In 1972, President Mohamed Anwar Sadat surprised the world by ordering the expulsion of 11,000 Soviet military and technical ‘advisers’ from Egypt. No one was more surprised than Moscow, given that the USSR had been Egypt’s security guarantor for years.
More than 50 years later, might Syrian President Bashar al-Assad be having his own ‘Sadat Moment’?
Certainly, there are more than a few Iranian ‘advisers’ in Syria. They, together with today’s Russia, see themselves as security guarantors of al-Assad’s regime.
Yet the frequency and openness of Israeli air strikes in Damascus and Aleppo, and with the less-than-covert presence of American personnel in Syria’s east, suggests that the country’s security is, in fact, far from guaranteed.
Sadat’s decision prompted a strategic realignment of Egypt towards the American sphere of influence. A peace treaty with Israel and weapons from Washington followed.
The Syria of 2024 differs significantly from the Egypt of 1972. The global and Middle Eastern landscapes are not the same as they were 50 years ago.
Still, might al-Assad be about to replace the mullahs whispering in his ear with the kings, sultans, presidents, and crown princes of the Arab world? As ever, there is much to dissect.
Spheres of influence
Iran’s security sponsorship of Syria was triggered in full in 2011 when Iran committed its resources to “averting the collapse” of the al-Assad regime after a mass movement to overthrow his regime unfolded.
For Tehran, which also committed fighters from its proxy, Hezbollah, strategic interests and regional expansionist objectives were the main drivers of this decision.