triangle map egypt saudi arabia iran

The recent geopolitical shifts in the triangle Egypt-Saudi Arabia- Iran

According to Reuters, the Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla was on his way to Iran on Sunday to try to strike new oil deals, sources close to his delegation said at Cairo airport, after Saudi Arabia suspended its oil agreement last month.Egypt and Iran have had strained diplomatic ties since the late 1970s and an Egyptian official visiting Tehran is a rarity.

Saudi Arabia agreed to provide Egypt with 700,000 tonnes of refined oil products per month for five years in April, during a visit by King Salman. The official narrative is that while Saudi Arabia has been a major donor to Egypt since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power in a violent countercoup in mid-2013, Riyadh has become frustrated with Sisi’s lack of economic reforms and his reluctance to be drawn into the conflict in Yemen.

The cargoes stopped arriving at the start of October, as festering political tensions burst into the open, but Egyptian officials said the contract remained valid and had appeared to hold out hope that oil would start flowing again soon.

A deal to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, made at the same time as the oil aid agreement, has faced legal challenges and is now bogged down in an Egyptian court.

Saudi Arabia has informed Egypt  that shipments of oil products expected under a $23 billion aid deal would be halted indefinitely, suggesting a deepening rift between the Arab world’s richest country and its most populous.

After that suspension, Egypt voted in favour of a Russian-backed U.N. resolution on Syria in October that excluded calls to stop bombing Aleppo, which Saudi Arabia strongly opposed and this has exposed an unprecedented rift between Egypt and its strongest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a regional hegemon which wants Arab countries to rally behind its efforts to “defend” the Arab world from regional rivals, especially Iran. Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has engaged with Iran in proxy wars in at least three countries, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.

The geopolitical reasons of this shift  could be explained by Cairo’s vision of its position as a “leader” and big sister to the Arab countries and not to be a sort of “subordinated” country to Riyadh.

On the other hand, Egypt and Iran’s diplomatic relations have been strained since the 1970s. An Egyptian official visiting Iran would cement a break in its alliance with Saudi Arabia and mark a seismic shift in the regional political order, as said by Reuters. Iran would like to see Egypt more distant from Saudi Arabia in order to prevent the formation of an Egyptian-Saudi axis that would stand in the way of its selfish ambitions in the Arab region.

Sisi also opened diplomatic channels with Hizballah in Lebanon and with Iran itself. In September, Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, met for the first time with his Iranian counterpart, Jawad Zarif, during their visits to New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

Where comes Russia? For the first time, Russia and Egypt would conduct joint military drills. This followed news that Russia will sell attack helicopters to the North African nation and invest billions in Egyptian infrastructure. These items, along with the fact that Egypt is eager to be re-granted Russian tourism rights for its citizens after recent bad blood between the countries, lead one to the logical conclusion that Egypt has every incentive to cooperate with Russia going forward. This means when the Russian fleet reaches the Mediterranean  it will be flanked by friendlies on three sides. Turkey to the north, Syria to the east, and Egypt to the south.

For Zerohedge, Gulf Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have pumped billions of dollars into Egypt’s flagging economy since former general Sisi took over after a year of divisive rule by the Muslim Brotherhood. But with the Brotherhood threat diminished, Gulf rulers have grown disillusioned at what they consider Sisi’s inability to reform an economy that has become a black hole for aid, and his reluctance to back them on the regional stage.

Sisi actually wants to increase it by leveraging his relations with rival Russia and Iran and by showing the Saudis that they will need to provide ever-greater incentives to Cairo to keep Sisi’s regime in Riyadh’s corner.

Reuters reported today, the 11/9, that Iran has signed a memorandum of understanding with French energy giant Total on the development of a major offshore gas field. It’s the first deal of its kind since the lifting of most sanctions against Tehran.Iran on Tuesday inked a memorandum of understanding with France's Total to develop a major gas field. It marks the first big contract with a Western energy firm since the lifting of most sanctions against Tehran.

Image credit: wikipedia

Sources: Yahoo Finance, Reuters, Middle East Observer, Middle East Eye, Zero Hedge

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