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October 1, 2016 / 28 Elul, 5776
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Crisis: Egypt May Stop Warships Headed for Syria at Suez Canal

The current Egyptian leadership may close the Suez Canal to warships in an effort to block a western attack on Assad's Syria

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Hassan Shahin, spokesperson for the Egyptian anti-Islamist Tamarod movement.

Hassan Shahin, spokesperson for the Egyptian anti-Islamist Tamarod movement.
Photo Credit: Ahram



The leading anti-Muslim Brotherhood group in Egypt, the Tamarod (Rebellion), announced it will prevent military action threatened by the West against Syria, from using the Egyptian-controlled Suez Canal.

And the Suez Canal, of course, is the route through which U.S., British and other warships will need to pass for any non-air or land-based military strike against Syria.

In a Middle East for which most observers need an electronic score card that can update shifting alliances, a faction with a strong influence over the current government in control in Egypt is insisting that any threatened western assaults against Syria be blocked.

“Supporting the Arab Syrian army is a national duty,” Hassan Shahin, the Tamarod spokesperson wrote, according to Gulf News. “The Arab people have to rebel after unmasking the plot of the Free (Syrian) Army and its backers among the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies from the militant groups,” Shahin wrote.

Egypt’s current foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, insisted that the only way to proceed regarding Syria is for there to be a political solution. Fahmy firmly opposes any military intervention.

Back when Mohamad Morsi was in power in Egypt, all of three months ago, the Egyptian government had turned on the Syrian regime,  and ordered the closure of the Syrian embassy in Cairo. Muslim Brotherhood members are among those currently fighting the Assad government.

But now anti-Islamists are in, the Muslim Brotherhood is out in Egypt, and the Syrian government is again in favor.

What that will mean in practice is that not only will the west not be able to count on assistance from the largest Muslim country in the region, but that it may find active resistance against any outside military action against Assad.

Earlier this week British naval vessels as well as American warships were either already in the area or being readied to move into the area as the contemplated response to Syrian use of chemical weapons is prepared.

“Allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to, threat to the United States’ national security,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.  Those words will be used to justify a U.S. military response without the president having to seek approval from congress.

The Tamarod’s website quoted its spokesperson Hassan Shahin as saying that Egypt should take a firm stance against the anticipated U.S. and allies’ military strike against Syria.

“We should shut the Suez Canal before destroyers, machinery or oil vessels pass to strike Syria,” Shahin wrote, according to the Egypt Independent.

EGYPT-TURKEY RELATIONS HAVE ALSO REVERSED POST-MORSI

The second wave revolution in Egypt also dramatically altered that country’s relationship with Turkey.  Now the strong alliance between the two countries which had blossomed under Morsi, is instead antagonistic. And, not surprisingly, Turkey is being watched as a potential military front against Assad.  Turkey shares a large border with Syria.

 

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com


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