In blow to Iran, Egypt becomes surprise new player in Syria - Syria - Haaretz.com
A new and surprising player has recently entered the Syrian arena and has already contributed to establishing local cease-fires: Egypt received Saudi and Russian “permission” to conduct negotiations between the rebel militias and the regime, both in Ghouta al-Sharqiya (east of Damascus) and the northern neighborhoods in the city of Homs. In both cases, it managed to get a cease-fire deal signed – in the former on July 22, in the latter in early August.
Both areas are part of the de-escalation zones on which Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed in May, in consultation with the United States. But this is the first time Egypt has played an active role in diplomatic negotiations between the warring parties that produced positive results.
From Israel’s standpoint, Egypt’s involvement is important. Any country engaged in blocking Iran’s influence in Syria serves Israel’s interests. But that’s especially true when said country is Egypt, which is Israel’s partner in the war on terror in Sinai and an ally (together with Saudi Arabia and Jordan) with whom it sees eye to eye about both the Iranian threat and the danger of Syria disintegrating into cantons.
Israel is also involved in discussions about the de-escalation zone in southern Syria that runs along Syria’s borders with both Israel and Jordan. Over the weekend, an Israeli delegation headed by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen began talks on the issue with senior U.S. officials in Washington, and a meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During these discussions, Israel will presumably push the superpowers to encourage Egypt’s involvement in Syria, thereby ensuring another Arab partner (alongside Jordan) that will be sympathetic to its interests.