Exclusive: Egypt to pull out of US-led security initiative

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UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Egypt has pulled out of US efforts to form a NATO-style Arab NATO, along with key Arab allies, as a blow to President Trump’s efforts to contain Iran’s influence, four well-informed sources said to Reuters

A Reuters source said that Egypt had informed its decision to the United States and other parties concerned with the proposed strategic alliance in the Middle East before a meeting on Sunday in Riyadh.

He said Cairo had not sent a delegation to the meeting, the latest in a bid to boost US-led efforts to bring Sunni Arab allies into a security, political and economic pact to tackle Shi’ite Iran.

An Arab source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Egypt had withdrawn to question the seriousness of the initiative. It has yet to see a preliminary plan that would define the alliance’s features and that a plan would risk increasing tension with Iran.

The Arab source said that the uncertainty surrounding whether President Trump will win a second term next year and the possibility that his successor will abandon the initiative, two factors contributed to Egypt’s decision.

“It is not going as it should,” a Saudi source said.

According to a confidential White House document seen by Reuters last year, the initiative, first proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2017, also aims to reduce Russia and China’s growing influence in the region.

The Egyptian embassy in Washington and the White House have yet to respond to requests for comment.

In addition to the United States and Saudi Arabia includes the strategic alliance in the Middle East, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Jordan.

Two days after the Riyadh meeting, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Washington for talks with Trump. Before the meeting, the US president said the two leaders would talk about security issues but it was not clear whether they discussed the strategic alliance in the Middle East.

The two remaining sources said that the remaining countries in the alliance were moving ahead with the initiative and would try to convince Egypt through diplomacy to abandon the withdrawal, one of which said the decision was apparently not final.

But the Arab source said that Cairo may not be convinced to return.

The withdrawal of Egypt, the largest army in the Arab world, is the latest setback to the initiative to establish a strategic alliance in the Middle East, which is referred to informally as “Arab NATO.”

The plan has already been complicated by international outrage following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Turkish officials and some US lawmakers accused Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman of ordering him to be killed, a charge Saudi Arabia denies.

Other obstacles include differences between Arab allies, especially the economic and political boycott of Saudi Arabia led by Saudi Arabia.

These problems imposed repeated postponements of a summit in the United States to sign a tentative agreement on the establishment of the coalition.

US officials said US National Security Adviser John Bolton was a key supporter of the plan to create a strategic alliance in the Middle East and added that he was the Trump management strategy engineer to contain Iran.

This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.

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