Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 7, November 2013.
By Tom Elliott, Ph.D.
On March 27, 2013, while the technology world preoccupied itself with a sophisticated cyberattack on a spam prevention service, a low-tech assault on the Internet was taking place in shallow waters off Alexandria, Egypt. Three men with scuba gear and a fishing boat were arrested while allegedly trying to cut one of the main communications cables that links Europe to the Middle East and Africa. This incident of hacking – in the most literal sense of the word – should remind us that the Internet we all rely upon depends upon physical infrastructure, much of which is easily located and relatively unprotected. Continue reading →
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 1, No. 6, October 2013.
Map of Egypt. Source: University of Texas.
By Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Egypt is on the verge of being engulfed by a long-term insurgency. After a brief period of democratization following the Arab Spring, the world’s most populous Arab country has returned to a popular military dictatorship. General Sisi will likely lead the country, either as power behind the President, or as President himself. The primary difference between the Egypt of Sisi and the Egypt of the pre-Arab-Spring Mubarak will be a function of the overthrow of the democratic Islamism of President Morsi. A new outraged minority with pro-democracy and pro-Islamist beliefs fielded popular protests, and was repressed with lethal force. A significant minority of that minority will now divert their energy towards terrorism and organized insurgency. Continue reading →
Egyptian riot police in Cairo, January 28, 2013. Photo credit: Jackq, Dreamstime.com.
By Anders Corr, Ph.D.
A muslim mob attacked the seat of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church on Sunday, resulting in Christian-Muslim riots and an anti-government outburst by the Coptic Pope yesterday (WSJ).
This religious strife significantly increases the probability of additional attacks on Christians, greater cohesion between Muslim factions, and domestic consolidation of President Morsi’s Islamist administration and Muslim Brotherhood power-base. Continue reading →
The Obama administration is currently under pressure by certain US lawmakers, as well as Britain, France, and Israel, to take limited military action in Syria. These actions could include securing a humanitarian corridor into the country, providing military equipment to the non-Al Qaeda affiliated Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC), and destroying the Syrian Air Force (WSJ).
Such measures might remove a bit of pressure from rebels and provide a public opinion boost to current participating governments in the US, France, and Britain, in that voting publics in those countries would feel that their governments were doing something positive to end the Syrian crisis. However, due to the limited nature of the proposed military measures, they would not alter the balance of forces on any side of the complex conflict and could lead to notable negative consequences. Continue reading →
Saturday marked the first flight between Egypt and Iran since 1979. The election of Islamist President Mohamad Mursi in Egypt in June 2012 significantly thawed relations between the two countries. Diplomatic ties had been cut by Iran in 1979 when the deposed Shah took refuge in Egypt, but the heads of state from the two countries visited in February and the relationship is now largely mended (Reuters).
President Mursi was a leader in the pan-Islamist movement called the Muslim Brotherhood, which has approximately 600,000 members who pay a percentage of their incomes to the organization. It has members worldwide, and promotes Sharia law and the unification of Arab states. These goals are, incidentally, shared by the terrorist group Al Qaeda. The 2011 popular overthrow of President Mubarak in Egypt served as a strong indicator of the Muslim Brotherhood’s growing power. The US announced diplomatic relations with the group immediately following. Egypt was a strong US ally against the Soviets during the Cold War, and was a voice for stability in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The manifestation of the Arab Spring in Egypt, which deposed long-time US ally Hosni Mubarak, has not been kind to US foreign policy goals in the region.
Iran and Egypt are the third and sixth largest Muslim countries by GDP. Iran has a GDP of $522 billion and Egypt has a GDP of $231 billion (United Nations 2011). While the economy is half that of Iran, Egypt will attempt to expand its regional power status in the Arab states, Africa, and closely align with Iran and China.
For indicators of balancing against NATO and tilting away from the US, watch for Egypt joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as an observer state, as has Iran. Watch for increased commercial relations with North Korea and Iran, and improved diplomatic ties with Pakistan. For indicators of nuclear club aspirations, watch for Egyptian efforts to improve types of nuclear power generation that yield fissile by-products for potential use in nuclear weapons. Also watch for increased Egyptian government links to organizations with likely ties to global terrorism. Egyptian political instability will continue until more authoritarian rule is imposed by either the Islamists or the pro-western faction. Expect further loss of value in Egypt-tied investments, including equities, commercial debt, and sovereign debt. Egyptian oil production is less than 1% of global supply, so there should be negligible effects on oil prices.