Full disclosure on al-Sisi and bin Salman’s relationship

In the spring of 2014, before he assumed the presidency, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi repeatedly chanted the sentence, “we are just around the corner,” whenever he was asked about the security of the Gulf countries that supported him financially, politically, and in their media until he became the president. What happened next, however, echoed what al-Sisi had done to everyone else.

If you look closely at the photos featuring al-Sisi and the late President Mohamed Morsi together, you will see that al-Sisi appeared humble and subservient in each one of them. What he did afterwards, however, to avenge himself of the late president is no secret. Nevertheless, the weight of the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, rendered the relationship between them chilly. The relationship was minimised to the mutuality of interests after Riyadh realised that al-Sisi is far from what they thought he would be when they supported him with billions of dollars of their money.

In a leaked audio, Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was previously close to the government in Riyadh before he was assassinated by Mohamed bin Salman’s men, says that during the last days of Mohamed Morsi’s reign, al-Sisi together with some of the Military Council’s members and the current Head of Intelligence, Abbas Kamel, were in contact with some of the junior staff in the Saudi Royal Court. Back then, Saudi tampered with Egypt whichever way it wished through several junior employees, and planned the future for Egypt.

This was further confirmed via a leaked call between Abbas Kamel, the director of Cabinet of the Minister of Defence who was then Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the current Head of Intelligence, and Fahad al-Askar, the assistant to the Chief of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s Royal Court. During that call, Kamel told Fahad that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would hold a meeting where it will approve the nomination of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the presidency.

Despite the junior military position of Fahad at the time of the call, the submissive language that Kamel used with him, much like the one used by al-Sisi with the Gulf countries, and his leaking of what was considered military secrets indicate the shape of the relationship between al-Sisi and the Kingdom before he assumed the presidency. That was how al-Sisi managed to drain tens of billions of dollars from the Gulf countries, especially from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia supported al-Sisi’s regime since the beginning with billions of dollars, besides egging on other Gulf countries to support him too. The Kingdom did this because it believed al-Sisi’s promises and his subservient way of interacting with them, which indicated that he would be one of its employees.

When push came to shove, however, the Saudi regime was surprised that its calculations were entirely off, and that al-Sisi was paying them lip service only. Moreover, in April 2015, when Mohamed bin Salman announced his military plan for the invasion of Yemen to support his alley, a plan with which he wanted to introduce himself to the Saudi and international communities, al-Sisi was the first to fall behind. He refused to send forces to join the Operation Decisive Storm.

After that came the dispute over the Syrian case and al-Sisi’s supportive position to the continuity of Bashar al-Assad as the president. That was when it became clear to Saudi that their calculations were not the way they thought they would be.

After that, Saudi changed completely its way of dealing with al-Sisi. At the beginning of 2016, the economic and political pressures applied by Mohamed bin Salman’s regime, as well as its threats, induced al-Sisi to say, “do you think I will ever leave it to you? I will never leave except over my dead body.”

A few weeks later, al-Sisi relinquished Tiran and Sanafir, which were the Mohamed bin Salman’s regime’s first step towards normalisation with Israel. Bin Salman believed that normalisation would open the doors for him to take over and change the Middle East, including getting rid of Iran, according to what Khashoggi thought.

After giving up Tiran and Sanafir, al-Sisi and the military institution received substantial financial and oil support, as well as promises of huge investments.

Similarly, the two regimes have a clientelism relationship. Apart from a few non-influential press statements, bin Salman, who largely supports al-Sisi in his media, political, and military confrontation of the Turkish position on Libya led by the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done nothing to help Egypt with the Renaissance Dam issue, which constitutes a matter of life and death for Egyptians. On the contrary, the Kingdom has given two loans to Addis Ababa in the midst of the Egyptian-Ethiopian disputes.