Egypt in the Region

Part of Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015

In Chapter 8 of Rocky Harbors: Taking Stock of the Middle East in 2015, Carolyn Barnett analyzes how Egypt's role as an actor in regional politics is evolving.

Since 2011 events have left Egypt’s health and future trajectory uncertain. Yet many have continued to argue that Egypt is a bellwether for the Middle East as a whole. When protests jumped in January 2011 from Tunis to Cairo, the region’s and the world’s attention quickly shifted east as well. Judging from the media coverage, it almost seemed that Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s overthrow had been merely the dress rehearsal for the uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Today, rather than Egypt taking a leading role in the region, other powers in the region have been taking a leading role in Egypt. For some, Egypt's trajectory epitomizes the failure of the “Arab Spring” to translate into sustained, democratic, inclusive political processes and institutions. For others—most importantly Saudi Arabia (a former rival to Egypt) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—Egypt has become ground zero in the effort to sideline politically ambitious Islamist groups and a central arena in the struggle against violent jihadi-salafi organizations.


Carolyn Barnett