Egypt's top bureaucracy advised against Morsi move on Syria

Dina Ezzat , Sunday 16 Jun 2013

Government sources say the decision to cut ties with Syria was made by President Morsi against the counsel of top aides, with some seeing the potential damage as 'irreversible'

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi waves as he arrives at a rally called for by hardline Islamists loyal to the Egyptian president to show solidarity with the people of Syria (Photo: AP)

The announcement that Egypt will sever all ties with Syria, made by President Mohamed Morsi while addressing thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members at Cairo Stadium Saturday night, reflects a decision made by the president against the advice of top bureaucratic aides, informed government sources say.

The decision was pronounced in the course of an otherwise fiery speech where the president in a high pitch insisted that “Hezbollah should leave Syria.”

It came in the wake of several activities among Islamist figures who underlined the need to support Sunni Syrians against Hezbollah and the Shia-offshoot regime. It also came back to back with a US announcement that it will provide arms for Syrian groups who are fighting — alongside foreign jihadis — to remove the Alawite regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

While some government sources said they were briefly notified of the presidential decision, in order to take the necessary logistical steps ahead of the announcement, others said they only knew of the decision when it was announced at the Muslim Brotherhood event on Saturday night.

According to the informed sources, who spoke to Ahram Online on condition of anonymity, Morsi was advised against the move by some of his top bureaucratic aides who insisted that the move would antagonise the Syrian regime against any mediation forums that have been proposed.

In his statement to cheering supporters, Morsi declined to refer to Iran, which backs Hezbollah, in direct terms. Instead, the president spoke against “some regional power that Egypt is obliged to deal with as part of Egypt’s regional responsibility.”

Meanwhile, Morsi spoke of coordinated efforts with Saudi Arabia and Turkey but not with Iran, despite the fact that the four-member mechanism that he had proposed last year to mediate a settlement in Syria included Iran and that the proposal was made in a Tehran hosted conference of the Non-Aligned Movement last August.

“This would simply mean that Egypt has decided that its relations with Tehran would have to be sacrificed in favour of winning the support of Washington, and maybe even Riyadh,” said one of the sources who spoke to Ahram Online.

Egypt has been trying to break the ice with Saudi Arabia for a few weeks now in the hope of soliciting desperately needed financial and fuel aid. Saudi Arabia has been adopting a strictly sectarian approach towards developments in Syria since the beginning of the uprising there, and all the more so since the entrance of Hezbollah into the war in Syria on the side of the Al-Assad regime.

Egypt, according to concerned quarters in the Egyptian bureaucracy, is now being driven to take part in a “devastating Sunni-Shia war” that could wreck the entire region. The concern is not just about Syria, but about the entire Arab Mashraq, including Lebanon and Iraq particularly.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had said repeatedly during the past few weeks that he would continue the war next to Al-Assad's regime against radical groups that have come to Syria and who consider all Muslims disagreeing with their sect as infidels.

The past few months has seen an expanded debate and growing concerns over the increasing presence of jihadis flooding to Syria from countries including Afghanistan and Chechnya, to help the predominantly Sunni rebels in an assumed Sunni-Shia war.

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