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Egypt Foreign Policy

Egypt Foreign Policy

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Published by Akanksha Vaish

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Published by: Akanksha Vaish on Jun 20, 2012
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Egypt
FOREIGN POLICYThe Determinants of Foreign Policy
Geopolitics inevitably shaped Egypt's foreign policy. Egypt occupies a strategic position as alandbridge between two continents and a link between two principal waterways, theMediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. It must therefore be strong enough to dominate itsenvironment or risk becoming the victim of outside powers. Its security is also linked to controlof the Nile, on whose waters its survival depends. It has, therefore, had historical ties with Sudanand has sought satisfactory relations with the states on Sudan's southern borders, Uganda andZaire. The landbridge to Asia, route of potential conquerors, had also to be secured, andEgyptian rulers traditionally tried to project their power into Syria and Arabia, often in contestwith other powers in Anatolia (present-day Turkey), or the Euphrates River valley (present-dayIraq). In contemporary times, Israel, backed by a superpower, located on Egypt's border, andblocking its access to the East, was perceived as the greatest threat to Egyptian security.Egypt was also politically strategic. As Nasser saw it, with considerable justice, Egypt waspotentially at the center of three "circles," the African, the Arab, and the Islamic. Egypt vieweditself as playing a major role in Africa and, beyond that, was long a leading mover in the widerThird World camp and a major advocate of neutralism and nonalignment. This geopoliticalimportance made the country the object of interest to the great powers, and when Egypt wasstrong enough, as under Nasser, allowed it to play the great powers against each other and winpolitical support and economic and military aid from all sides. Even the weakened Egypt of Mubarak was able to parlay its strategic importance in the ArabIsraeli conflict and as a bulwark against Islamic political activism into political support and economic aid from both the West andthe Arab world.A second constant that shaped Egypt's foreign policy was its Arab-Islamic character. To be sure,Egypt had a long pre-Islamic heritage that gave it a distinct identity, and in periods such as theBritish occupation it developed apart from the Arab world. Egypt's national identity was nevermerged in an undifferentiated Arabism; Egyptians were shaped by their own distinct geography,history, dialect, and customs. But the content of Egyptian identity was indisputably Arab-Islamic. Egypt was inextricably a part of the Arab world. It was the largest Arabic-speakingcountry and the intellectual and political center to which the whole Arab world looked in moderntimes. It was also a center of Islamic civilization, its Al Azhar University one of Islam's majorreligious institutions and its popular culture profoundly Islamic. Although a portion of the mostWesternized upper class at times saw Egypt as Mediterranean or pharaonic (see Glossary), for the overwhelming majority, Egypt's identity was Arab-Islamic. Indeed, Egypt saw itself as theleader of the Arab world, entitled to preeminence in proportion to the heavy burdens it bore indefense of the Arab cause. This Arab-Islamic identity was a great asset for Egyptian leaders. Tothe extent that Egyptian leadership was acknowledged in the Arab world, this prestige bolsteredthe stature of the ruler at home, entitled Egypt to a portion of Arab oil wealth, and gave credenceto Egypt's ability to define a common Arab policy, hence increasing the country's strategicweight in world affairs. This leadership position also meant that Egypt was a natural part of the

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