Re-evaluating Iran-Egypt Relations: A Look at the Evolving Geopolitical Context


Insight Turkey Volume 19 No. 2, 2017

The Arab spring, which initially obscured the prominence of religious and ethnic cleavages, has continually underscored sectarian tensions in a region already overrun with many political difficulties. The post-Arab Spring political dynamic, in various countries and contexts, has seen an unprecedented
increase in sectarian tensions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Evolving sectarian tensions and identity politics in the MENA region have given rise to renewed threat and opportunity perceptions, prompting a shifting geopolitical context and the configuration of new security considerations. Iran-Egypt relations have thus far managed to escape these sectarian tensions, as Egyptian leaders in the post-Arab uprisings have prioritized the region’s stability over entangling Egypt in proxy wars that often signify broader political rivalries in the MENA region.

While Saudi Arabia, which has been the key financial mainstay of the Egyptian regime in the aftermath of the July 3, 2013 popular coup, anticipates further Egyptian cooperation in confronting Iranian proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, Egypt’s approach to these countries has been to underscore the importance of domestic and regional stability. Egyptian leaders, for example, have made it abundantly clear that any attempt to disrupt the Syrian state could risk bringing to power a radical Islamic group –an eventuality that Cairo deems politically objectionable. Increasingly, as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) expands its domain of control and quasi-authoritarian rule into new territories within Iraq and Syria, as well as attacking Shiite mosques and government-affiliated organs and institutions, Egyptian officials find themselves undeniably on the side of the groups, organizations, countries, and alliances that are fighting ISIS.

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