The recent announcement that Egypt was returning control over Tiran and Sanafir islands in the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi Arabia has gotten some attention, but deserves more. It is a moment that reveals much about current Middle Eastern politics.
In 1950 the Saudis transferred control, but in their view never sovereignty, over the islands to Egypt to protect them from what it claimed was the threat of an Israeli takeover. During a visit to Egypt by King Salman this past week, control was transferred back. (There is a reasonably fierce debate in Egypt over whether in fact President Sisi has unconstitutionally abandoned sovereign territory– or anyway as fierce as debates can be given repression and censorship in Egypt.) Read more »