How Sisi Learned to Love Assad
On February 1, a military transport plane left a Russian airbase in Latakia, Syria, landed at an airfield near Egypt’s border with Libya, then returned to Syria. For months there had been unconfirmed reports that Cairo had sent forces to assist the Syrian regime in the country’s civil war and at first glance the flight appeared to have corroborated those suspicions. That now looks unlikely—the jet’s final destination was Russia, where it had reportedly brought wounded fighters, loyal to the Kremlin-allied Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, in for treatment. But the very fact that Cairo is coordinating with the Damascus-Moscow alliance on such an operation underscores one of the Middle East’s worst-kept secrets: Cairo supports the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Back in November, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi essentially admitted as much. Cairo’s priority “is to support national armies, for example in Libya,” he toldPortuguese state television. “The same with Syria and Iraq.” The host then pressed Sisi over whether he meant the Syrian regime. “Yes,” Sisi replied plainly.