If the conflict in Syria, currently showing signs of spreading to Turkey, Iraq and Kurdistan were to escalate into a regional war, a proxy for east and west to butt heads without sustaining too much domestic damage, is Egypt likely to take advantage of the distraction and seize Libya for its oilfields?
Thw Egyptians certainly have an incentive. Since the Arab Spring kicked off almost two years ago, the Egyptian economy has been disintegrating. Foreign currency reserves have more than halved and many currency traders predict the Egyptian pound, already at its lowest point in eight years, will soon be devalued. Socially, discontent is widespread. According to Gulf News, In the past three months, Egypt has experienced increased power cuts that sometimes last for hours, while a fuel and diesel crisis has at times paralyzed the country, with mile-long queues forming outside petrol stations. The black market price for gas canisters is 10 times higher than the official selling price; for bread its five times higher.
Taking into account Egypts political ideology, its past relationship with its large but sparsly populated neighbour, and its economic situation this scenario is being raised as a concern by increasing numbers of diplomats, businesses and media organisations.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government desperately needs a $4.8-billion IMF bailout to stop the economy bleeding out but the Islamists refuse to curtail subsidies to peasant farmers because most of its support comes from the rural vote. To comply with IMF demands for austerity could easily trigger a popular revolt of the kind that led to the fall of the Mubarak regime.
Having cut the IMF umbilical cord the brotherhood is looking for aid from the Arab oil states and the U.S.A. but even if this materializes, it will be at best a stopgap. With tourism remaining the nations main source of foreign exchange, but tourists steering clear of Egypt because of its anti-Western riots, persecution of Christians and other minorities and rush to adopt Sharia law this revenue stream is faltering. Meanwhile foreign investors are increasingly wary of investing in Egyptian ventures leaving few options open to the government. The temptation to look next door at the source of wealth that kept an insane tyurant like Gadaffi in power in Libya for forty years could become an irresistible, temptation particularly since Egypt views union with Libya as inevitable.
If we remember that Arab loyalties are usually to tribe and clan rather than the synthetic nation states manufactured by the western powers after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, it becomes easy to see why an Egyptian annexation of Libya looks an obvious way forward for two nations plunged into chaos by the western meddling that triggered the Arab Spring.
Turkey And Syria On The Brink Of Full Scale War