Since a July 2013 military coup, Egypt has sought to reassert state authority undermined by the 2011 uprising at the expense of political inclusion, especially of the Muslim Brotherhood. The resulting polarisation has encouraged mounting political violence from the Islamic State (ISIS) and other violent groups, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula where a low-level insurgency has raged. In the Nile Valley, in 2017, ISIS has targeted the Coptic Christian minority, while al-Qaeda affiliates and other groups tied to the Brotherhood have targeted security forces. Crisis Group is urging the government to be more inclusive and address widespread violations of human and political rights, especially ahead of presidential elections scheduled for May 2018, to better address security and economic challenges.
The Egyptian economy is under increasing strain, with the Gaza war’s effects adding to the pressure. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2024, Crisis Group identifies ways the EU can support Egypt in coping with its economic woes.
Amid Gaza war, tensions between Egypt and Israel continued to rise; IMF held talks with Cairo to expand $3bn loan and potentially soften reform program.
War in Gaza continued to strain Egypt-Israel relations. Israel’s request to occupy fourteen-kilometre-long buffer zone on Egypt’s border with Gaza, known as Philadephi Corridor, with a view to halting weapons smuggling route from Egypt into Gaza, ratcheted up tensions. Cairo, which currently patrols area, 22 Jan issued warning to Israel, saying any move to control Philadelphi Corridor would pose serious threat to bilateral relations. Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Ronen Bar 29 Jan met with head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate Abbas Kamel in Cairo to discuss tensions over control of Philadelphi Corridor. Meanwhile, security situation remained precarious along border with Gaza and Israel. Egyptian forces reported preventing drug smuggling attempt 15 Jan on Egyptian-Israeli border near Awja crossing, with six suspected smugglers arrested; Israeli army reported one soldier wounded same day in exchange of fire with armed individuals near Awja. Anonymous military source quoted next day by The New Arab website said they were not smugglers, but pro-Hamas militants attempting to infiltrate Gaza.IMF showed readiness to expand loan amid economic impact of Gaza war. Insecurity in Red Sea impacted shipping traffic through Suez Canal. Osama Rabie, chairman of Suez Canal Authority, 11 Jan said traffic since 1 Jan had dropped by 40% compared to a year prior, inflicting damage to key source of foreign reserves. Drop in Suez Canal traffic also contributed to further weakening of Egyptian pound on black market. Egyptian media outlet Al Ahram 14 Jan reported exchange rate on black market had shot up to record high level of close to 60 pounds to the dollar. International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirmed readiness to help Cairo. Financial institution 11 Jan said increasing size of IMF loan to Egypt was “critical”, and delegation led by IMF Egypt Mission Chief Vladkova Hollar mid Jan travelled to Cairo to discuss $3bn loan and reform program.
[Egypt] cannot live with the permanent displacement of Palestinians into the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza war’s crippling economic effects and risks of regional war.
Things have been very tense [on Gaza's border with Egypt], but there are limits to how far these tensions can go on a strategic level.
If the war goes the way it’s been going, the border between Egypt and Gaza will come under immense pressure. Reality might have a say then.
This week on The Horn, Alan talks with Michael Wahid Hanna, Crisis Group’s U.S. Program director, about the role of Egypt in Sudan’s war and how it might shape future relations between the two neighbouring countries and Cairo’s regional diplomacy.
Egypt faces an economic crisis that risks fuelling unrest. The International Monetary Fund demands reforms in return for loans, while the authorities seek to broaden their base through a much-criticised national dialogue. Foreign partners should cautiously support this balancing act to enhance the country’s stability.
The conflict in Egypt’s Sinai offers insights into U.S. foreign policy priorities. As part of our series The Legacy of 9/11 and the “War on Terror”, Michael Wahid Hanna argues Cairo has used the jihadist spectre to scare off critics and keep U.S. military aid flowing.
This week on The Horn, Alan and William Davison, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, discuss Ethiopia's plans to start filling the massive dam it is building, including the complex dynamics at play, negotiations, and the parties' various concerns.
With rains swelling the Blue Nile, Ethiopia is just weeks away from beginning to fill the massive dam it is building. Egypt and Sudan demand that it not do so without an agreement. All three countries urgently need to make concessions for a deal.
In this episode of The Horn, Alan Boswell is joined by Harry Verhoeven, a leading academic expert on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to discuss everything from the politicisation of the dam to environmental sustainability and agricultural productivity in the Nile Basin.
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