Egypt and Yemen, Take Two

The escalation of the conflict in Yemen has mobilized the largest number of Arab forces in the past sixty years. Egypt represents a major partner in the Saudi-led Arab coalition that has conducted regular air strikes against rebel Houthi positions with the stated goal of returning ousted President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi to power. Egypt had intervened in Yemen fifty-three years earlier—under then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser—but the geopolitical landscape has changed dramatically since then.

In her new blog post on EgyptSource, Yasmine Farouk—a Fulbright Scholar at Yale University, an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science in Cairo University, and a Forum Fellow at the American University in Cairo—examines the role Egypt played in Yemen under Nasser, the reasons behind its current intervention, and the regional and domestic ambitions such an intervention is meant to achieve.

“A key difference in Egypt’s role in today’s Yemen conflict is its objective: the defense of Saudi Arabian and Egyptian interests and territory, rather than intervention in Yemen. Egyptian authorities had previously said that Egypt will not tolerate any meddling in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which links the Suez Canal through the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula’s Gulf of Aden. In one of his interviews as a presidential candidate, Sisi called the Red Sea “an Arab Lake” and so the deployment of Egyptian marines to “police it” is neither perceived nor presented as foreign military intervention. In his latest speech, Sisi once again drove this point home, describing events in Yemen, not as aggression, but rather for the sake of the region’s “defense and security,” adding that the Bab al-Mandab strait is a matter of “Egyptian and Arab national security.””

Read Farouk’s article titled “Egypt and Yemen 53 Years Later” on EgyptSource.

Image: Photo: Shi'ite Muslim rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa March 26, 2015. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)