Domestic and foreign policy are related in another way. As Egypt’s leaders struggle to deliver on economic and political reform, the temptation to grandstand on foreign policy only grows. International relations scholars call this the “diversionary theory of international conflict”—the notion that foreign conflict is initiated to divert attention from mounting problems at home. Young democracies, newly confident and eager to distance themselves from their predecessors, are particularly susceptible.
But as much as Egypt wishes to chart a new course on foreign policy, it is still bound by old constraints. Egypt remains vulnerable during a difficult phase of transition. It can afford to irritate its Western allies—but within limits. The U.S. and the European Union, as Egypt’s most important donors, will play a critical role in supporting the country’s economic and political revitalization. One obvious red line is the peace treaty with Israel.
How can Egypt be both independent, serve the region and remain an ally with the US? The writer suggests Qatar as the model:
Somehow, for instance, Qatar has figured out a way to both host the world’s largest pre-positioning U.S. military base and hold joint training exercises with Iranian frontier guards. And somehow, it’s worked—pushing the tiny gas-rich emirate into the ranks of the region’s most influential nations.