Egypt's Security and Economic Nexus
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Since the Arab Spring and the 2011 uprising, Egypt’s stability has been challenged by three regime changes within six years, a destabilized Libya on its western border, increased terrorism, and serious economic crises. Despite these tests, Egypt has remained relatively stable and averted descending into the same chaos seen in Libya, Syria and Iraq, a stark and noticeable contrast in a region that has been otherwise imploding. This paper aims to explore Egypt’s turmoil and stability by focusing on Egypt’s security and economic nexus.
It is within this nexus that analysts predict potential flashpoints, in part due to the Islamic State’s campaign in the Middle East, and a major economic transition underway in Egypt. Likewise, it is within this nexus where democratic institutions, such as NATO nations have the greatest potential to shape a constructive outcome. Recognizing the implications of the security and economic nexus is important as Egypt’s trajectory has implications for many nations’ strategic interests, particularly within three areas of strategic importance (geography, diplomacy, and demographics) (Sharp, 2017).
On the geographic front, the Suez Canal provides the shortest maritime route between the East and West as a passage for 8% of all annual global maritime shipping. More than 30 American warships pass annually through the Suez, making Egypt an important asset in the U.S. defense posture in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa (Sharp, 2014).
Diplomatically, Egypt plays a key role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and continues to adhere to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, thereby preserving peace between the two countries. Egypt is also a staunch supporter of the U.S. fight against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State across the Middle East, allowing the American military to access airspace and intelligence. To date, more than 2,000 U.S. military planes pass annually through Egyptian territory, a number that increases several-fold during crises (Alterman, 2016).
Egypt is also the first line of defense against migration and terrorism in Europe since the influx of refugees from 2015 and 2016 (El-Shimy et al. 2017). Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous nation resulting in a small fraction of migration to Europe, yet the crises in Syria and Libya have demonstrated the dire consequences of collapsing Arab states and the enormous humanitarian costs for those escaping conflict.
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 Also known as the January 25 Revolution.