TEL AVIV – The nuclear deal between Iran and world powers may see Egypt, a longtime U.S. ally, shift closer to the Iranian axis and away from the Sunni Arab coalition of countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Despite billions in Saudi financial contributions to Egypt in recent months, the Egyptian government opened a new dialogue with Saudi arch-foe Iran following the nuclear deal signed in Vienna two weeks ago, Middle Eastern defense sources told WND.
The dialogue is aimed at possible mutual regional cooperation.
The sources said the Egyptians further risked drawing Saudi ire by inviting a delegation this week from the party of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is in formal alliance with the Houthi rebel fighters targeting Saudi Arabia from Yemen.
The newfound dialogue with Iran may help to explain why Egypt’s moderate military regime recently did an about-face with regard to the conflict in Syria and now advocates for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be part of a negotiated settlement. The Saudis, by contrast, vehemently oppose the rule of Assad and want him to be completely removed from power.
The Saudis and Egyptians have publicly refuted reports of discord among the two allies.
It is not immediately clear what will come from the Egyptian-Iranian dialogue.
Egypt is an important ally for Israel in fighting extremist organizations in the Gaza Strip, which neighbors the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers, meanwhile, appear to be flirting with both Iran and the Saudis.
Last week, Saudi King Salman held a rare meeting with a Hamas delegation led by the group’s politburo chief, Khaled Meshaal, who was on pilgrimage to Mecca.
One week prior, Meshaal’s deputy, Mussa Abu Marzuk, attended a Ramadan dinner in Lebanon with Iranian-backed Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and senior members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Middle Eastern defense sources reveal.
Iran itself has been attempting to meddle in Egypt and Gaza affairs, as WND was first to report earlier this month.
For the second consecutive month, Iran in July transferred money to pay the salaries of Hamas’ so-called military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades terrorist organization, Mideast defense officials said.
The money was intended only for the Brigades and was not meant to pay salaries for the tens of thousands of Hamas municipal and government workers.
The cash for Hamas’ terror Brigades came as Hamas political leadership has been locked in an internal dispute about the group’s future relationship with Tehran amid more successful outreach talks with Sunni Arab countries, primarily Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
By providing funds for Hamas’ “military wing” only, Iran may be seeking to cause a fracture within the Hamas leadership, especially as Hamas strongman Salah al-Arouri, currently based in Turkey, continues to amass significant power within the terror group’s infrastructure and directs his own rival Hamas wing from his sanctuary in the NATO country.
Iran may also be seeking to bolster its waning influence in Gaza via Hamas’ Brigade. Jihadist sources in Gaza told WND that Islamic Jihad, traditionally backed by Iran, has not received funding from Hamas for the last five months because of the terrorist group’s refusal to provide support for the Assad regime.
Meanwhile, Hamas fighters are not the only Mideast jihadists to be targeted with Iran’s financial largesse.
An Egyptian security official said that some Salafist terrorists captured in the Sinai Peninsula by Egypt in recent weeks admitted under interrogation that Iranian agents initiated contact with their groups with an offer to supply weapons from Libya and Sudan to the Sinai jihadists.
The security officials said the Salafists who divulged the Iranian offer were not members of ISIS but were other rebel Salafist jihadists who have been aiding in the campaign to target the Egyptian military infrastructure in the Sinai.
For the last two weeks, ISIS and other jihadi groups in the northern Sinai Peninsula have been facing off with the Egyptian military in what news media here has described as some of the deadliest battles on the peninsula since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.