The unfolding events in Egypt, which initially started with the break out of the revolt in 2011, are very important in terms of their social and political impact. Particularly important are not the events themselves, but rather the dynamics and prospects which have been developed through them, both at the domestic and the regional level.
To begin with, it is today clear that the social turmoil of 2011 was not a revolution which brought about systemic changes to Egypt’s political scene, but rather a revolt with limited political and ideological cohesion and goals.[i] Yet, the second, and more massive, revolt of the summer of 2013, which also led to the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, is indicator of an important fact: The Egyptian society is currently at a point of rupture of the historical cycle during which it had become de-politicized through imposed top-down policies. It is undergoing a process of re-politicization and it is gradually realizing its rights and power; and thus the refusal of the masses to accept the governance of a Muslim Brotherhood that did not meet their demands.
However, this process is not meant to be either short or easy, and it will bring the Egyptian elites – primarily the military, for the time being – before challenges and dilemmas in terms of the transformation of their domestic and foreign policies. And the case is such, because the democratic election of the Muslim Brotherhood did indeed reflect that the mass political culture of Egypt was very much inclined towards a different orientation in the conduct of politics, despite the fact that the same masses turned against the government when it failed to deliver its promises. This translates into the fact that the military will have to strive for a more democratic political system and a more assertive foreign policy, largely different from the traditional status quo-oriented foreign policy of the military.[ii] That is because the military should take into account the anti-American and anti-Israeli perceptions, among others, of the public opinion.[iii]
In this context, issues such as Egyptian-Israeli relations, the Palestinian Problem, the future of the Sinai Peninsula and terrorism in North Africa, the issue of the delimitation of national Exclusive Economic Zones in the South-Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish-Egyptian relations, and the management of the Shiite regional influence as well as the Arab Spring more generally, are at a state of high fluidity and uncertainty. As such, the outcome of many of these outstanding issues will largely depend on developments in Egypt. At the same time, this shows the importance and centrality of Egypt in the developments of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) while it highlights the fact that the MENA is not a static region – as Orientalism would have it – but rather a highly dynamic one which can play a decisive role in regional and international political shifts and power balances.
Published on Strategic Outlook.
[i] For a discussion about the difference between revolution and revolt see, Zenonas Tziarras, “The Sociology of the Arab Spring,” The GW Post, August 23, 2011, at http://thegwpost.com/2011/08/23/the-sociology-of-the-arab-spring-a-revolt-or-a-revolution/ [accessed, 13/10/2013]; and, Zenonas Tziarras, “New Perspectives on the Sociology of the Arab Spring – Mark II,” The GW Post, December 1, 2011, at http://thegwpost.com/2011/12/01/new-perspectives-on-the-sociology-of-the-arab-spring-mark-ii/ [accessed, 13/10/2013].
[ii] See more on this argument in, Zenonas Tziarras, “Turkey-Egypt: Turkish Model, Political Culture and Regional Power Struggle,” Strategy International, Research Paper, No. 4/2013, October, 2013.
[iii] For these perceptions see, among others, Dalia Mogahed, “Opinion Briefing: Egyptians Skeptical of U.S. Intentions,” Gallup, September 21, 2012, at http://www.gallup.com/poll/157592/opinion-briefing-egyptians-skeptical-intentions.aspx [accessed, 13/10/2013]; and, “Poll: Over half of Egypt wants end to Israel peace,” Ynetnews.com, April 26, 2011, at http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4060559,00.html [accessed, 13/10/2013].