On Tuesday, the US withdrew its security forces from the Sinai Peninsula, in response to Egypt’s transfer of sovereignty of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, according to a report from DEBKAfile, citing military and intelligence sources.
The move comes after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi excluded Washington from talks between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel regarding the islands. US officials perceived the move by the Egyptian president as a significant diplomatic slight that may signal a strain in future relations.
General Dunford, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly informed the Egyptian president of the withdrawal of US security forces during a Saturday, April 23 meeting in Cairo. The US believes that if Riyadh, Cairo, and Tel Aviv refuse to report their military steps in the region then Washington has no reason to collaborate with those countries in the Sinai.
The US withdrew nearly 100 troops from the multinational peacekeeping force in the northern part of the Sinai which DEBKAfile reports has been correctly interpreted by the Saudis, Egyptians, and Israelis as the logical response for excluding the Americans from discussions.
General Dunford also informed Egyptian President al-Sisi that the Obama administration will no longer provide security forces in the northern Sinai region, citing the recent shelling of a US base by Daesh affiliates, suggesting that the military compound’s location has been compromised.
US officials may have had enough of the once-hailed former Egyptian General who brought security and stability to the embattled country following the failed Arab Spring experiment. US media reports on al-Sisi now eerily suggest that the popular Egyptian leader may face a domestic coup.
DEBKAfile intelligence sources report that the decision to transfer the islands to Saudi control was part of an effort between Riyadh, Cairo, and Tel Aviv to establish and coordinate a regional defense mechanism covering the regional waterways, over objections by the White House.
The countries reportedly found the cooperative arrangement excluding Washington necessary as the US withdrawal of its naval and air force presence from the region has enabled the Iranian fleet to control those waters.