by SETH J. FRANTZMAN NOVEMBER 19, 2020 10:45
Joint training taking place in Egypt between 15-17 November with Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egyptian armed forces is a major leap forward for the joint role these countries play in regional security and stability. Together these four countries, with support from Saudi Arabia and links to Greece and Cyprus, increasingly look like a bloc of countries that share views and are a kind of alliance. Joint military training is key to maintain that.
According to reports the training is called Saif al-Arab, the sword of the Arabs. According to the Saudi Gazette Sudan is also participating and Riyadh is observing. Training takes place at the Mohamad Naguib base in northern Egypt.Arab News also reported that Egypt and Sudanese aircraft conducted a joint air exercise called Nile Eagles 1 at Sudan’s Marwa base near Khartoum. This is an important drill and will continue until November 26.
Considering the security challenges in the region and Sudan’s current transitional government, this training helps Sudan and Egypt work more closely. At the same time as the special forces and units from the Arab states were practicing in Egypt, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrived in the UAE to discuss a strategic partnership. Greece has warned about Turkey’s aggressive role in the Mediterranean. Turkey, an ally of Qatar, is harshly opposed to Egypt and the UAE and has threatened Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, including hosting Hamas this year.
Israel, Greece and Cyprus have signed an EastMed pipeline agreement this year, and the same countries are part of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum with Egypt and Jordan. Do the math and what you get is a partnership that involves Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Israel, all countries that have peace with each other, as well as Greece and Cyprus, which are growing closer to Israel. Saudi Arabia is also a key backer of both Bahrain and the UAE, as well as close to Egypt.
Egypt is also growing its influence in other ways. It sent its navy to the Black Sea to conduct a joint drill with Russia. This is an important message. Greece and Egypt have signed a Mediterranean demarcation agreement that also seeks to counter a deal between Turkey and the embattled government in Libya’s Tripoli. Egypt backs the Benghazi-based government of Khalifa Haftar against Tripoli.
The joint training that Egypt is hosting and participating in showcases Cairo’s attempt to increase the operations of its armed forces with friendly states. Unsurprisingly alongside the new defense agreements Greece has entered into with the UAE this week, and their joint concerns about Turkey aggression in the region, the UAE hosted Jordan and Bahrain’s king for a meeting on November 18, and the Palestinians are returning envoys to the UAE and Bahrain, and Bahrain’s foreign minister was in Israel on Wednesday.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also paying a visit to these same countries: Israel, Bahrain and the UAE. This showcases how all these recent movements from Greece to the UAE, and Egypt with its military drills, are linked as part of a broader regional paradigm.