Time for Arabs to stand with Ukraine

Photo by Victor Hanacek

More than 50 days have passed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the attitude in the Middle East towards the war is ambiguous at best. Apart from formal statements from various governments in the region that claim “neutrality,” public reaction is still confused, misguided, and dominated by resentment towards the United States, instead of focusing on the human tragedy playing out in Ukraine as a nation.  

From the beginning of the Ukraine war, Arabs have considered the conflict solely through the prism of a revival of the Cold War between Russia and the United States. Apologism and justifications for the Russian invasion have been all over social media since the beginning of the conflict, with expressions such as Russia was “dragged,” “tricked,” or “provoked.”  As Merissa Khurma has written, many Arab analysts are not convinced by Western “hysteria” over the Ukraine crisis. Moreover, rather than decrying Russia’s unlawful invasion of a sovereign state, many Arabs have denounced the ‘double standard’ of sports bans on Russia. In other words, it has been the responses of Western countries that have irked Arabs, rather than Russian aggression. 

Within the Arab psyche, it seems Ukraine as a nation and the will and aspirations of the Ukrainian people are not part of the narrative that is shaping their opinion towards the war. Ironically, in a region that built its entire cultural narratives on concepts of resistance, jihad, and anti-colonialism, many are resenting Ukraine for resisting Russian occupation. Such an attitude prevails not just among traditional allies of Russia in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, but also in countries like Egypt and the Gulf States. 

In fact, the war in Ukraine has highlighted how the most unifying factor among Arab political factions, whether they are leftists, Nasserites, nationalists, or capitalists, is their collective resentment of the United States; often for conflicting reasons. It was interesting to see an overlap between the anti- and pro-Iran camps in the region.  Both projected an understanding of Russian motives in Ukraine, and regard the war in Ukraine as an opportunity to voice their grievances towards the US. Each camp resents the US for different reasons; Iran sees the US as its archenemy, while regional opponents of Iran resent the US for not standing strong against Iran, and for its efforts to reach a nuclear deal with the Mullahs in Tehran at any price. Both camps, however, see Russia as an alternative ally that can stand against perceived American hegemony over the global order.  

The same contradiction is seen in Turkey, where, as Suat Kınıklıoğlu wrote, both Nationalist-Islamism and Eurasianism overlap, as they both despise West­ern dominance in the international order, feel threatened by the liberal cultural-civilizational siege of the West, and thus have a common counter-hegemonic view of the world. In Egypt, Mohamed Salmawy wrote, “a third bloc is needed”, one that yearns for the 50s, and the Non-aligned Movement, led by Egypt, India, and Yugoslavia. 

Arab media outlets’ coverage of the conflict, while claiming neutrality, is full of ambiguity and subtle bias towards Russia. Most, if not all, of the Arab media start the news with almost identical themes that include “Russia says,” “Russia did,” or “Russia claims,’ which has triggered positive bias towards Russia among their followers. 

It is perhaps understandable to see how the conflict in Ukraine is used as an excuse to lash out against the Biden administration’s policies that have neither supported America’s traditional allies in the region, nor stood firm against US enemies such as the Mullahs’ regime in Tehran.  Nonetheless, such ambiguous handling of the war in Ukraine is worrisome to say the least, and for many reasons:

First, Russia can’t balance US dominance

It is a mistake to assume that Putin’s Russia will counter what Arabs perceive as “US hegemony.” Historically, apart from its rule in the Syrian civil war, Russia has a poor record of supporting any Arab cause. It failed to help Iraq, Libya, and the Palestinian cause.  The economic impacts of this war, together with the crippling US sanctions on Russia will limit its influence and ability to navigate the global order. Furthermore, its strong relations with the regime in Tehran will limit its ability to support Arab Gulf states in their quest to limit Iran’s destructive regional policies.  

Second, calls for a “third bloc” are equally delusional. The fifties Non-aligned Movement (NAM) tried to transcend the Cold War, but the NAM ended up as one of the Cold War’s chief victims. The group eventually moved closer to the Soviet camp and lagged behind the Western world on all fronts, militarily, technologically, and economically. Furthermore, denying Ukraine’s right to self- determination is an insult to all the values of the NAM and the anti-colonial stance of all Arabs. 

Third, fanning the flame of anti-Americanism is counter-productive.  Crying about American’s double standards exposes Arabs’ own bias and inconsistencies.  Arabs behave as if they are not too bothered about colonialism and imperialism when it’s being conducted by a non-Western actor, and they only unleash their anger against what they perceive as American imperialism. While they bitterly remember the US invasion of Iraq, Arabs forget how the ex-Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait and denied its legitimacy as a sovereign nation, which, in many ways, resembles how Putin handles Ukraine. 

Regardless of the outcome of the war in Ukraine, the current ambiguity and soft stance towards Russian aggression will have negative long-term impacts on the Arab world. It will destroy the moral compass of young Arabs, who will grow increasingly susceptible to conspiracy theories, tolerant towards injustices as long as they are committed by non-Western actors, and cynical about the universal values of freedom and the right to self-determination. 

It’s time for Arabs to remove their biased Cold War cloak and look at Ukraine as a country yearning to be liberated from its colonial master. Arabs must recognize the sovereignty of independent states, from the West and the East, and reject the bullying, aggression, and catastrophic destruction of human life that has characterized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine is not Russia, exactly as Kuwait is not part of Iraq, and Lebanon is not part of Iran. It is about time to stand for Ukraine, regardless of our grievances about American policies in the region. 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 15-2022 ( April 11-17)

Top headlines

  • Eni signs Egyptian gas deal to unlock LNG supplies for Europe this year
  • Egypt to import wheat from India and bans export of key staples to cushion blow of Ukraine war
  • Ethiopia started concrete work to the body of the Renaissance Dam, in preparation for the third filling
  • Four French tourists and one Belgian among 10 dead in Egypt bus crash
  • Libyan rival lawmakers start U.N.-backed talks in Egypt 
  • Swiss prosecutors drop money-laundering case against Mubarak’s sons 
  • Direct flights between Tel Aviv and Sharm El-Sheikh begin operating on Sunday

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

  • Pope Tawardos receives the widow of slain priest of Alexandria and family
  • Egyptian cabinet approves bill to imprison and fine anyone aiding and abetting child marriage

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Reports

From Twitter

Happy Easter and happy Passover

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Twitter thread: Russia war in Ukraine

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I read several important Twitter threads on the conflict that are worth reading. However, I choose those three threads ( plus few other tweets)because they highlight important angles of the conflict and debunk many myths.

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This Week in Egypt: Week 14 -2022 ( April 4-10)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s foreign reserves drop by $4 billion on Ukraine war shock, urban inflation accelerates to 10.5% in March
  • Israel is ready to export gas to Europe via Egypt in September
  • Coptic Christian priest is stabbed to death in Alexandria
  • US provides 1.5 million additional doses of Pfizer’s Coronavirus Vaccine to Egypt
  • Turkey to appoint ambassador to Egypt, ending nine-year standoff
  • Egyptian sailors stuck in Kherson are evacuated from Ukraine
  • EU General Court cancels decision to freeze funds of the Mubarak family

Main Headlines

Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Israel is ready to export gas to Europe via Egypt in September
  • Egypt receives additional 1.5 million Pfizer vaccine doses from US
  • Egypt welcomes formation of presidential council in Yemen

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

Good Reports

Sports

  • Will Egypt & Algeria be granted World Cup play-off replays? Reasons for FIFA requests explained. Chris Burton 

From Twitter

Plus

  • Cairo has been named the second most trending destination in the world, and ninth best destination for city lovers in 2022, according to Tripadvisor 
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This Week in Egypt: Week 13-2022 ( March 28-April 3)

Top Headlines

  • Gulf countries give billions to Egypt to prevent food crisis
  • Egypt’s Sisi discusses Ukraine-Russia talks with Ukraine’s Zelensky
  • Egypt and Greece FMs discuss boosting energy cooperation and possible LNG supply
  • Qatar-Energy to acquire 40% stake in an exploration block, offshore Egypt, from American energy major ExxonMobil
  • Egypt plans lowering debt to GDP ratio to below 85% over three years
  • Mohamed Salah subject to racist abuse during World Cup play-off in Senegal
  • FIFA launch investigation into Egypt’s World Cup play-off defeat by Senegal  
  • Egypt welcomes in Ramadan by easing coronavirus restrictions

Main Headlines

Monday

  • Egypt has always strived to encourage Israelis, Palestinians to compromise and end conflict: Egyptian FM in the Negev Summit
  • British PM : UK is keen on cooperating with Egypt in confronting climate change: British PM 
  • Parliament to discuss law on providing insurance for Egypt Air’s Russia flights amid Ukraine crisis

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

  • Qatar-Energy to acquire 40% stake in an exploration block, offshore Egypt, from American energy major ExxonMobil
  • Egypt and France have signed a financing protocol to supply 55 trains and 8 years maintenance for the Cairo Metro’s Line one
  • Egypt offers e-visas to 180 nationalities to prop-up tourism

Friday

Saturday

 Sunday

  • UK is focused on encouraging Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia to reach solution in GERD dispute under AU
  • Egypt plans lowering debt to GDP ratio to below 85% over three years
  • Egypt plans to increase its ports’ share of transit trade

Reports

  • Gulf countries give billions to Egypt to prevent food crisis. Jason Lalljee
  • New consultations over Nile dam inspire optimism in Sudan. Mohamed Saied
  • China expands its influence in Horn of Africa, overlooks dispute over Nile dam. Mohamed Saied
  • SWIFT cut-off leaves Egyptian students in Russia empty handed. Hossam Rabie
  • A “Mini-NATO” for the Middle East won’t be stopped by terror. Lahav Harkov. 
  • Mo Salah had so many lasers pointed at his face before missing crucial Egypt penalty. Andrew Joseph
  • Statement: British PM call with President al-Sisi of Egypt: 28 March 2022 

Good Read

From Twitter

Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 12-2022 ( March 21-27)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt devalues its currency; seek IMF support
  • Egypt’s Sisi hosts Israel’s Bennett, UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed
  • Egyptian FM joined ‘historic’ Abraham Accords Negev summit in Israel
  • Egypt’s Sisi receives phone call from Ukrainian counterpart; Ukraine war could delay Egypt’s first nuclear power plant
  • EU considers Egypt, other alternatives in bid to reduce dependency on Russian gas 
  • UAE to invest $2bn into Egypt to bolster its economic stability
  • Kazakhstan plans Egypt hub for exporting grains, food to Africa
  • Egypt beat Senegal in the first leg of their World Cup playoff 

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

  • UAE to invest $2bn into Egypt to bolster its economic stability
  • Cyprus’s Energy Minister travels to Cairo for talks with Egyptian Ministers
  • Kazakhstan plans Egypt hub for exporting grains, food to Africa
  • Five-star eco-resort to open at Egypt’s Nexgen sustainable city
  • Egypt’s Senate gives final approval of amendments to NGOs law

Reports

Read

From Twitter

Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 11-2021 (March 14-20)

Top Headlines

  • Washington to provide Egypt with F-15 jets
  • Reports suggest Egypt in IMF talks on possible funding amid ar Pressures 
  • UK Lifts Travel Restrictions to Egypt’s South Sinai and Fayoum
  • Egypt displayed recently discovered, well-decorated ancient tombs at a Pharaonic necropolis outside Cairo
  • Israel, Egypt agree to expand flights with new direct route, Israeli PM Bennett is planning a trip to Egypt

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

  • Egyptians count rising bread costs as Ukraine war disrupts wheat exports
  • Horror as woman murdered over 20p after forced marriage in Egypt

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Reports

Read

Interview

From Twitter

Plus

  • 1,700-year-old school in ancient Egypt features Greek text on the wall 
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This Week in Egypt: Week 10-2022 ( March 7-13)

Top Headlines

  • Senate rejects bid to block $2B sale of military planes to Egypt
  • Egypt to Ban Exports of Staple Foods to Safeguard Reserves
  • Egyptian pound devaluation likely to be required -JPMorgan 
  • Russia-Ukraine conflict pushes Egypt’s inflation to 10% in February
  • Egypt’s Sisi and Russia’s Putin discuss developments in Ukraine
  • Egypt Sisi visited Saudi Arabia, met with Crown Prince MBS 

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Egypt’s Sisi and Russia’s Putin discuss developments in Ukraine
  • Egypt and Sudan call on Ethiopia to actively engage in serious GERD talks to reach legally binding deal 
  • Egypt and South Sudan discuss water cooperation in Cairo

Thursday

Friday

  • US Senate backs massive $2.2 billion arms sale to Egypt
  • Senate rejects bid to block $2B sale of military planes to Egypt 
  • Egyptian embassy in Warsaw  urges nationals who crossed from Ukraine to contact it to travel back home

Saturday

  • Egypt’s government denies news on changing goods list of ration cards over shortage
  •  Egypt receives 12 Russian air-conditioned train vehicles at Alexandria Port
  • Suez Canal Economic Zone meets with A.P. Moller-Maersk to talk green fuel
  • Egyptian opposition El-Wafd party elects new leader

Sunday

Reports

From Twitter

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This Week in Egypt: Week 9-2022 ( Feb 28- March 6)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt, along with 140 other countries, has voted for a UN resolution calling for a halt to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Up to 20,000 Ukrainian tourists in Egypt await return to Europe
  • Nearly 4,000 Ukrainian tourists leave Egypt for countries neighbouring Ukraine, Egypt repatriates 177 nationals from Ukraine 
  • Egypt’s petroleum minister says big hike in oil prices negatively affecting the country
  • First female judge presides over hearing at top court in Egypt 
  • Egypt’s Sisi and Greek PM discuss enhancing cooperation in power linkage, solar energy, climate
  • EU says ready to engage more to reach agreement on GERD 

Main Headlines

Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Egypt, along with 140 other countries, has voted for a UN resolution calling for a halt to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Egypt urges quick political solution to Russia-Ukraine crisis, rejects unilateral economic sanctions
  • Egypt to send plane to evacuate citizens from Ukraine
  • Egypt welcomes UN Security Council resolution on Houthis
  • Egyptians seen in jail ‘torture’ videos charged with spreading fake news
  • Cairo has population density of 500 people per feddan: Housing minister

Thursday

  • Ukrainian Chargé d’Affaires praises Egypt’s efforts amid Russian invasion  of Ukraine
  • Deputy US Secretary of State Sherman to visit Egypt 10-11 March at end of regional tour 
  • Egypt and Greek PM discuss enhancing cooperation in power linkage, solar energy, climate
  • Egypt has scored low in a survey of 44 countries on the management of  plastic waste

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 Statement

Reports

  • US’s decision to withhold $130 million from Egypt aid ‘undoubtedly harmed relations’. Yaakov Lappin 
  • Facing western isolation over Ukraine, Russia looks to Mideast, Islamic world. Al Monitor
  • With world attention on Ukraine, Nile dam conflict escalates. Mohamed Saied
  • Ukrainians in Egypt share dreadful moments of Russian invasion. Mohamed Saied
  • Nomadic Bedouins set up camp by the housing blocks of Egypt’s Nile Delta. Reuters

From Twitter

Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 8-2022 ( Feb 21-27)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt extends stay of stranded Ukrainian tourists, other nationals affected by the Russian invasion
  • More than 16,000 Ukrainian tourists are currently in Egypt’s Red Sea resort cities
  • Egypt calls Arab League meeting, and for upholding dialogue, diplomatic solutions to hasten settlement in Ukraine
  • Egypt is working to import wheat from regions other than Russia and Ukraine
  • Some Egyptians return home from Ukraine, one injured, and 1,000 expats on their way to Bucharest
  • Egypt categorically rejects Ethiopia’s unilateral operation of GERD in letter to Security Council
  • Jordan’s PM tests positive for COVID while in Egypt

Main Headlines

Monday

Tuesday

  • Egypt categorically rejects Ethiopia’s unilateral operation of GERD in letter to Security Council
  • Egypt launches major environmental projects in Sharm El-Sheikh ahead of COP27
  • 60,000 fans to attend Egypt versus Senegal critical World Cup qualifier at Cairo International Stadium

Wednesday

 Thursday

  • Egypt calls for upholding dialogue, diplomatic solutions to hasten settlement in Ukraine
  • Egypt extends stay of stranded Ukrainian tourists, other nationals affected by the Russian invasion
  • Egyptian embassy in Kyiv urges nationals living in Ukraine to stay at home until further notice
  • Egypt is keen to promote ties with Kazakhstan

Friday

Egypt’s second-richest man Naguib Sawiris tells authorities to stockpile wheat amidst the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Saturday

Sunday

Reports

From Twitter

Plus

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