In the absence of U.S. leadership, others want to direct the Middle East. The battle is becoming a competition of radicals to run the region. That’s what happened in the 1950s and 1960s and it isn’t good. Then, the competition was between Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. Today, the contestants are Turkey, Iran, and a radical Egypt, with Iraq and Syria sidelined due to internal issues. Meanwhile, the Saudis have been forced to take over leadership of the remaining moderate Arab states (the Gulf sheikdoms, plus Morocco and Jordan) since they can no longer depend on America for protection.
The Egyptian foreign minister has warned Iran not to try to intervene too much in the Gulf, posing as protector of Saudi Arabia and the smaller states. This is a hint that Egypt wants to resume its pre-Sadat role as leader of the Arab world. Cairo will see itself as protector of the Muslim, Sunni, and Arab world against Persian, Shia Muslim Iran; Turkish Turkey; and Jewish Israel. With Iraq turned inward and Syria turned upside down, Egypt is the only remaining Arab state that can make a play for region-wide power.
That Egypt wants to stop Iranian expansion is a good thing, but that the next government — a radical, possibly Islamist one, will have its own ambitions isn’t. I predict that Egypt and Iran will tussle over who will be the patron of Hamas and that Egypt will win. It also seems likely that a radical, Islamist-influenced Egypt would be supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Jordan, too.