Due to its illegal status, the Muslim Brotherhood had to carefully navigate a restricted and circumscribed political sphere designed to contain and undermine its grassroots influence. Thrust into a position of leadership through its political wing the FJP, the onus is now on the Muslim Brotherhood to deliver on the multitude of demands of an aroused Egyptian public, supporters and critics alike. (…)
Beneath the din and clamor of political clashes and violent street protests, Egypt has been quietly turning to Asia in the form of a flurry of diplomatic activity.
In addition to having far-reaching ramifications for Egyptian politics and society, the political ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood has also raised important questions regarding the evolution of Egyptian foreign policy. While Egypt remains preoccupied with its domestic affairs, it is important to contemplate the potential future course of Egyptian foreign policy under the Muslim Brotherhood-led government early in the post-Mubarak era. (…)
What has been too often lost in the disaggregation of the grievances felt by the Egyptian public toward their leadership is their widely shared resentment toward Egypt's foreign policy posture. In the minds of many Egyptians, the disintegration of their domestic situation was amplified by the decline of Egyptian clout in international affairs.
Once regarded as the political and cultural epicenter of the Arab world (…) Egypt has since seen its influence and credibility atrophy. Just as important, principal facets of Egyptian foreign policy, namely its strategic alliance with the United States and its relationship with Israel as embodied in the Camp David accords - positions that flout Egyptian public opinion - engendered a deep sense of acrimony among a disenfranchised population. (…). Once an advocate for pan-Arabism, sovereignty, and justice for the Palestinians, Egypt had come to be viewed as a compliant adjunct of American and Israeli strategic paradigms. (…)
Rhetoric to steer a new path for Egypt in world affairs notwithstanding, a turbulent domestic situation coupled with an array of formidable obstacles in the international arena will continue to constrain Egypt's room for maneuver in the foreseeable future.
At the moment, securing foreign aid from the United States and other sources of foreign largesse, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is a top priority in Cairo. Notable features of Egyptian foreign policy that crystallized during the Mubarak era, including its multifaceted bond with the United States and cooperation with Israel, especially in enabling Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, will remain in place.
At the same time, there are signals that Egypt is gradually charting a new path in its regional and international relations that reflects greater nationalist and populist impulses. Egypt's cautious but nonetheless significant diplomatic overtures to Iran and Hizballah, for example, both of which were treated as dangerous adversaries by the Mubarak regime, are cases in point.
Foreign policy in practice
In this context, it is worth examining the FJP's foreign policy approach toward Asia. The FJP has committed itself to reinventing Egyptian foreign policy on many fronts. This includes expanding Egypt's presence and role in Asia.
When it comes to devising a new foreign policy toward Asia, however, addressing the deteriorating economic situation at home has emerged as a top priority. As a result, Egypt's interface with Asia has, not surprisingly, revolved heavily around economic and trade matters, as opposed to geopolitical issues that affect the global balance of power.
Early indications show that Egypt will look to the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the cornerstone of its approach toward engaging Asia. In this regard, China's place in Egypt's foreign policy calculus signals a continuation of the Mubarak regime's methods in dealing with China.