All developments in the region are in favour of Israel, and lead it to regional and civil wars, former Egyptian assistant to the foreign minister, Hussein Haridy, said.
He added that the US president’s speech in October, the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariry, and the recent developments in Saudi Arabia, all revealed a plan to eliminate Iran’s influence in the Arab region, as a prelude to a general confrontation, where all conflicting parties would stand to lose, except Israel. If the Israeli plan succeeds, they would end up with a declaration of the Greater Israel.
Haridy warned that Egypt should not enter any military confrontation outside of Egyptian territory, noting that in case the region becomes plagued with wide conflicts and confrontations, Egypt could be a haven to dismantle those clashes.
Haridy predicted a gloomy scenario for the Arab region and suggested some solutions to avoid that scenario in the following interview:
What did you make of the detention of a number of princes and senior businessmen in Saudi Arabia?
The decisions of Saturday evening (4 November) in Saudi Arabia were not surprising. They had an internal background related to the power struggle and a regional background as well.
If we focused on the internal situation, the decisions were not surprising. Since the appointment of Mohammed bin Salman as deputy crown prince, minister of defense and chairman of the Committee of Security and Economic Affairs, everyone was betting that Saudi Arabia is preparing bin Salman to be the crown prince. When Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was ousted as crown prince, it was clear that there was a scenario to declare Mohammad bin Salman as the new king of Saudi Arabia.
After Saturday’s decisions, I expect that Prince Mohammed will become King of Saudi Arabia in his father’s life, for the first time in the Saudi history.
To ensure the success of this scenario, the prince must ensure of the loyalty of those surrounding him. The scenario is implemented in several stages and within a year or less, Mohammed [bin Salman] may be crowned King of Saudi Arabia. He was appointed as head of the anti-corruption commission to personaly supervise the elimination of all those threatening his throne.
Al-Hariry’s resignation was not surprising but the unexpected part was that he announced it outside Lebanon, which has not happened in any country’s history so far. Moreover, this resignation has not been accepted yet, and even if it was accepted, he would continue in the government until another prime minister is appointed. International dimensions are mainly based on the Trump administration’s view, whose priorities in the region are to limit Iranian influence and eliminate terrorist groups.
Al-Hariry’s resignation from Riyadh has proved that the Sunnis in Lebanon, or the Hariry family at least, are working according to Saudi orders. The letter of resignation itself was a declaration of war against his partners in the coalition that he accepted leading. In fact, the non-Sunni partners and Hezbollah consist of Lebanese members and cannot be eliminated, for the sake of pluralism and to avoid seeing Lebanon on the basis of sectarianism.
Al-Hariry’s talk about cutting off Iran’s hands indicates that the Saudi-Iranian confrontation has reached its peak, and could take the form of military conflict.
The cornerstone of Trump’s policy, which was announced on 13 October, is to prove to Congress that Iran is not committed to the nuclear agreement of 2015. If so, Iran will be sanctioned. We noted that the US administration seeks to label the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organisation, making it subject to all the sanctions imposed on those listed as terrorist organisations.
When the region is inflamed in conflicts, we look at what Israel gains, no?
If we returned to the pre-Trump time, we will find that the US strategy, despite the nuclear agreement with Iran, was to form an axis of America, the Sunni Arab states and Israel in the face of Iran.
The difference between the Obama administration and the Trump administration is that Obama wanted to postpone the establishment of this axis until the establishment of the Palestinian state. Trump’s administration wants to establish this axis and then settle the Palestinian issue, in what the current US administration calls “the deal of the century”.
This axis will be established, either officially or unofficially, after which the Palestinian issue will be dealt with, but the Trump administration so far hasn’t said on what basis his strategy will rely. Will he adopt the positions of the successive US administrations since Clinton – a two-state solution – or not? The US administration is expected to announce these details before the end of this year. It should be noted that the US vice president will visit the Middle East next month, a visit linked directly to outlining the US policy.
Has that war really begun?
We have entered into a period of intense psychological warfare. This is what was stated in the Trump speech last October, Al-Hariry’s letter of resignation and the announcement by the Saudi Minister of Gulf Affairs that the launching of the Houthi missile on Saudi Arabia is a declaration of war.
Where will the theatre of that war be?
The theatres of military operations will begin in Lebanon, passing through Syria to Yemen, meaning that no party would be capable of stopping this war once it breaks out.
What role should Egypt play?
Egypt has to avoid this regional confrontation at any price. The principles of the Egyptian foreign policy agrees with the foundations of the international relations after the Second World War and the principles of peaceful coexistence as embodied by the Non-Aligned Movement, which is the guiding principles of Egypt’s foreign policy for decades, except under [former President] Morsi’s rule. We should stick to this position.
But some observers accuse Egypt of following the directions of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi in the recent period?
The internal and regional situations have been dynamic and Egypt has dealt with it intelligently. Egypt’s policies were taking into consideration this situation in the context of preserving our national security interests and non-interference in Arab regimes’ affairs. Egypt is the only state that advocates these principles because the key to solving current crises in the region is to return to those principles. The collapse of the Iraqi, Syrian and Libyan armies led to the emergence of terrorist groups, which are mainly tools in the hands of international, regional and Arab powers, threatening the sovereignty, independence and unity of Arab countries.
Egypt deals with this during the analysis of all factors. Consequently, the results of the Egyptian policy may seem to some that it appeases certain countries, but in fact it deals with the regional and global changes, while at the same time defending its national security. The Obama administration in September 2014 formed the international coalition to combat terrorism, but the theatre of operations were in Iraq and Syria only, while it did not deal with the terrorist organisations in Sinai and Libya, adding a big burden on Egypt.
Should the Egyptian army participate in these potential confrontations?
Egyptian forces should not be sent in any form outside of Egyptian territory. This is a scenario that should not even be considered. The principle of sending Egyptian forces outside the borders should be completely rejected, whatever the developments, because it will be a trap for the Egyptian army.
So Saudi Arabia will fight Iran on its own?
Saudi Arabia will not go into war alone, but will join a war against Iran. I mean that the war will be led by Israel and the theatre of war will be South Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the countries with armed non-state entities such as Shiite Hezbollah, the Popular Crowd and the Houthis.
Why was the empowering of Prince Mohammed bin Salman accelerated?
There was a US-Saudi dispute over Iran’s nuclear deal during the rule of King Abdullah, but the emergence of Mohammed bin Salman changed the situation.
What is the role of those arrested in this matter?
The empowerment of Prince Mohammed and the decision to confront Iran would find opposition within the decision-makers in the Kingdom.
How can the conflict scenario be avoided?
If the Iranian regime offers concessions to the Trump administration. For example, after Trump’s speech last October, Khamenei said Iran was willing to limit the range of its ballistic missiles to 2,000 kilometres, showing Iran’s willingness to compromise.
Why is Israel involved in this confrontation?
One of the goals of this war is to stop the expansion of the Iranian belt from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel and Saudi Arabia share that goal, whether by agreement or not.
So Israel is the main player in the current scene?
Israel is the catalyst of events and its interests coincide with American arms manufacturers’. The Israeli strategy does not only aim at the elimination of Iran but also exhausting the main Arab forces and draining their economic resources, in preparation for establishing Greater Israel.
What do you mean by Greater Israel?
For the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel, it will have borders, as it is considered the only United Nations member without internationally recognized borders so far. This is the undeclared goal.
Is Sinai part of this scheme?
The Israeli scheme had four phases: the first phase was the Balfour Declaration, the second phase was the establishment of the so-called State of Israel, the third phase was the 1967 aggression, and we are witnessing now the final phase. At one time, Sinai was part of the Zionist project since its launch.
It is known that Al-Arish was an alternative to the establishment of the Israeli homeland before the Ottoman Empire rejected that. Regardless of this rejection, there was an agreement between the British and the World Zionist Movement to replace Al-Arish with Palestine. When the two state solution was suggested, the Israeli side thought of expanding the Gaza Strip westward to absorb the density of population. This proposal was met with approval under the rule of the [Muslim] Brotherhood in Egypt.
So the 30 June revolution aborted this scheme?
It destroyed this project, which put the Zionist and Turkish forces and those who were behind this project in an awkward position, and made the Arab world preoccupied with confronting Iran. Unfortunately, the engine and the beneficiary is Israel.
Would the Israeli army enter into major wars again?
The Israeli army trains for all scenarios, like a war in southern Lebanon, and established a unit to train soldiers on confrontations within the tunnels, while the Arab world is busy with Iran.
So what happens in the Sinai is related to this scenario?
If Egypt recognised an Islamic emirate in El-Arish, the terrorism will end immediately, provided that Egypt agrees to transfer Rafah to Gaza.
How do you see Hamas’ move to end the Palestinian division and enter into a unity government?
The Hamas-Fatah Agreement was signed in May 2009 because the Palestinian division was not in the interest of Egypt. It was necessary for Palestine to have a government of national unity and to have a single Palestinian voice making decisions of war, peace, and resistance. I believe Hamas has no hand in what is happening in Sinai. Hamas has read the changes, accepted for the first time the 1967 borders, and ended its relation with the Muslim Brotherhood. These steps were optional and no one can force them to activate the National Unity Agreement.
Egypt has regained its role in the region and started to influence the movement of events. There is a consensus between this role and European interests, but Turkey’s Erdogan opposes that Egypt play this role, while Iran is in favour of the presence of this role to avoid open confrontations.
How do you see the dispute with Qatar?
I did not agree with the Egyptian administration’s dealing with the Qatari issue. We have given it more attention than it deserves. Even if it funds terrorist groups in Libya, we have the ability to destroy any forces that are trying to infiltrate Egyptian territory. We have an army, expertise and capabilities that enable us to deal with any threat. Egypt should not be directly involved in the Gulf disputes and the Qatari crisis will end if we find political solutions to the situation in Syria and Libya.