I am always intrigued by the dizzying changes that have enveloped Egypt in the past year. What I find to be most amusing is how certain positions have totally gone from one extreme to the other. When it comes to Egypt’s foreign policy, it is a seemingly endless seesaw where yesterday’s friend is today’s foe. In a recent interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper, interim president Adly Mansour has confirmed what I consider to be the most notorious foreign policy changes that have gripped the country in the past year.
Syria’s political resolution
A year ago, President Mohamed Morsi stopped just short of calling for global Jihad in Syria. Morsi had severed diplomatic ties with Bashar Al-Asaad’s regime and stated clearly that “the Egyptian people and army are supporting the Syrian uprising”. Morsi’s statement, along with several other statements released during an Islamist rally billed as a conference in support of the Syrian uprising was met with cheers and applause from the predominately Brotherhood and Salafi crowd. Morsi had also announced the closure of the Syrian embassy in Cairo and withdrew the Egyptian envoy in Damascus. In another fiery statement, Morsi stressed that both the people and the army of Egypt would not leave Syrians until they had selected a new leadership and have ultimately claimed their rights.
The situation has certainly degenerated since the time of Morsi and descended into further chaos. Following the change of guard in Egypt, the new administration has seemingly taken a backseat approach on the Syrian issue. The quasi-Jihadist rhetoric was replaced with a more conservative, at times bland speech. In a recent interview with Kuwait Al-Rai newspaper, interim president Adly Mansour has reaffirmed that Egypt was standing with the Syrian people in their daily suffering; Mansour however stressed that there would be no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that the only hope for resolving the situation would be political.
Hamas’ fall from grace
The picture of Hamas strongman Ismail Haneya delivering a sermon atop Al Azhar mosque’s minbar symbolised the heyday of the Egyptian Hamas relationship. President Morsi has deliberately avoided dialogue with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, electing only to moderate the Israeli Palestinian conflict through Hamas. However, it is becoming increasingly clear these days that Mr. Haneya may not be invited back to Al Azhar mosque any time soon.
In a recent press conference held in Egypt, Ahmed Assaf, spokesman for the Fatah movement, has accused both Israel and Hamas of attempting to institute a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and in the Sinai Peninsula. He has described Hamas as an “obstacle towards the peace process as it seeks to replace the whole Palestinian state”.
This Fatah official stance is shared by the current Egyptian administration; interim president Adly Mansour has recently said that Egypt was supporting Mahmoud Abbas in his quest for an independent Palestinian state. Mansour further added that the “Hamas movement made mistakes supporting a political group regarded by the Egyptian people as terrorists,” referencing Hamas’s support to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared as terrorist organisation by the Egyptian government in December.
These types of course reversals however extreme they are do not come as a surprise. In fact, more of such moves are to be expected on local and foreign fronts as the new administration continues to chart a course which goes against everything the previous administration stood for; even if it is only at face value.