Fears of Gaza Violence Prompt Egypt To Reinforce the Sinai Border

Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

“Threats [to Egypt] usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense…”

Egypt has turned its strategic focus toward its eastern border amidst rising concerns that violence from Israel’s military operation in Gaza could spill over into the Sinai Peninsula. Most concerning to Egypt’s military-led government is the potential of a massive influx of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai.[i] The Egyptian military, according to the first accompanying excerpt from the Qatar-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, is firmly opposed to any relocation of Gaza’s residents to the Sinai. Reflecting these principles, Egyptian President Sisi has stated that “Egypt has not and will never allow the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai.”[ii] A secondary security concern for Egypt’s Armed Forces is cross-border fire from errant projectiles from both sides of the conflict.[iii] As a result of these concerns, Egypt has begun to quietly take precautions. It has increased its military and security presence around the Rafah border crossing.[iv] In late October, Egyptian military leadership conducted a readiness inspection of the Armed Forces’ 4th Armored Division, 3rd Field Army, based in Suez.[v] Military and security measures alone, however, are unlikely to ease the mounting pressure on Egypt’s border with Gaza. The second accompanying excerpt, also from al-Araby al-Jadeed, argues that Egypt will need to overhaul its strategic thinking to cope with these pressures. To do so, the author argues, the Egyptian government should provide immediate, open support for Hamas via all means possible short of war. In addition, he argues that Egypt should begin to “coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.”


مخططات تهجير الفلسطينيين إلى سيناء… رفض مصري ممتد لعقود

“Decades-long Egyptian rejection of plans to forcibly relocate Palestinians to Sinai,” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 2 November 2023.https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/مخططات-تهجير-الفلسطينيين-إلى-سيناء-رفض-مصري-ممتد-لعقود

Despite these fears, this plan still depends on many factors in order to implement it, “some of which are almost impossible,” according to the description of a former Egyptian security official, who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity. On top of these factors is “the position of the Egyptian military establishment, which absolutely rejects the idea of ​​settling Palestinians in Sinai , due to many considerations related to Egyptian national security.”

The former official added, “The army’s rejection of that idea existed previously, during the era of the late President Hosni Mubarak, and it still exists today, which can be seen in the messages conveyed in President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s recent speeches, which seemed to be directed to the armed forces in order to reassure its leaders and allay their fears.”

لماذا على مصر التفكير في أمنها القومي بشكل مختلف؟

“Why should Egypt think about its national security in a different way?” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 12 November 2023. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/لماذا-على-مصر-التفكير-في-أمنها-القومي-بشكل-مختلف

… Egyptian national security theory and its constants, or what remains of those constants, the most important of which is that threats usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense, and that whenever Gaza collapses, Egypt’s defensive lines collapse, regardless of the degree of compatibility with the political or administrative system in power following the collapse…

The Egyptian government must immediately stop talking about more than meager aid, as after a month of aggression, no more people entered the Gaza Strip than they did one day before. It must restrain the “Samsung media”, as this is a major national security issue and a top priority, and this is not the time to export hatred for the Palestinian resistance and belittle it, nor the time to outbid it, condemn it, or blame the victims in any way. Rather, it is the best piece of chess through which everything you want can be achieved. Without a single concession. Egypt should coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.


[i] The idea of a population transfer from Gaza to the Sinai is not new and has been floated several times before. Since 7 October, several Israeli statements and documents have alluded to the forcible displacement of Gaza’s population as a policy option. See for instance: “An Israeli ministry, in a ‘concept paper,’ proposes transferring Gaza civilians to Egypt’s Sinai,” AP, 30 October 2023. https://apnews.com/article/israel-gaza-population-transfer-hamas-egypt-palestinians-refugees-5f99378c0af6aca183a90c631fa4da5a; Giora Eiland. “It’s time to rip off the Hamas band-aid,” Ynet News, 12 October 2023. https://www.ynetnews.com/article/sju3uabba

[ii] Statement quoted in: “Defend and populate Sinai,” al-Ahram Weekly, 31 October 2023. https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/511373.aspx

[iii] This includes projectiles fired toward Israel from the south that have landed along the Sinai’s Red Sea coast, as well as cross-border Israeli fire that hit an Egyptian border guard post near Gaza. On the former, see: “Drone blasts hit two Egyptian Red Sea towns, Israel points to Houthi,” AP, 27 October 2023. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/explosion-heard-egyptian-red-sea-town-near-israeli-border-witness-2023-10-27/ On the latter, see: “At least seven injured as Israeli tank ‘accidentally’ hits Egyptian border,” al-Jazeera, 22 October 2023. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/22/at-least-seven-injured-as-israeli-tank-accidentally-hits-egyptian-border

[iv] Images of Egyptian special forces deployed in Rafah can be found at: https://twitter.com/mahmouedgamal44/status/1715623393909694745

[v] The inspection included the first official appearance of the South Korean K9A1 155 mm self-propelled howitzer in the Egyptian military.  For images and description of the platforms involved see: https://twitter.com/mahmouedgamal44/status/1717074441501290762.

Image Information:

Image: Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Source: CIA Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/egypt/map Attribution: Public Domain

Key Arab Countries Join Chinese-Led Regional Body as Dialogue Partners

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

“… The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative…”

A growing number of Arab countries are joining the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as “dialogue partners.” The SCO was established in the early 2000s as a mechanism for deepening political, economic, and security cooperation between countries of Central and South Asia. It has eight member nations (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and over a dozen “observer” and “dialogue partner” nations, which may send delegates to SCO meetings and negotiate with the bloc on particular issues but do not have voting rights or official sway within the organization.

In the past year, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have all been officially granted “dialogue partner” status, with Bahrain expected to follow suit. With this, roughly two-thirds of countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility have joined the SCO in some capacity.[i] While these developments bear watching, SCO partnership is—at least for now—not necessarily at odds with existing security commitments and arrangements.[ii] Instead, engagement with the SCO is seen as part of a strategic diversification approach being pursued by Arab countries in response to emerging multipolarity. Arabic-language media largely sees these moves through an economic lens and as part of what the first accompanying excerpt, published in the Qatari-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, considers China’s “efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.” Arab countries’ interest in the SCO, however, should not be dismissed as a purely economic phenomenon bereft of potential strategic implications. According to a former Egyptian diplomat cited in the second accompanying article, published last September in the prominent Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Russia will seek to use the SCO “as an additional point in its confrontations with the West.” Russian attempts to use the SCO for strategic leverage against NATO would likely cause friction within the organization, clashing not only with China’s more regional and economic focus but also with the strategic interests of other SCO members. Nonetheless, growing Russo-Chinese geostrategic alignment may eventually enable the SCO’s orientation to gradually shift toward global geopolitics, particularly if its membership begins extending beyond Central and South Asia. Especially noteworthy in this regard is Iran’s interest in full SCO membership (it is currently an observer country). This interest, combined with the recent China-mediated Saudi-Iranian détente, makes the SCO a potential venue through which Iran may seek to compete with the United States. Last April, Iran was for the first time invited to participate in the SCO defense ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. As reported in the third accompanying excerpt, from the pro-Iranian Lebanese media outlet al-Mayadeen, Iran’s Defense Minister called for the establishing of a “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” and more broadly using the SCO to promote a “balance of power.” Iranian ambitions notwithstanding, the SCO remains an “alternative” rather than a “challenge” to the West, as articulated by an Indian journalist cited in the fourth accompanying excerpt, from the Saudi English-language daily Arab News. Still, in a competitive world, today’s alternatives may become tomorrow’s challenges. Present Arab involvement in the SCO remains limited and largely economic in nature, but the potential for this involvement to morph in a way that that erodes U.S.-Arab security partnerships, while not imminent, is worthy of consideration.


“منظمة شنغهاي.. ترسيخ الصين لاقتصاد التعددية القطبية يتمدّد عربياً

(Shanghai Organization.. China’s consolidation of the multipolar economy is expanding in the Arab world),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 16 April 2023. https://tinyurl.com/muamystt

China is seeking to attract a larger number of economically active countries to membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as part of its efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.

“ماذا يعني انضمام 5 دول عربية إلى منظمة «شنغهاي»؟

(What does the accession of 5 Arab countries to the ‘Shanghai Organization’ mean?).” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 17 September 2022. https://tinyurl.com/bdf9f2v8

Ambassador Raouf Saad, the former Egyptian assistant foreign minister and former Egyptian ambassador to Moscow, acknowledged that Russia will work to exploit the matter as an additional point in its confrontations with the West. However, he stressed the constants of Egyptian foreign policy, which refuses to “enter into alliances directed at the expense of its interests.”

“وزير الدفاع الإيراني: يجب تفعيل حزام الأمن البحري لمنظمة “شنغهاي

(Iranian Defense Minister: The ‘Shanghai Organization’ maritime security belt must be activated,)” al-Mayadeen (pro-Iran Lebanese media outlet), 29 April 2023. https://tinyurl.com/35dfp45z

Today, Saturday, the Iranian Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, proposed adopting the “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” mechanism with the aim of maintaining the security of communication lines and collectively guaranteeing global trade with the participation of the armed forces of member states…

During his remarks at the meeting of defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in New Delhi, India, Ashtiani said that the achievements of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization “should promote global multilateralism and balance of power.”

“Middle Eastern participation grows in China-led security bloc as new countries join,” Arab News (English-language Saudi daily), 5 May 2023. https://www.arabnews.com/node/2298341/world
“It is a question of moving the weight or the center of gravity from the Western world — the US and EU combined — to the Eastern world, the place where the population of the world actually now exists overwhelmingly, the place where the fastest-growing economies are also present,” Suhashini Haidar, diplomatic editor at the English-language daily the Hindu, told Arab News. The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative, she said.


[i] Of the 21 countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility, only eight (Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Yemen) do not have any status in the SCO. However, Iraq, Israel, and Syria have all applied for dialogue partner status, while Turkmenistan has attended SCO summits as a guest attendee. That leaves Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen as the only countries with no relationship to the SCO.

[ii] SCO partnership alone means little in terms of defense commitments: Turkey, a NATO member, is an SCO dialogue partner.  Full membership in the SCO should also not be equated to membership in a defense alliance, such as NATO, given that both India and Pakistan are full members. Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have an adversarial relationship with one another, are both dialogue partners.

Image Information:

Image: Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).
Source: N509FZ, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shanghai_Cooperation_Organization_Secretariat_%2820220909162501%29.jpg
Attribution: CC 4.0

Russia’s Ukraine Narratives Find Appeal in Arab Countries

RT Arabic Logo.

RT Arabic Logo.

Sputnik Arabic Logo.

Sputnik Arabic Logo.

The war saved everyone from the Corona virus, which was prepared in Ukrainian laboratories. President Putin struck those laboratories and ended the virus. If this had not happened, the virus would not have ended, because America wants to reduce the global population …”

The “Arab street” has largely supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine several polls indicating that Arabs are more likely to blame the conflict on Ukraine or the West than on Russia.[i] Russian influence campaigns have almost certainly played a role given ample evidence that Russia’s Arabic-language outlets have deliberately sought to shape perceptions vis-à-vis Ukraine. There is also data showing that Russian Arabic-language media outlets RT and Sputnik Arabic are more popular than their Western counterparts, such as BBC Arabic or the U.S.-funded al-Hurra.[ii]Several national news agencies in the Middle East have signed content sharing agreements with these Russian outlets. However, focusing primarily on Russian influence operations misses the important social contexts in which these pro-Russian opinions are being formed.

The first accompanying excerpt, from the Arabic-language news website of the German media outlet Deutsche Welle, cites an Egyptian media expert who highlights the extent to which Arabs are registering “protest support” for Russia, based on opposition to Western policies that are seen as biased against Arabs and Muslims. Russian influence campaigns, he argues, need not be particularly strong, as “the audience is more susceptible and obedient to Russian counter-propaganda, without this meaning that the propaganda is good or effective.” The second accompanying excerpt, from the Arabic-language news website al-Bawaba, illustrates the extent to which Russian misinformation has spread to new segments of the Arab public. The excerpt is from an interview with an archbishop in Egypt’s Coptic Church. When asked about the impact of the Ukraine conflict on Egypt, he claims that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ended COVID-19, which was purportedly created by the United States in Ukrainian laboratoriese to trim the global population to 2 billion people. 

According to the third accompanying excerpt, an opinion piece published in the Qatar-aligned English-language news website The New Arab, the current global environment has “opened a floodgate of misinformation tainted with apocalyptic thinking and metaphysical explanations.”  The author notes how the combined effects of COVID-19, extreme weather events, and war in Ukraine have led many in the region to seek answers in scripture. Arab skepticism toward the U.S. role in Ukraine is neither novel nor surprising, since narratives portraying the United States as a latent source of regional conflict and instability are pervasive. What is new, however, is that fanciful, apocalyptic-tinted anti-U.S. narratives—made popular last decade by Islamic State ideologues—may be pushing their way into the region’s Christian minority populations with a little help from Russian media outlets.


“غزو أوكرانيا.. هل ربحت روسيا حرب المعلومات في الشرق الأوسط؟

(Ukraine invasion… did Russia win the information war in the Middle East?),” Deutsche Welle Arabic (German media outlet), 25 August 2022. https://tinyurl.com/49783hk2

Yasser Abdel Aziz, an international lecturer and Egyptian media expert… says: “I believe that this support is ‘protest support’ because there are large segments of the Arab public who feel that the Western media is biased and that the West in general is biased against Arab and Islamic issues. There is historical and other bitterness, and because of this the audience is more susceptible and obedient to Russian counter-propaganda, without this meaning that this propaganda is good or effective… Abdel Aziz added, “The West has the right to feel resentment in light of this situation, because its effective and successful communication tools and its prestigious and venerable media outlets are sometimes unconvincing, while the ‘miserable’ Russian media tools, or others that do not have the same luster or capabilities, find popularity at times.

“الأنبا بنيامين مطران المنوفية: الزواج استشهاد دون سفك دماء..

(Anba Benjamin, Bishop of Monofia: Marriage is martyrdom without blood…).” al-Bawaba (Arabic-language news website), 20 October 2022. https://www.albawabhnews.com/4674878

Q: The Ukrainian-Russian crisis. How do you see its impact on the world and Egypt in particular?

A: The war saved everyone from the Coronavirus, which was prepared in Ukrainian laboratories. President Putin struck those laboratories and ended the virus. If this had not happened, the virus would not have ended, because America wants to reduce the global population, there are 7.5 billion people and they want to reduce it to 2 billion.

Emad Mousa. “MENA’s misguided climate change schadenfreude towards Europe,” The New Arab (Qatari-aligned English-language news website), 19 October 2022. https://english.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/menas-misguided-climate-change-schadenfreude-towards-europeBecause the unusual weather conditions came shortly after a global pandemic and coincided with the Ukraine war and a global economic meltdown, it opened a floodgate of misinformation tainted with apocalyptic thinking and metaphysical explanations – similar to the height of the Covid-19 global emergency. During the pandemic, Egyptians reportedly ranked highest in Google searches


[i] Per the May 2022 ArabNews/YouGov poll on who is responsible for the Ukraine conflict (https://www.arabnews.com/sites/default/files/anyg_rusukr_report_web_compressed.pdf), 24 percent of respondents hold NATO responsible; 13 percent hold the current U.S. President responsible; 16 percent hold Russia responsible; six percent hold Ukraine responsible; and 42 percent do not know or are unsure who is responsible. Per the September 2022 Arab Youth Survey on who is responsible for the Ukraine conflict (https://arabyouthsurvey.com/en/findings/#my-global-citizenship-10),

31 percent of respondents hold the United States/NATO responsible; 18 percent hold Russia responsible; 15 percent hold Ukraine responsible; and 37 percent do not know or cannot say who is responsible.

[ii] According to a 2015 Nielsen study, RT’s Arabic-language news channel had higher daily audiences than BBC Arabic, Sky News Arabia, al-Hurra and China’s CCTV in Arabic in Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE and Iraq. (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rt-arabic-is-among-top-3-most-watched-news-channels-in-6-arabic-countries-300039119.html)

See also: Norman Cigar, “COVID-19 and the Arab World: Opportunity for Russian Anti-American Disinformation?” MES Insights, Volume 11, Issue 2, The Krulak Center at Marine Corps University, April 2020. https://www.usmcu.edu/Portals/218/MES/Insights/MES%20Insights%20Volume%2011%20Issue%202%20April%202020.pdf?ver=2020-05-01-133622-630

Image Information:

Image 1:  RT Arabic Logo
Source: Twitter, https://twitter.com/RTarabic/photo
Attribution: Fair Use

Image 2:  Sputnik Arabic Logo
Source: Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=293803939457940
Attribution: Fair Use

“Virtual War: The Qatar-UAE Battle of Narratives” by Lucas Winter (2020-05-28)

(Click image to download brief.)

Over the past decade, strategic competition between Qatar and the UAE has evolved into low-level information warfare. What began as disagreements on foreign policy in the wake of the Arab Spring has escalated into a conflict to shape and control information flows in cyberspace. Although not always visible, Qatari-Emirati competition has become a persistent feature of the regional Operational Environment (OE). Their competition in the cyber-information sphere is part of a broader competition for influence involving Turkey, Qatar and their allies, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and their allies, on the other.1 One of Qatar’s main contributions to the Turkish-led axis is the employment of Arabic-language media outlets to influence local and foreign perceptions of the OE. The adversarial Qatar-UAE relationship has more recently morphed into a nascent cyber conflict to control not only the narrative but also digital data and information. Hoping to become hubs of the new digital economy, both countries are investing in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in ways that will enhance their capabilities to shaper perceptions of the OE.2 Their conflict will continue to be a dynamic factor shaping the regional OE, and its evolution highlights the changing character of information war.