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Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The “Sisi doctrine” in foreign policy

Since taking office in 2014, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi had adopted a multipolar approach to foreign policy, taking a decisive shift away from dependence from Egypt’s traditional base of support of the US and the GCC.

By the start of this year, El Sisi has moved Egypt beyond the traditional positioning as a “trusted interlocutor between Israel and Palestine.” The country has diversified arms suppliers (diluting the US by adding Russia and France to the list), re-engaged with Africa in general (and, critically, the Nile Basin countries), deepened ties with Europe, and returned the relationship with China to a strategic partnership. The guiding principle of El Sisi’s foreign relations policy in the Middle East has been centered on combating fundamentalist groups and the sovereignty of nations.

2016 would be the year in which that his multi-polar foreign policy doctrine would be tested, considering a world that is becoming much more polarized. Egypt’s warming ties with Russia came at the expense of its traditionally solid relationship with Saudi, whose increased involvement in the region did not sit well with Egypt’s stance on the absolute value of sovereignty, a concern born out of international reaction to the 30 June 2013 revolution. Egypt’s export-focused trade policies caused some friction with the European and Turkey, particularly over its exporters registry, which saw the involvement of the World Trade Organization. It’s also weathered crises including the furor in key trade partner Italy (over the murder of graduate student Giulio Regeni) strained ties with Russia after terrorists downed a flight operated by Russian airline Metrojet over the Sinai.

Moving into 2017 with the coming of the new Trump administration and its stated position on “regime change,” friendly overtures of support for Egypt’s war on terrorism, Egypt will be looking to strengthening cooperation. It may try to repair a rift in Egyptian-Saudi relations, but success on that front will not be entirely in its hands.

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