Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo
Egypt is back.
This time, as an African regional power.
Egypt’s diplomatic offensive toward the East African is illuminating Egypt as an emerging regional power in Africa, particularly in the area of East Africa and the Horn of Africa. Egypt’s intention of securing a leading position in this area has not been clearly expressed and hidden under the radar, but it is now apparent.
Egypt, the oldest regional power in the Middle East, has kept a low-profile approach in Middle Eastern regional politics in the past decade. Egypt avoided to be involved in the Syrian civil war, the conflict in Iraq, the Palestinian issues.
Egypt’s policy of staying away from Middle Eastern turmoil can be said reasonable and clever. Many Regional powers and outside superpowers interfered in the Middle East affairs, got themselves involved and did not gain much other than human and material losses. By seeking dominating roles in the Middle East, regional and outside powers may have got esteems, but spent much resource, eventually jeopardizing their leadeship positions.
By distancing itself from the endless wars and conflicts in the Middle East, the wellbeing of the Egyptian people might have been kept.
Still, there are cases where Egyptian leadership and commitment are needed. The Nile issue, or the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) pushed Egypt hard into the leadership position, this time in East Africa and the Horn of Africa.
It might be said that the existential threat for Egypt, the fundamental resource of the Egyptian Civilization, the water of the Nile, has ultimately urged Egypt to seek for a leadership position.
Egypt is on the two oldest waterways in human civilization. The River Nile and the Red Sea. Securing the region of the East Africa and the Horn of Africa, a region of vital economic and geo-strategic importance, is a common good for the world economy, not only for Egypt. By becoming a leading supplier of security and stability in this region, Egypt will secure an important position in the world politics.
Egypt’s initiatives in regional issues are also becoming visible in the Middle East. In the Gaza conflict in May, Egypt indispensable role of mediation was reaffirmed. In Iraq, Syria and Libya, Egypt’s participation in the conflict resolution and mitigation will be increasingly taken for granted.
Egypt’s road back to the Middle East is through Africa.