Crack between Egypt and Emirates deepens over time


The widening gap between Egypt and the Emirates is no longer concealable. Day after day, conflict turns out to be about principles and not about perspectives. Cairo is rebuffing Abu Dhabi’s attempts to marginalise Egypt and tame its influence. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi sees that it deserves the regional leadership. A cold conflict is developing in every field.

The special relationship between Mohamed bin Zayed’s Abu Dhabi and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s Cairo was inaugurated before the birth of Sisi’s regime itself. The Emirates funded and orchestrated protests against the late president Mohamed Morsi. After the coup, the Emirates presented $3 billion in aid to alleviate the economic crisis. The total Gulf aid to Egypt within two years after the coup mounted to $33 billion, with most of the money from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Between 2015 and 2019, the Emirates became the third foreign investor in Egypt at $16.1 billion. The Emirates contributed to advocating the 3 July coup, especially in the USA through its lobby there, with a $2.7 million payment for polishing Sisi.

Mohamed bin Zayed’s interests met with those of Sisi casting a consistent political alliance against political Islam and the Turkish-Qatari axis. Notwithstanding, Egypt appeared in this alliance as a vassal not a partner.

In Libya, the Emirates supported the retired General Khalifa Haftar in waging a military campaign to control Western Libya in 2019. The Emirates enthusiastically supported the Deal of the Century presented by Donald Trump, then signed a normalisation agreement with Israel.

Egypt saw this as a move to break up Egypt’s historical position as lead mediator vis a vis the Palestinian cause. The Emirates saw that its financial support to Egypt had to be paid back. After success in taming the influence of political Islam, Egypt has started to recognise the Emirati overambition.

For a long time, Egypt thought that the solution of the crisis was in the hands of Emirates, which has a great influence on Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed. However, in April, while the crisis was escalating, the Emirati giant Dubai Ports World signed a $1 billion agreement with Ethiopia’s ministry of transport. Emirates did not use its influence to support Egypt, even it appeared as if it supports Ethiopia.

Egypt is attempting today to restructure its alliances within the region with regard to its threatened interests after several losses whether in Libya or in Ethiopia.