When Crisis Looms: Egypt’s Approach to Regional Security in the Middle East

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When Crisis Looms: Egypt’s Approach to Regional Security in the Middle East

President Al-Sisi at the Jeddah Summit | Photo credit: Egyptian State Information Service

Global threats now cast shadows on the future, with nations struggling to keep up with climate change, glorified warfare and the reality of resource scarcity. Egypt, in particular, has not only inherited global traumas – such as lack of water security, food shortages and inflation – but also continues to grapple with domestic concerns about instability and terrorism.

On Saturday, July 16, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi addressed the Jeddah Security and Development Summit with a detailed, five-step strategy-driven approach to restoring “sustainable and comprehensive stability” in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The five axes are a function of long-term goals recurring in pan-Arab dialogues, while others are more time-sensitive and immediately relevant, such as COP27.

Here is a breakdown of the al-Sisi cabinet’s ideal vision for a more secure, regionally stabilized MENA.

Israel and Palestine |  Chatham House – think tank on international affairs
Photo credit: Chatham House – International Affairs think tank

Axis I: Palestine and a two-state solution

For decades, the Palestinian cause has been a site of disunity and regional tensions in the Middle East and North Africa, with parties teetering between sides, agendas teetering, and a relentless influx of international intervention. Between the wars fought in the name of Palestine, mobilized by the Egyptian visionary and polarizing figure Gamal Abdel Nasser, towards more modern dialogues on ethics and humanitarian justice.

The first axis introduced by al-Sisi reaffirms the need for a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel that is fair, comprehensive and final. He defined this as the “top issue” for the Arab world, and has been for decades.

“Our joint efforts to resolve the region’s crises, whether those that have arisen in the past decade or those that preceded it,” said Al-Sisi, “can only succeed if we find a just, comprehensive and final solution to the reach the top Arab problem.”

As part of his proposal, al-Sisi called for an independent Palestinian state based on the borders drawn up on June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as the capital; This is to ensure the legitimacy of the Palestinian state and guarantee a peaceful existence side by side with Israel. Ideally, this would strengthen the security of both peoples and put an end to the “politics of exclusion”, explained Al-Sisi.

If democracy is truly 'precious', President Biden, then let Egyptians taste its fruits - Middle East Monitor
Photo credit: Middle East Monitor

Axis II: Democracy and Human Rights

The second axis of Al-Sisi is a function of several elements: democracy, citizenship, equality, human rights and the departure from fundamentalist ideologies while preserving national interests. To ensure the maintenance of these elements, a review of Egypt’s governmental institutions is paramount. This also includes an examination of how regional political actors deal with crises at the macro level.

“This is the only guarantee of maintaining stability in the broader sense, protecting peoples’ resources and preventing them from being confiscated or misused,” Al-Sisi said.

Al-Sisi goes on to describe the manner in which this would be implemented, including measures to empower women, strengthen the role of civic contribution, and moderate religious institutions to ensure that all Egyptians preach temperance and tolerance .

The most important thing, as Al-Sisi points out, is to promote youth participation in political, economic and social fields. From now on, according to the President, this will serve as a means to achieve sustainable development, boost investment and ensure social reforms. A recent manifestation of this was the national dialogue hosted by Al-Sisi on July 4, 2022 to strengthen political dialogue. The dialogue was a platform for various political actors, including young, rising political names, to voice their upcoming concerns and their visions for a politically vibrant Egypt.

Arab League expresses support for Arab Charter Human Rights Committee - EgyptToday
Arab League Summit | Photo credit: Egypt Today

Axis III: Fraternity and Arab National Security

Al-Sisi’s third axis is more self-explanatory: the Arab world is supposed to act as an “indivisible” entity that relies on cooperation and regional consensus. This is the basis for a future framework that would ensure that the Arab world is prepared for regional threats. In addition, Al-Sisi stresses that Arab states should work hand-in-hand with international institutions such as the United Nations (UN) to regulate relations globally and with their non-Arab neighbors.

Al-Sisi insisted that “respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, and fraternity and equality are the governor of inter-Arab relations.”

Be it conflicts with Turkey and Iran, or more notorious discourses like that of Israel and Palestine, this approach sets a precedent for tolerance and peaceful negotiation rather than impulsive action. While not yet in force, it promises a more sustainable approach to Arab states’ international relations if implemented.

Containing a Resilient ISIS in Central and Northeast Syria |  crisis group
ISIS militia | Photo credit: Crisis Group

Axis IV: Counter-Terrorism

An age-old problem facing the Arab world is terrorism in all forms: fundamentalist, ethnically motivated and baseless. Al-Sisi’s Fourth Axis fights terrorism, which he defines as a key challenge facing Arab countries in recent decades – a problem exacerbated by aid from foreign powers, the president claimed.

Al-Sisi was quick to warn that terrorism in the MENA region is often sponsored by foreign states to “serve their destructive agenda […] to gain political and fiscal gain, to hamper the implementation of national regulations and reconciliation, and to prevent the enforcement of the will of the people in some countries.”

According to the President, this has facilitated cross-border operations for hostile terrorist groups. Al-Sisi urged unnamed foreign powers to “reconsider their erroneous assessments” and unequivocally understand that Egypt will “spare no compromises in protecting our national security and associated red lines.”

In addition to his projections, the President of Egypt underscores “a commitment to countering all forms and manifestations of terrorism and extremist ideas with the aim of eliminating its organizations and armed militias that are spreading in many areas of our Arab world.”

Cairo among 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water due to pollution: BBC – Egypt Independent
Photo credit: Egypt Independent

Axis V: Global Crises

The last axis of Al-Sisi is linked to the start of increasing international crises, including water shortages, food shortages, climate change and energy problems. This axis aims to strengthen global solidarity in dealing with macro-crises; this includes international cooperation not only in dealing with the security of these crises, but also in securing aid for the reconstruction of the affected countries.

Al-Sisi also called for “encouraging investment to develop infrastructure in various fields to help localize various industries, transfer technology and provide goods.”

The lack of water and food security – or rather the “absolute” loss of both – is a catastrophic possibility for a population of over 103 million people. As the world as a whole continues to struggle for its own survival, it is vital to review the parameters of regional stability and resource management more broadly. Between water fights in the Nile basin and Egypt’s steadfast inflation, the need to adjust these strategies is becoming ever more acute.

While the al-Sisi cabinet has received both support and rejection, the points outlined at the Jeddah summit are an overarching presentation of what motions should be made to manage or mitigate the onset of the crisis.

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