Egypt Geopolitics

With the election of former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi he president of the republic in May 2014, Egypt appears to be heading towards a path of stabilization, thus closing its revolutionary cycle that began in February 2011, when the then head of state Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign following the vibrant protests masses that had crossed the country starting from January 25th. Despite the plebiscitary vote achieved (according to the High Electoral Court al-Sisi obtained 96.91% of the votes by beating the Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi who obtained just 3.9% of the votes), the Egyptian transition cannot be defined as totally completed. as a series of problems of various kinds still make the Egyptian path to stability difficult. Economy, security and the democratic process continue to represent the most important unknowns for the new establishment in power. To these we must finally add the violence between secularists and Islamists who have torn the country and which have been reverberated after the return to the national scene of the military on 3 July 2014 when President Mohammed Mursi was deposed in a coup. The latter not only was unable to respond adequately to the numerous challenges of post-Mubarak Egypt, but also failed to guarantee the unity of the country’s social fabric, nor to put a stop to the growing polarization of the Egyptian system by closing instead to every request for political openness by its own citizens and by the apparatus of power (above all the judiciary and the army). The result was a direct intervention by the military to establish a new regime and launch an almost immediate repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was followed by the government’s decisions to declare the Islamist movement as a ‘terrorist organization’ (December 2013) following some attacks in the country – although these were later claimed by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a jihadist acronym operating in Sinai -, as well as the arrest of its many members, which culminated in April 2014 in a death sentence against 1200 members of the movement founded by Hassan al-Banna. These striking actions were followed by equally significant actions by the Cairo judiciary to ban Hamas (March 2014) and the Freedom and Justice Party, the latter political arm of the Ikhwan (August 2014). In this climate of uncertainty and opposition, al-Sisi proposed himself as the strong man of Egypt and the only person capable of guaranteeing the order and stability necessary for the country. However, the crackdown launched by the Egyptian central authorities has also increased the risk of radicalizing the confrontation not only with the Muslim Brotherhood, but also with all the other Islamist entities, some of which are active in Sinai and near the Libyan border, with the aim to destabilize central power through an armed insurrection.

The long wave of the 2013 coup was not limited only to the internal sphere but also had important repercussions in external relations, which have retained some traits of continuity with the Mubarakian past. The priorities of the transitional and al-Sisi governments have been centered on maintaining cordial ties with the United States and the European Union (Eu) and on finding new economic, trade and military partners such as Russia. and China, at the same time strengthening relations with the Arab monarchies of the Gulf, the main political and economic sponsors of the new Egyptian course. So far, this strategy has worked relatively well, guaranteeing Cairo the liquidity necessary to cover primary needs thanks above all to loans from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which paid about twenty dollars in two packages into the state coffers. distinct. In particular Riyadh, the major ally of the new Egyptian course, has promoted on several occasions with the other Arab and international partners for the establishment of a donor conference for Egypt capable of favoring an economic and therefore also political stabilization.. Riyadh’s non-disinterested intervention allowed at the same time a detachment of Cairo from relations with the pro-Islamists Turkey and especially Qatar, which before Mursi’s dismissal was the main economic and political partner of the Egyptian Islamists. Relations with Turkey have also worsened so much that Cairo withdrew its diplomatic representation from Ankara, downgrading reciprocal bilateral relations to the lowest level. Still on the regional level, relations with Hamas and the Gaza Strip have seen a new stop, with the closure of the border crossings in the Sinai and the end of the alliance established in the previous months, while relations with Israel remain convergent and aimed at maintaining of the status quo, particularly in the strategic area of ​​Sinai, which in recent years has become the heart of the instability for both countries. For Egypt political system, please check

An instability that does not only concern the Sinai but also involves the Egyptian borders shared with Libya and Sudan, which pose an important problem of border security and stabilization. Egypt itself – accused like the United Arab Emirates of being responsible for the air raids in Tripoli against the Libyan Islamist militias – fearing a possible spill over effectviolence on its territory, due to the continuous jihadist infiltrations, has raised the alert level on its western border and has proceeded together with the other countries bordering Libya in defining a common strategy to contain the Libyan threat. While a stable Libya and state-controlled Sinai are critical to Egypt, maintaining good relations with Sudan is equally vital in Cairo’s interests, given the key position it holds in the influx and contention. of the waters of the Nile, a crisis that re-exploded on 29 May 2013 when Ethiopia officially started construction work on the imposing Millennium Dam on the Blue Nile. Although Addis Ababa has not given up on building the strategic infrastructure, frequent talks are underway between the two countries to settle the dispute through a win-win agreement. The major changes in the new Egyptian diplomatic course, however, occurred on the international level and in particular in the cooling of the partnership with the United States, also in consideration of the criticisms expressed by Washington to the executive on the failure to release the deposed Mursi and on the harsh repression of the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite recent frictions and rapprochement attempts (for example the thawing of approximately $ 600 million in economic aid and the delivery in December 2014 of Apache helicopters to be used in counter-terrorism campaigns in Sinai), neither side seems willing to face a complete breakdown of the relationship. For the USA, relations with Egypt also play a central role in the light of the common fight against international terrorism. Likewise, for Egypt it is important not to compromise such a long-standing strategic relationship, given the important financial and military aid paid annually by Washington to Cairo (about 1.3 billion dollars). Relations with the EU have also remained almost stable. The northern shore of the Mediterranean remains Cairo’s main trading partner, despite the tensions that have arisen over the military coup and the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Also in response to this new phase in relations with traditional partners, Egypt has begun to expand its network of relations with non-traditional allies such as India, China and Russia. In particular with the latter, the Cairo government launched a new strategic dialogue which led, in November 2013, to the signing of an important memorandum worth 3 billion dollars for the supply of weapons and the exploration of new forms economic and infrastructural collaboration as in the case of the extension works of the Suez Canal.

Egypt Geopolitics

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