03/23/2022, 17.34
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Bennett, al Sisi and bin Zayed in Sharm el-Sheikh to counter Iran

The leaders of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Israel met to discuss the implications of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict for the region, but also what to do about Iran. According to Israeli intelligence, a nuclear deal with Tehran can be expected soon.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met yesterday in Sharm el-Sheikh, ostensibly to counter Iranian influence in the region.

According to a statement from the Office of the Egyptian President, the three leaders discussed the implications of the war in Ukraine, including issues of energy security and food supply.

The three leaders also spoke about boosting diplomatic relations and the importance of cooperation and dialogue to achieve growth and stability in the Middle East, the Emirates News Agency said.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office reported the same, highlighting the mediation efforts by the Jewish state in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

All three countries have recently come under US pressure to enforce Western sanctions and isolate Russia, and in the case of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to boost oil production to reduce oil prices.

Planning for the summit began in December after Bennett's visit to Abu Dhabi. The Iranian nuclear agreement is the elephant in the room. Israel is opposed to it and despite delays caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it might be revived.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed by the Obama administration in 2015 and cancelled three years later by the Trump administration, would lift sanctions from Iran in exchange for a halt to the development of the nuclear programme.

Recent reports that the United States would remove the Revolutionary Guards from its list of terrorist organisations as part of the deal sparked great anger in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

According to some analysts, including Emirati political scientist Abdulkahleq Abdullah, Egypt, the UAE and Israel, three of the most important US allies in the region, wanted to send a message to Washington: “Are you with us or with Iran? Will America stay with its partners, or will it side with Tehran and favour an agreement at any cost?”

The evening before the trilateral summit, US State Department spokesman Ned Price tried to reassure allies by stating that despite recent progress, “An agreement is neither imminent nor is it certain.”

Instead, "We are preparing equally for scenarios with and without a mutual return to full implementation” of the 2015 agreement, contradicting Israeli intelligence assessments that a new agreement with Iran is a done deal.

While the Americans might want to close a deal as soon as possible to continue their withdrawal from the region, Bennett is trying to set an alliance of states that oppose not only Iran but also Iran-funded and supported movements, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and a number of Shia militias in Iraq.

The summit is also part of a broader process of diplomatic visits between the Gulf monarchies, increasingly linked to Israel after the signing of the Abrahamic agreements in August 2020, and other Arab countries in the region.

Some experts claim that the Saudis and the Emiratis are trying to involve Syria and Lebanon in the anti-Iran club.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently visited the Emirates, and Lebanon could soon re-establish diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries after its envoys were expelled last year over a dispute concerning Lebanon’s financial crisis.

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