into Yemen.

On Monday, Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi flew to Pakistan for military talks believed to be related to the Yemen war, on the same day that it was revealed that Saudi Arabia asked Islamabad to contribute soldiers, suggesting that plans for a ground deployment could be underway.

Prior to that Sobhi held talks with the chief of Djiboutian defence forces over the war’s repercussions on the Bab El-Mandab strait, located between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea. The strait connects the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean via Egypt’s Suez Canal, which makes it of vital strategic importance to Cairo.

It also makes Bab El-Mandab Egypt’s only relevant concern in the Yemeni crisis, rather than the Houthi’s power grab, their overthrow of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi or their alliance with Iran, Riyadh’s regional nemesis. Saudi Arabia said it would continue its campaign against the Houthis for as long as it takes to reinstate President Hadi -now in exile - in power.

Following a six-hour long meeting with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Saturday, President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi said that Egypt is participating in the military campaign because it can’t “abandon” the Gulf’s security. He reminded Egyptians that Saudi Arabia shipped much needed fuel to operate Egypt’s power stations, which are suffering from the country’s growing energy crisis, among “many other” favours.

El-Sisi provided no information about the nature of Egypt’s involvement in the Saudi-led campaign, or if it will include sending ground troops. But he dismissed analogies to Egypt’s tragic history with Yemen, when it sent 70,000 troops to support the 1962 republican coup against the monarchy and, over the next five years, suffered thousands of casualties and a humiliating defeat. “Our intervention then and the existing reality now are very different,” he said.

El-Sisi mentioned Bab El-Mandab strait only briefly towards the end of his nine-minute speech.

Lacking details, the briefing did little to assure the domestic front, but sent clear messages to Riyadh -Egypt's biggest economic ally since 2013- about Cairo’s commitment to their operation in Yemen, even if Egypt’s leadership has favoured prior to, and during the war, a political exit to the crisis.

Egypt is also concerned about Saudi Arabia’s insistence that the entire operation remains under Defence Minister Prince Mohamed Ben Salman’s leadership, the Saudi monarch’s son, in addition to vagueness about the nature of Egypt’s role in the campaign, be it naval or a ground operation, according to informed government officials who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity.

Sisi’s meeting with SCAF on Saturday was the third in two weeks over Yemen, during which he got their backing (absent a parliament, which Egypt has not had since 2012) for a military ground operation.

Abdallah El-Sinnawi, a Nasserist columnist close to decision-making circles, wrote in El-Shorouk newspaper Monday that the decision was made according to Article 152 in the constiution whihc, in the absence of a parliament, grants SCAF the authority to approve the president's decision to declare war and deploy Egyptian armed forces in military combat overseas.

Pointing out that Aden, Yemen’s second largest city, was overrun by the Houthis despite the Saudi-led campaign, El-Sennawi questioned Riyadh’s leverage, given the current balance of power, in the eventuality of going to the negotiating table in order to reach a political settlement.

“There is no Egyptian answer that respects the general anxiety [about the war] and can build wide national consensus before deploying troops abroad,” he wrote.

In anticipating the repercussions of a political defeat prior to negotiations, Saudi Arabia wants the military balance on the ground to be in its favour, but because its armed forces are unequipped for a ground incursion, El-Sennawi added, it's counting on Egypt.

Egypt’s opposition parties have voiced reservations about the Saudi-led operation from its onset.

The liberal El-Dostour Party demanded more transparency on Egypt’s role in the war, the extent to which the armed forces are willing to go in the campaign, and its timeframe.

The Strong Egypt Party of ex-Muslim Brotherhood dissident Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh echoed the same demands and described the rising civilian death toll in Yemen as a violation of “all legal and humanitarian laws”. The party indirectly criticised that all the information related to the Saudi-led coalition is coming from Riyadh, despite Egypt’s participation, “as if there’s no political leadership [here],” its statement said.

A strongly worded statement by the leftist Popular Alliance Party categorically refused an Arab war on a neighbouring Arab country and explicitly rejected the regime’s alleged efforts to gain financial assistance for Egypt’s faltering economy at any “political price”.

A brief statement by the Muslim Brotherhood -whose exiled leadership is believed to be hopeful about the new Saudi monarch’s willingness to seed an improvement in the group’s status in Egypt- said the Yemeni crisis was caused by a coup on legitimacy.

On Saturday, a small but rare protest was organised by a previously unknown group called the Revolutionary Alternative in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Cairo, attacking airstrikes on Yemen and the Saudi monarch, King Salman. Although demonstrations are banned in Egypt since late 2013 and protestors frequently face arrest, long jail terms, or police violence, the police didn’t attempt to stop the protest.

At least two pro-government TV talk shows have openly opposed the Saudi-led military campaign as harmful, useless and miscalculated, and offered rare nuanced analysis on Iran’s regional role that steered clear of the decades old-hostility that characterised the Egyptian media’s tone on the Islamic Republic, which the El-Sisi administration hasn’t named as a threat.

In the same vein, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, a prominent intellectual, former confidante of President Gamal Abdel Nasser and an El-Sisi supporter, told a TV show this week that Egypt “never learned” from the 1960s war in Yemen.

“We shouldn’t jump to war … We need to know if Saudi Arabia is ready for the costs. Yemen is a sleeping volcano south of the Arabian Peninsula. If it erupts, it will sweep the entire region,” he said.

But this is a war that Cairo is compelled to participate in because it can’t afford to antagonise Riyadh and other Gulf States whose financial assistance and investments in Egypt are crucial for the regime’s survival.

Informed sources say Egypt is expected to receive bonds worth $6 billion from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to possibly erasing Egypt’s debts to the Gulf States taking part in the Yemen campaign.

* A version of this article was published in the 9-15 April 2015 issue of Al-Ahram Weekly

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10



Bond, James
19-04-2015 10:44pm
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Must fight.
Egypt must defeat the Iran based Houtis. At the same time Egypt must also prepare to fight ISIS in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and everywhere else.
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9



sadek c/o gothaer
19-04-2015 03:06pm
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jemen
mr sissi is sending his troops to fight in jemen for the royals of the GCC countrys.Money against egyptian blood.This will not defeat the houthis or isil or......If the USA wants to defend there economy, the US army should interfere, but they will never do it , better to give funds and others are dying. like World ! and II Vietnam etc.......Remember what Egypt lost there war (a lot of money) in Jemen in Nasser's time !!!!!.Sorry for Egypt......Remember Egypt is a poor country(80% of its population).........I feel bad......
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8



Aladdin, Alex
10-04-2015 10:49pm
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Lesson to Lurn
In 1960 war in Yemen, Egypt lost 10,000 soldiers and the war of 1967. Mot of Egypt army were in Yemen and that what GOlda planned the war. Are we repeating similar mistake
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Fadi, Cairo
12-04-2015 12:22am
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Israel today would protect Egypt (Sissi) not attack it
Who would attack Egypt. Israel says openly that Sissi is our man in Cairo?
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SS Khan
10-04-2015 02:26pm
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Yeme Crises
I am very regret to say that the Kingdeom of Saudi Arabia a center of Islam instead inviting warring factions of yemen, it plunged into direct war against yemen and the prestige and honor for saudi arabia among muslims nations are at stake. i appeal to our saudi brothers to work for peace and harmony and choose the right direction as the present stance of aggressiveness will not help in long run but bring more chaos at your doorstep pls avoid all conflicts and for the stability and peace for the region start dialogues with yemeni counterparts to end this violence. i hopeour saudi brothers would pave a way to find peaceful solutions instead supporting for more bloodshed also it doesnt souit a country like saudi arabia to involve in fighting and wars all muslims countires respect saudi arabia so pls maitain the credibility and come forward to rescue thousands of muslims dying elsewhere in middle east saudi arabia has to play a crucial role in cementing friendship and mutual brotherhood among muslims nations. i pray allah almighty to bring peace and stability in the region and mercy upon poor muslims being killed in the region inshallah peace will be established under the leadership of the custodian of two holy mowques H.E.H king salman bin abdul aziz al saud (pbuh)
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Mohammed
12-04-2015 01:44pm
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Contradiction
Hi Hani, As far as I know, you guys even cannot read Arabic words and I'm wondering how you could manage to read a book is written in Arabic. Anyway, can you please let us know which books are you talkng about that we have never heard anything about these books?! I would appreciate if you can provide only one book's name even from all those books you are referencing to?
Hani Nourzadeh, Tehran
12-04-2015 12:19am
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SA is only exercizing self-defense
The Houthis, Iran's agents, say openly their ultimate goal is to occupy Makka, destroy the Kaaba, and unearth the tomb of the Prophet. Read their books.
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Abdul Muni'em Riyadh
09-04-2015 06:47pm
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Shiites are not true Muslims, but this is not the problem
They are hell-bent on spreading chaos and instability everywhere in the Arab world. Just look at Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. They want to found sleeping cells in Egypt, Jordan and other Gulf States. Egypt has a strategic interest to keep the Houthis at bay..They could, if allowed, throttle Egypt by shutting off the strait of Bab el Mandeb, leading to the Suez Canal. Egypt must not flinch for a second from fighting these primitive Nazi-like barbarians.
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Hamid
14-04-2015 06:20pm
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Since when Saudi Arabia is a Muslim regime ?
can you explain this ?
Syed
12-04-2015 03:51am
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contd..
your hatred just expose yourself as a complete waste to the global community.
Abdul Baset
12-04-2015 12:14am
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Allen is wrong
The MB has always been a positive force for progress and peace. The fact that you harbor a pathological hatred for the MB doesn't make them bad.
Allen
10-04-2015 03:06pm
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Abdul
Your description of the Shiites, remarkably resembles the Muslim brotherhood ...what a coincidence.
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Abdul Baset
09-04-2015 06:34pm
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Hani Azan is correct
I used to think that the Shiites were innocent underdogs....Until I read their books. These books state clearly that all Sunni Muslims who don't believe in the quasi-heavenly status of Ali are disbelievers and ought to be exterminated. This is the religious, theological background behind the Houthi insurrection in Yemen. Their ultimate aim is Makka, Madina and Cairo. And yes, there are too many gullible Sunnis who would join them, mistaking them for true Muslims.
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Mohammed
12-04-2015 01:51pm
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1+
Reference?
Do you have any legitimate refrence to tell us about?
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NewEgypt123
09-04-2015 06:30pm
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Fight the Right War
If Egypt wants to fight a war, fight the war in Libya. The war in Libya directly affects all Egyptians and Arabs. The Libyan weapons are going to terrorists. These weapons are fueling the chaos in Sinai, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Securing Libya and cutting off the arms flow should be Egypt's contribution to Arab security. Bombing Yemen does not create security in Egypt.
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3



Hani Azam
09-04-2015 04:36pm
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20+
The murderous Houthis are also targeting Egypt
They must nipped while in bud. The Huthis teach that all Egyptian Muslims are disbelievers and therefore must be killed. This is in their books.
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2



NewEgypt123
09-04-2015 04:09pm
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Shame of Egypt
Despite the money given to Egypt by these Gulf nations, Egypt should not participate in bombing Yemen, a nation poorer than Egypt. We are Arabs, and yet we bomb other Arabs? Shame on us! Did Egypt not learn anything from the previous Yemen disaster? Shame on the government for being led by Suadi Arabia into a situation that it knows will be a disaster. Shame of the government for ignoring the killing of Egyptians in Libya, and helping Saudis kill poor people in Yemen. The situation in Yemen was caused by Saudi trying to dictate Yemen. The Yemeni President resigned. There is no legitimacy to reinstalling him. If Egypt is afraid of losing Gulf support, it should invade Libya and annex it. Thus, Gulf support will be useless. Do what is in Egypt's interest, and forget the Gulf's warmongerers. They want to use Egyptians as training for their 25 yr. old defense minister. FORGET THAT!!!
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1



Mosa
09-04-2015 04:05pm
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Returning the favor
President Sisi has very few options, none of them excludes Egypt from supporting the Saudi invasion. Saudi knows that there are owed by the Egyptians to return economic favors, and they are asking for pay back. Egypt needs to exclude itself from ground troops, especially with the operations being run by the Saudi Prince, whose troop leadership experience is limited to harassing Saudi women walking the streets with exposed faces.
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