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Egypt First

Under Sisi, Cairo Is Going Its Own Way

Sisi speaks to the press after a meeting with Putin, December 2017. Reuters

In November 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) launched an impulsive bid to isolate Iran by forcing the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri during a visit by the latter to Riyadh. The Crown Prince was counting on the support of his Sunni Arab allies, but one notable Arab country abstained. Instead of backing its key regional benefactor, Egypt immediately aligned itself with French efforts to broker a diplomatic solution, hosting Hariri in Cairo and championing his return to Lebanon as prime minister. Egypt’s stance, focused on “the importance of preserving Lebanon’s stability and elevating Lebanon’s national interests,” struck a discordant note with Riyadh’s recent “with us or against us” attempts to reorder the Middle East along Manichean lines between itself and Tehran.

Hariri was not the only high-profile visitor to Cairo to raise concerns among Egypt’s longtime patrons: on December 11, Russian President

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