Egypt has been, since the Arab invasion in the seventh century, the centre of the Arab and Muslim world. However, its geographic position as a land bridge between the African and Asian continent and the ‘crossroad’ of three seas, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, determined the Egyptian profile as being subject to the influence of different cultures and civilisations. Mohammed Ali, under the Ottoman Empire, determined the identity of Egypt with a whole series of reforms with the aim of entering the country in the modern/developed world.
In the recent history, Egypt, being the first country to obtain its official independency from Britain, has managed to obtain an important role not only in the Middle East but in the totality of the Arab and the Muslim world. From a realist point of view, Egypt represents the most populated state of the Arab world, with a homogenous population and it is considered to be an important military power in the region. Its soft power has been tremendous in the Arab world as, since the end of the First World War, Egypt has been feeding the region with cultural products of music, cinema and television programs. Additionally, the Al-Azhar mosque has spread Egypt’s influence all around the Muslim world.
Moreover, the country’s participation in various international and intergovernmental institutions such as the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Non Aligned Movement, the United Nations, the WTO, the G-15, the ILO, the IMF, to mention some of them, demonstrates the significant role of the country from a liberal point of view. Finally, from a constructivist spectrum, the recognition of Egypt’s pivot role in the area from the neighbour states and the international society in general is demonstrated, firstly, by its role as a mediator in various regional or extra-regional conflicts, and secondly, by the installation of the headquarters of several International Organisations in Cairo and its strong ties with international agents.
Moreover, Egypt has participated in the military conflicts against Israel. It has also been the fatherland of the contemporary fundamental ideologies of the Arab world: Islamism, pan-Arabism and Liberalism (MARTÍN MUÑOZ, G., 2006: 4). It was in this country that the famous spiritual leader and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan-Al Banna and his later Qutb developed the bases of Islamism.
The pan-Arabism, even though born in the neighbour country of Syria, has been strictly related to the Egyptian rais Nasser who influenced the expanded region in various ways. Under the pan-Arab doctrine, Nasser managed to unify but at the same time to deeply divide the Arab world. Moreover, it was under Nasser that both the first political victory of the Arabs against Israel (1956) as well as their second most devastating defeat (1967) was achieved.
Some years later, the successor of Nasser, Sadat, introduced the bases of the liberal dogma by turning his back to the Soviet block and making Egypt the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1978. The ‘betrayal’ increased the economic sources of the country as, since then, Egypt became the second biggest receptor of the largest American economic aid, civil and military, the first being Israel. Also, it isolated the country in the region as it was expelled from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference.
Actually, under Hosni Mubarak and through the political and economic reforms that were promoted during the last years, Egypt represents or at least seeks to represent a model of democratic regime in the Arab world. However, the results of the last elections and the new wave of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood raised several questions.
The importance of Egypt and the different policies adopted throughout its contemporary history attracted the interest of many researchers as different kinds of questions were raised. Why and how did Egypt from an American ally become, under Nasser’s mandate, the key leader of anti Americanism? Why did Nasser rush into nationalising Suez Canal Company? Why did the alliance between Nasser’s regime and the Muslim Brotherhood soon come to an end? Why did Nasser adopt the pan-Arabism ideology as the flag of his political discourse? Why did Sadat abandon this discourse? Was the war of 1967 provoked by Nasser? Was Sadat’s infitah imposed due to the Six Day War? Why did Egypt sign the peace treaty with Israel even though knowing the costs? Why after all the hard repression against the Muslim Brotherhood does the organisation still maintain an important power inside the country? Is Egypt one man’s stooge? Is the democratic transition possible for Egypt?
Citar como: KEMOU, ATHINA. Nasser’s National Interest : A “Sociology of Power” Analysis, Altafulla, FIMAM, 2007, pp. 1-171 (ISBN: 978-84-611-9710-1)