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Egypt - Government and Politics

THE MODERN EGYPTIAN STATE is the product of a historically rooted political culture and of the state-building efforts of its founding leaders, Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar as Sadat. Egypt has been governed by powerful centralized rule since ancient times, when the management of irrigated agriculture gave rise to the pharaohs, absolute god-kings. This experience produced a propensity toward authoritarian government that persisted into modern times. Although the contemporary Egyptian state remained in essence authoritarian, such rule was not accepted unconditionally. Its legitimacy depended on adherence to certain public expectations. Egypt's centuries of subordination to foreign rule, its long struggle for independence, and its continuing dependency on other countries generated a powerful nationalism that made national legitimacy crucial to the acceptance of the authoritarian state. Moreover, after the Arab invasion in the seventh century A.D., many expected the state to rule on behalf of the true faith and community and according to Islamic norms of justice; as a result, the state sought to legitimize itself in Islamic terms. Finally, in more recent years, the spread of political consciousness put rulers under growing pressure to accommodate demands for participation.

The 1952 Revolution against the traditional monarchy, led by Gamal Abdul Nasser's group of nationalist-reformist Free Officers, gave birth to the contemporary republic. Nasser forged the new state, suppressing the rudiments of pluralism and creating a president-dominated, military-led authoritarian-bureaucratic regime with a single party and a subordinated parliament, press, and judiciary. Nasser's charismatic leadership and the populist achievements of the 1952 Revolution--particularly land reform, social welfare, and a nationalist foreign policy--legitimized the new regime. Nasser gave the state a broader base of support than it had hitherto enjoyed, a base that embraced a populist coalition of the army, the bureaucracy, the middle class, and the masses.

Nasser's successor, Anwar as Sadat, adapted the state to a "post-populist" era. The major vulnerabilities of the Nasser regime were its lack of strong support among the Egyptian landed and business classes and, after the 1967 defeat by Israel, its alienation from the United States, the superpower whose support was needed to resolve the conflict with Israel. Although Sadat assumed power as Nasser's vice president and was a veteran of the revolution, he soon reoriented the policies of the state to reconcile it with the need for support from the Egyptian middle class and for a good relationship with the United States. While retaining the essential structures of the Nasserist state, he carried out a limited political liberalization and an economic and diplomatic infitah (opening or open door) to the West. This shifted the state's base of support from reliance on Nasser's populist coalition to a reliance on the landed and business classes internally and an American alliance externally. The political system remained essentially authoritarian but with a greater tolerance of political pluralism than under Nasser; thus, parliament, opposition parties, interest groups, and the press all enjoyed greater, though still limited, freedom.

Husni Mubarak, Sadat's vice-president, inherited power on the basis of constitutional legitimacy at Sadat's death. He consolidated Sadat's limited political liberalization and maintained the major lines of Sadat's policies while trying to overcome some of their excesses and costs.

As revolutionary legitimacy was eclipsed by the passage of time, the legal powers enshrined in the Constitution of 1971 became a more important source of legitimacy. The Constitution, a descendant of the 1956 constitution drafted under Nasser, largely reinforced authoritarian traditions. It established a mixed presidential-parliamentary-cabinet system, but the president is constitutionally the center of power. The president is supreme commander, declares war, concludes treaties, proposes and vetoes legislation, and may rule through decree under emergency powers that have been regularly delegated by parliament. He appoints the prime minister and the cabinet, which may issue "decisions" having the force of law. Under the Constitution, the People's Assembly has the power to legislate and to nominate the president, and other branches of government are responsible to the assembly. But it has never effectively exercised these constitutional checks on the executive.

The Presidency

<>The President and the Power Elite
<>The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers
<>Recruitment and Composition of the Elite
<>Elite Ideology
<>Politics among Elites
<>The Bureaucracy
<>Local Government
<>The Judiciary, Civil Rights, and the Rule of Law
<>The Political Role of the Media
<>Interest Groups
<>The "Dominant Party System"
The Ruling Party
<>The Opposition Parties
<>The Rise of Political Islam and Repression
The Determinants of Foreign Policy
<>Foreign Policy Decision Making
<>The Development of Foreign Policy
<>The Egyptian Military in World War II
<>First Arab-Israeli War
<>The 1956 War
<>The June 1967 War
<>War of Attrition and the October 1973 War


The Presidency

The presidency is the command post of Egypt's dominant executive branch of government and the linchpin of the political elite. Nasser established and assumed the office, endowing it with broad legal powers and with his personal charisma. He made it the most institutionalized part of the political system, against which all other elite institutions--party, parliament, press, even the military--have proved impotent. The Constitution of 1971 gives legal expression to this reality, vesting vast executive authority in the president.

Succession procedures for the transfer of presidential power appeared relatively institutionalized since Nasser. The incumbent vice president has twice succeeded to the presidency. In each case the vice president was a military officer; thus, the line of succession stayed within the institution that founded the republic. Formally, a single presidential candidate was nominated by parliament and confirmed by (unopposed) national plebiscite. In practice, behind-the-scenes intraelite politics determined the outcome. Sadat was expected to be nominal head of a collective leadership and had to defeat a coalition of Nasser's left-wing Free Officer lieutenants to assume full control of the office. The backing of most of the professional military and of senior bureaucrats recruited from upper-class families was important. But the legality with which Nasser had endowed the office itself was critical to Sadat's victory; it was Sadat's legal prerogative that allowed him to purge his opponents from their state offices and that rallied the army's support of him. Sadat made Husni Mubarak, an air force officer who had distinguished himself in the October 1973 War, his vice president. Although politically inexperienced, Mubarak grew in the job. On Sadat's death, the political elite closed ranks behind him, and a smooth succession took place. Mubarak's 1987 reelection manifested the continued institutionalization of presidential authority. Mubarak did not appoint a vice president, perhaps reluctant to designate a successor and possible rival so early in his presidency. Had a succession crisis arisen, there would have been no obvious successor.

The president has broad constitutional powers. The president appoints vice presidents, prime ministers, and the Council of Ministers--the cabinet or "government." He enjoys a vast power of patronage that makes legions of officials beholden to him and ensures the loyalty and customary deference of the state apparatus. Presidential appointees include army commanders, the heads of the security apparatus, senior civil servants, heads of autonomous agencies, governors, newspaper editors, university presidents, judges, major religious officials, and public sector managers. Through the Council of Ministers, over which he may directly preside, the president commands the sprawling state bureaucracy and can personally intervene at any level to achieve his objectives if the chain of command proves sluggish. Because the levers of macroeconomic policy--banks, the budget, and the large public sector-- are under government control, broad responsibility for running the economy is within the presidential domain. This responsibility carries with it heavy burdens, because as head of the state the president is expected to provide for the welfare of the vast numbers of people dependent on it.

A large presidential bureaucracy, managed by a ministerial level appointee, is a personal instrument of control over the wider bureaucracy. It is made up of personal advisers, troubleshooters, and lieutenants with specialized supervisory functions. Under Nasser it had bureaus for intelligence, economic planning, presidential security, administrative control, and foreign affairs. Under Sadat it swelled into a small bureaucracy in its own right made up of about 4,000 functionaries, many of them supporting the elaborate entourage and presidential household he created. Stretching out from this presidential bureaucracy are a multitude of presidentially appointed specialized national councils for production, social affairs, science, and the like, which bring the state and interest groups together under presidential patronage and expand presidential influence into every branch of society.

The president bears primary responsibility for defense of the country and is the supreme commander of the armed forces. Having, to date, always been an ex-officer, he typically enjoys personal influence in the military. He presides over the National Security Council, which coordinates defense policy and planning, and he may assume operational command in time of war. He may declare war with the approval (in practice automatically given) of the parliament, conclude treaties, and issue decrees on national security affairs. Foreign policy is a "reserved sphere" of the presidency. Presidents have typically been preoccupied with foreign policy and have personally shaped it.

Finally, the president is chief legislator, the dominant source of major policy innovation. The president can legislate by decree during "emergencies," a condition loosely defined, and when parliament is not in session. He can also put proposals to the people in plebiscites that always give such propositions overwhelming approval. Finally, the president normally controls a docile majority in parliament, which regularly translates his proposals into law. His control of parliament stems from his ability to dismiss it at will and from his leadership of the ruling party that dominates parliament. He also enjoys a legislative veto.

Egypt - The President and the Power Elite

The actual use of presidential power has evolved through the changing relationship between the chief executive and the rest of the power elite. The style of presidential leadership determined how the president controlled the elite. Nasser headed and ruled through a tightly knit team of officer-revolutionaries with a certain shared vision. Moreover, as a charismatic leader with wide popular support, he stood above and balanced off the elites and frequently used his popular support to curb them. Thus, he was able to make the presidency a highly activist, interventionist office in the service of a revolution from above that ran roughshod over the interests of the dominant classes. He did have to contend with a certain intraelite rivalry. The other senior Free Officers who had helped him make the revolution were entitled to be consulted in decision making; many of them served as powerful vice presidents, overseeing ministers in various sectors of government activity. Field Marshal Abdul Hakim Amir, Nasser's close colleague and the number-two man in the regime, came close to making the army his personal "fiefdom." But in the end, those who challenged Nasser were purged, and generally he enjoyed nearly unquestioned presidential authority.

Sadat transformed the charismatic, activist presidency into a sort of "presidential monarchy." His formation of a kind of "royal family" of influential relatives in his entourage; the traditional legitimacy he resurrected; the essentially conservative objectives of his policies; and the use of clientelism and corruption, traditional techniques of rule all amounted to a traditionalization of authority. The main issue of intraelite politics under Sadat was resistance inside the establishment to the president's drive to reverse many of Nasser's policies. The popular support won in the October 1973 War gave Sadat a free hand during the crucial period of redirection (1974-76). He also built a strong client network of politicians allowed to enrich themselves by often illicit manipulations of the economic opening his policies afforded and hence, they had a big stake in his course. His shrewd patrimonial manipulations--the constant rotation of elites in and out of office while playing them against each other--also helped him dominate the elite. The authoritarian political structure was crucial to Sadat's enterprise; the regime, lacking traditions of mass participation, largely kept the major decisions inside elite circles where the presidency was the dominant force. But Sadat's support also rested on a kind of tacit "social contract" with his elite and upper-class supporters under which he had to curb the arbitrary power of the state and the presidency. On one hand, Sadat retained freedom in foreign policy, where personal impulses often seemed to override professional advice, and the ultimate powers of the authoritarian presidency were never overtly challenged. On the other hand, Sadat relaxed the state's control over society and the political arena and curbed the interventionist role the presidency had played under Nasser. Although Sadat retained the last word, he refrained from intervening in many domestic policy matters, allowing the bourgeoisie growing scope to advance its interests. Thus, a hybrid of traditional and legalrational authority emerged: a presidential monarchy presiding over a power-sharing alliance between the state and its bourgeois constituency. Sadat's patrimonial excesses and his occasionally arbitrary imposition of major policies retarded the consolidation of this power-sharing experiment, but it was institutionalized under his successor.

Under Mubarak, the authoritarian presidency remained the centerpiece of the state, although he was a less dominant figure than his predecessors. He did not create an elite core comparable in power to the ones they created; he lacked the mission and revolutionary comrades of a Nasser and the patronage network of a Sadat. Indeed, he came to power amid at least two power centers, the military and the "Sadatists" in the elite. Although he lessened his dependence on them by bringing in conservative Nasserites, backing technocratic elements in the bureaucracy, and encouraging the political opposition, he carried out no massive purge of the elite.

Mubarak has used his power in the least activist way of Egypt's three presidents. In contrast to Nasser and Sadat who sought to reshape Egypt, Mubarak sought stability and incremental change and lacked the ideological vision and political will to tackle boldly the country's intractable problems. Much more than his predecessors, Mubarak governed by intraelite consensus, a cautious balancing of contrary pressures and demands. He also delegated considerable authority to his ministers; indeed, he sometimes remained above the fray, refraining from personally identifying with or, in the face of opposition, strongly backing some of his own government's policies. In the running of government, a pragmatic managerial style stressing legality and technocracy replaced the patrimonialism and personalism of Sadat's rule. Foreign policy, made in consultation with professional diplomats, was no longer the victim of presidential impulse. In some ways, Mubarak's caution made him a man appropriate to a time of rising constraints on state power. Having no "mission" comparable to that of Nasser or Sadat, Mubarak could afford to be more tolerant of opposition, and because his legitimacy rested squarely on legality, he had a greater interest in respecting the law. The scope of presidential power clearly narrowed, but, being less threatening, this power was also less challenged than under Nasser and Sadat. Indeed, Mubarak's personal integrity and genuine commitment to limited democratization made him the most widely acceptable leader in a regime enjoying little popular trust.

Egypt - The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers

The prime minister is the president's primary lieutenant, charged with implementing his policies through the bureaucracy. Although the prime minister and his cabinet are formally accountable to parliament and are expected to submit to legislative questioning, they were, in practice, appointed and removed by the president, not by parliament. Under Nasser, when key Free Officers headed strategic ministries, the cabinet was a center of some power, but subsequently it became merely the staff of the president. Although the president might preside over cabinet meetings, the cabinet was not a collegial decision-making body; instead, the president tended to make key decisions in ad hoc consultations with ministers and advisers in a given issue area.

Egypt's policy-making process was very much dominated by the executive branch, and the heart of the process was the interaction between the presidency and the Council of Ministers. This top executive level decided on all policy proposals, whether they originated in the bureaucracy, with influential personalities, or with interest groups. It was also the arena in which all major political decisions were made, relatively free from institutionalized constraints or pressure from other parts of the political system or the public. Major policy innovations were typically launched by the president, perhaps under the influence of close personal advisers or the pressure of a major problem or crisis and most likely after consultation with ministerial experts. Particularly when a major policy decision was in the making, the president might encourage opinion groups to develop in the cabinet. These groups would advocate different policy options, but although the policies might seriously affect different segments of society, the opinion groups were not really representatives of those segments. Moreover, the president had the first and the last word in deciding among the groups.

The cabinet itself was, nevertheless, an arena of intraelite politics because presidents, engrossed in major political decisions, often left the day-to-day business of government to their ministers, intervening only to give general instructions or when something went wrong. Such mid-level policy making might be set in motion by the proposals of individual ministries, often generated by high civil servants or even by the interests of persons associated with a particular ministry, such as public sector managers or the various professional syndicates. These proposals might set off factional bargaining within the cabinet and high bureaucracy. Elite factions might take the form of shillas, small groups bound by friendship or family ties, heading client networks that stretched down through the bureaucracy and competed for control of offices and the personal and venal benefits that often went with them.

Typically, there was a split in the cabinet between presidential appointees and the clients the prime minister brought on board. In the late 1970s, the cabinet was reportedly split between followers of Vice President Mubarak and Prime Minister Mustafa Khalil. Sometimes factionalism took the form of bureaucratic rivalries between ministries over programs, resources, and jurisdictions; such bureaucratic struggles decided a good part of "who got what" in a country where the state sector was still at the center of the economy. As societal interests became stronger at the expense of government, policy making came more often to take the form of "trial balloons" in which the government or a faction of ministers tested public reaction to an initiative and often backed down if opposition was too strong. If intraelite conflict could not be settled in the cabinet or if a ministerial initiative invited excessive public reaction, the president was likely to intervene, perhaps dismissing a particular minister or faction.

The cabinet was also empowered to plan, coordinate, and control the work of the ministries in implementing policy, and to follow up, evaluate, and inspect policy implementation. Toward these ends, it was divided into two layers, with an inner cabinet of deputy prime ministers responsible for coordinating several functionally related ministries in the full cabinet that composed the outer layer. The independent Central Auditing Agency was responsible for financial control.

Egypt - Recruitment and Composition of the Elite

Within the Egyptian elite, a core elite had even more power than the broader ministerial elite. The overwhelming dominance of presidential power in Egypt meant that influence flowed, above all, from closeness to the president; his confidants, whether they held high office or not, were usually counted among the core elite.

Under Nasser, these men were fellow military revolutionaries such as Abdul Hakim Amir, Anwar as Sadat, Kamal ad Din Husayn, Abdul Latif Baghdadi, Zakariyya Muhi ad Din, and Ali Sabri. Several prominent civilians, such as press magnate Muhammed Hassanain Haikal and industry czar Aziz Sidqi, also had influence on the president and exerted power in their own domains. But the military clearly dominated the state, and most technocrats were mere executors of policy. Between the 1952 Revolution and the late Sadat era, however, there was a continual attrition in the ranks of the Free Officers; many fell out with Nasser, many were purged by Sadat during the succession struggle with Ali Sabri, and others retired thereafter. Of the twenty-six Free Officers politically active in 1970, only eight were absorbed into Sadat's ruling group, whereas a number of others emerged as leaders of the political opposition to his regime, notably Khalid Muhi ad Din on the left and Kamal ad Din Husayn in the nationalist center.

Under Sadat the top elite ceased to be dominated by the military and was transformed into a much more heterogeneous group. To be sure, certain old Free Officer colleagues and several top generals remained in the inner circle. Vice President Mubarak was a member of the inner core. Among other officers in the top elite, generals Ahmad Ismail Ali, Abdul Ghani al Gamasi, and Kamal Hassan Ali played important and extended roles. But civilians far outnumbered the military. Prime ministers such as Abdul Aziz Hijazi, Mamduh Salim, and Mustafa Khalil enjoyed real power during their tenures. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ismail Fahmi was a close confidant of the president until they fell out over Sadat's trip to Jerusalem. Interior ministers such as Mamduh Salim and Nabawi Ismail were key members of the elite in a regime plagued by constant dissidence. Certain minister-technocrats enjoying influence over key decisions or sectors belonged to the core elite; among these were Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdul Munim Qaysuni, long-time Minister of Petroleum Ahmad Izz ad Din Hilal, and Minister of Power Ahmad Sultan. But it was men such as Osman Ahmad Osman (also seen as Uthman Ahmad Uthman) and Sayyid Marii (also seen as Sayyid Marei), representatives of the business and agrarian bourgeoisies, who seemed to have enjoyed the most intimate confidence of the president, whether they held top office or not.

Osman was perhaps the second most powerful man in Sadat's Egypt. A multimillionaire capitalist, he and his family presided over a huge business empire spanning the public and private sectors. He held office for a time, as minister of reconstruction, but his relatives were in and out of a multitude of public offices. Through the marriage of a son to one of Sadat's daughters, he was virtually incorporated into the president's family and appeared to use his influence to favor business in general as well as his own fortunes. Another influential member of Sadat's "family" by marriage was Sayyid Marii, a technocrat from a landowning family. He had presided over Nasser's agrarian reform, but in the 1970s he helped steer Sadat toward both political and economic liberalization. He ran the official party and the parliament on Sadat's behalf for extended periods and was a force behind the multiparty initiative.

Mubarak tried to distance himself from these core Sadatists, and many were pushed from the center of power. Mubarak's inner core was headed by two advisers in the presidency with diplomatic service backgrounds. Usamah al Baz, a former diplomat who directed the president's Office for Political Affairs and was reputedly a closet Nasserite, or supporter of Arab socialism, seemed to enjoy political influence with the president; Mustafa Faqi was another close adviser. Ismat Abdul Majid's extended tenure as minister of foreign affairs indicated that he had the trust of the president and gave him considerable influence in the foreign policy bureaucracy. Yusuf Wali, a former agricultural bureaucrat, headed the ruling party and was Mubarak's chief political troubleshooter.

After the dismissal of Kamal Hassan Ali, a general of conservative proclivities who had served Sadat, Mubarak's prime ministers were technocrats trained in economics and lacking personal political bases. Ali Lutfi was a long-time minister of finance and Atif Sidqi was a top state auditor. Mubarak generally upgraded the role of technocrats in his inner circle at the expense of the "wheeler-dealer" politicians of the Sadat era. On the one hand, Atif Ubayd, an American-backed minister of cabinet affairs, was thought to be prime ministerial material but was passed over; on the other hand, officials who served Nasser but were pushed out by Sadat made a certain comeback. Still, the infitah bourgeoisie who supported and benefited from Sadat's rule remained powerful in the Mubarak regime, particularly entrenched in the interstices of state and business. One sign of their continued power was their ability to block attempts to legalize a Nasserist party. The continuing coercive base of the state was reflected in three major figures close to the center of power. Field Marshal Abdul Halim Abu Ghazala was long reputed to be the number-two man in the regime and was said to have been offered the vice presidency in acknowledgment of the fact. The hardline face of the regime was presented by tough and disliked ministers of interior, notably Hassan Abu Basha and Zaki Badr, whose campaigns against the opposition contained elements of dissent yet drew the heat away from the president. Mubarak's ability to dismiss both top army and police generals indicated the consolidation of his control over the elite.

Because the command posts of the bureaucracy were levers of power and patronage in Egypt, the cabinet as a whole could be taken as the second rank of the top elite, just below the core around the president. Recruitment into the cabinet remained the main road into the elite, and arrival there was either an opportunity to build power or a confirmation of seniority and influence in the bureaucracy or military. Moreover, the formation of the cabinet was a key opportunity for coopting into the regime important personalities and interests from outside the state apparatus.

The change in the composition of cabinets from the Nasser era to the post-Nasser period indicated a shift in the paths to power. Under Nasser, the military, and particularly members of the Free Officers, constituted a privileged recruitment pool from which strategic ministries were filled, although apolitical technocrats recruited from the bureaucracy and the universities also filled a significant proportion of ministerial posts. Under Sadat and Mubarak, the military declined as a main recruitment channel into the cabinet; whereas the military supplied one-third of the ministerial elite and filled 40 percent of ministerial positions under Nasser, in Sadat's post-1973 "infitah governments," military representation dropped to about 10 percent, and it remained limited under Mubarak. It was still possible for prominent officers to attain high political office. The minister of defense position, a preserve of a senior general, remained one of the most powerful posts in the regime and could be a springboard to wider political power. General Kamal Hassan Ali moved from minister of defense to minister of foreign affairs and finally to prime minister under Sadat and Mubarak. Perhaps the single most important ladder to power under Sadat was the combination of an engineering degree with a career in the bureaucracy and public sector. Persons with such backgrounds, making up around one-fourth of Sadat's ministers after the initiation of infitah, seemed to be the chief beneficiaries of the decline of military dominance in politics. The relative eclipse of the army was also paralleled by the rise of professional police officers into the top elite. One, Mamduh Salim, became prime minister, and others wielded great power as ministers of interior and ministers of local government. Academia was an important channel of recruitment in all three regimes. Professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, and, increasingly, private business people became eligible for recruitment by service in party and parliamentary politics and made up about one-fourth of the ministerial elite in the late Sadat era. Although the roads to power diversified after Nasser, access by middle class military officers probably narrowed from his era of rule to the post-Nasser Egypt, which upper- and upper-middle class personalities dominated.

Egypt - Elite Ideology

A dominant ideology has generally bound the Egyptian political elite, but its content changed significantly over time. Under Nasser this ideology was revolutionary nationalism, but thereafter the ideology of the 1952 Revolution was gradually replaced by a new conservative consensus that reflected the interests of an establishment with no interest in further radical change. Sadat pioneered this ideological transformation in the October Working Paper, which outlined his view of Egypt's new course after the October l973 War; through a "de-Nasserization" propaganda campaign launched in the mid-1970s; and by subsequent efforts to revive the legitimacy of capitalism and to justify his Western alignment. Under Mubarak, Nasser's heritage was symbolically revered, but Sadat's revision of that heritage had by no means been reversed.

Nasserism was built on Egypt's opposition to "imperialist influence" in the Arab world and on a belief in the benefits of pan-Arab unity. Nationalism required the creation of a strong state with a powerful military and a mission to defend the Arab world against imperialism and Zionism. Under Sadat Arab nationalist challenges to Western interests and to Israel were displaced by a stress on cooperation with the Western powers and on regional peace. For a period in the late Sadat era when Egypt's separate peace with Israel isolated the country from the other Arab states, a palpable anti-Arabism radiated from elite circles. Sadat insisted the attempts of the Arab rulers to ostracize Egypt were doomed because the Arab leaders had no practical alternative to Egypt's course and Egypt remained the heart of the Arab world. Egypt's role was now to lead the Arabs to peace, and the treaty with Israel was a first step toward an overall just peace. Under Mubarak the Nasserist vision of Egyptian leadership of the Arabs was again vigorously promoted. But far from being a promoter of radical nationalism, Egypt weighed in on the side of moderation and stability in the Arab world.

The elite's conception of the proper nature of Egyptian society underwent a considerable change after the Nasser era. Under Nasser Egypt was seen as a revolutionary society in which the reduction of inherited inequalities was a major ideal. In the economic sphere, Nasser advocated Arab socialism. This policy laid heavy stress on state planning and the public sector as the engines of economic development and guarantors of national self-sufficiency and economic independence. The state also assumed responsibility for ensuring the basic needs of the people and for an equitable distribution of wealth. Several populist reforms redistributed national resources to the benefit of the middle and lower classes.

Under Sadat socialism was denounced as a vehicle of envy and extremism; instead, Sadat promoted a traditional concept in which society was seen as an extension of the patriarchal family and characterized by harmony among classes and belief in religion. In the economic sphere, the elite argued that the state had assumed too many responsibilities at the expense of private initiative. Capitalism had to be revived and the public sector, no longer seen as the cutting edge of development, had to be reduced to a mere support for private enterprise. Egalitarianism and redistribution were thought to have gone too far, to the detriment of economic growth. Private initiative had to be liberated from stultifying state controls; those who distinguished themselves were to be allowed rewards and individuals with capital permitted to "earn freely without limits." The pursuit of self-interest, formerly castigated, was now relegitimized. Capitalist development, it was argued, would bring "trickle-down" benefits for the masses in place of their dependence on state-supported programs.

This ideological thrust, in part a reaction against Nasserism, was, however, tempered by a more moderate strain of thinking that became more influential under Mubarak. The moderate view was not convinced that laissez-faire was the cure to all of Egypt's ills; it insisted on a continuing role for state regulation and progressive taxation to curb the inegalitarian tendencies of the market and the social conflict and political instability that these tendencies generated. Indeed, under Mubarak a limited Nasserist restoration could be seen in the return to the concept of the state as autonomous guardian of the public interest, in the continuing defense of the public sector, and in a new stress on bringing the excesses of the infitah bourgeoisie under state control. Mubarak sought a balance between liberal and statist factions in the elite, rejected calls to dismantle the public sector, and called for an "equal partnership" between the public and private sectors. Generally, the elite agreed on the need to avoid both the "anarchic individualism" of unregulated capitalism and the class conflict promoted by Marxism.

Finally, in the political sphere, Nasser had created a powerful authoritarian state; this concentration of power was legitimized by the charisma of the leader and the revolutionary mission of the country. Under Sadat the legitimacy formula was changed. On the one hand, it was retraditionalized as Sadat sought to infuse his office with patriarchal authority and the aura of religion. He promoted himself as the "believing president" and was constantly seen at prayer; more and more, the state sought to legitimize its authority in Islamic terms. But on the other hand, both Sadat and Mubarak also sought to root legitimacy in constitutionalism and democracy. Egypt had moved, Sadat declared, to a state of laws and institutions rather than to one of people. Under Mubarak democratization became the main legitimacy formula. Nevertheless, it was limited. The masses were held not to be prepared for fullblown democracy; lacking sufficient responsibility and consciousness, they were susceptible to "alien" (leftist) or "fanatical" (fundamentalist) ideas. Strong presidential tutelage, the careful channeling of political discourse through regimemanaged institutions, and limits on overt attempts to "incite" the masses were needed for the sake of social peace. By the Mubarak era, this new conservative consensus seemed to bind the elite, effacing ideological divisions. But the consensus did not prevent elite rivalries over personal power or disagreements over specific issues.

Egypt - Politics among Elites

Military Politics

A major issue of Egypt's elite politics was the role of the military in the state. Nasser's Free Officers founded republican government and led Egypt's 1952 Revolution from above. Presidents continued to be ex-military men. But as Egypt entered a postrevolutionary phase, Sadat successfully demilitarized the state and depoliticized the officer corps. Without losing control of the military, Sadat was able to change it from the dominant leadership group in the state into a professional force subordinate to legal authority, radically curtailing its policy-making role, even in defense matters. This change was paralleled by a deradicalization that ended the army's role as "defender of the revolution" and as defender of the Arab nation against imperialism.

Long-term developments that were maturing before Sadat took power facilitated his effort. As many Free Officers acquired wealth and married into great families, they were deradicalized. If the Free Officers had originally been the vanguard of the rising middle class against the traditional upper class, by the late 1970s senior officers had become part of a new establishment. Many officers blamed the 1967 defeat on Nasser, the Soviet Union, and socialist measures. They resented Nasser's scapegoating of the high command for the army's failures. In addition, because the defeat could plausibly be blamed on military involvement in politics, it discredited the military's claim to political leadership and enhanced the prestige of nonpolitical professional officers. Nasser stressed professional competence in the post-1967 reconstruction of the army, and many officers themselves became impatient with political involvement that could detract from the mission of defending the front and recovering the land and honor lost in 1967. The fall of scores of politicized officers in the succession struggle with Sadat--in particular, the group around Marshal Abdul Hakim Amir after the June 1967 War (Arab-Israeli war, also known as the Six-Day War) and the Ali Sabri group--removed the most powerful and politicized Free Officers and dissipated remaining radical sentiment in the ranks of the officer corps. In the succession struggle, Minister of War General Muhammad Fawzi stood with the leftist Sabri faction and tried to mobilize the military against Sadat by accusing him of selling out to the Americans, but Chief of Staff General Muhammad Sadiq and the rest of the top brass stood with Sadat and neutralized Fawzi. No doubt the military's stand was affected by the unpopularity of Sabri's effort to build up the state party as a counterweight to the military, his identification with the unpopular Soviet advisory mission, and Sadat's promise to reinstate officers unfairly blamed for the 1967 defeat. But the long tradition of presidential authority established under Nasser seemed the decisive factor in rallying the professional military to Sadat's side. And this victory went far to reinforce the legal supremacy of presidential authority over all other state institutions.

Nevertheless, Sadat was thereafter embroiled in and won two other power struggles with top generals who contested his defense and foreign policies. In 1972 General Sadiq, then minister of war, seemed to challenge presidential prerogatives. Sadiq considered himself entitled, given his role in Sadat's victory and his Free Officer status, to a share in decision-making power. He used rewards, promotions, and the mobilization of anti-Soviet sentiment in the army to build a personal power base. Sadat viewed Sadiq as a mere member of his staff and saw his anti-Soviet advocacy and his links with Libya's Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi, whom Sadat deeply distrusted, as encroachments on presidential authority. Most serious, Sadiq objected to Sadat's plans for a limited war in Sinai to seize a strip of land across the Suez Canal as a prelude to negotiations with Israel. Believing Egypt unprepared for such an ambitious venture, he argued, in a tense meeting of the high command, against any military action, a course untenable for Sadat. Sadat's move against Sadiq was a classic example of his strategy of control over the military. He waited until he had first expelled the Soviet advisers, thus winning for himself the acclaim of antiSoviet elements and taking the wind out of Sadiq's sails. He obtained the support of other top commanders, especially Chief of Staff Saad ad Din Shazli, who had quarreled with Sadiq over authority in the high command, rallied the field commanders by accusing Sadiq of ignoring orders to prepare for war, and quickly replaced Sadiq with General Ahmad Ismail Ali, a personal friend who lacked political ambition. With the help of these allies, Sadat foiled a pro-Sadiq coup attempt.

Not long after, Sadat faced another challenge, this time from General Shazli. The two men quarreled over the conduct of the October 1973 War, each holding the other responsible for the Israeli breakthrough onto the west bank of the Suez Canal. After the war, Shazli was a leading opponent of the decision to rely on the United States at the cost of weakening Egypt's military ability to take action. Sadat rallied the support of other top officers against Shazli, including then Minister of War Ismail, Air Force Commander Husni Mubarak, and Chief of Operations General Abdul Ghani Gamasi. Shazli enjoyed considerable support in the military but either would not or could not mobilize it before the high command decimated his followers in a wave of purges from corps and division commanders on down. While some of his top generals were in the future to disagree with Sadat's policies, none would again overtly challenge them, and when he chose to dismiss them, they offered no resistance.

The army, however, was not free of disaffection. Some junior officers who risked their lives in the "crossing" of the Suez Canal believed Sadat sold out the gains won on the battlefield. There were recurring signs of Nasserite and Islamic tendencies in the ranks thereafter. But most officers remained loyal for several reasons: the legitimacy Sadat won in the October 1973 War, in which the army had redeemed its lost honor; the realization that the alternative to Sadat might be another war in which this gain might be sacrificed; and the privileges and new American weapons Sadat lavished on the officer corps. The stake in infitah business some officers acquired, the acceptance of professionalism among most senior officers, and Sadat's practice of rotating senior commanders had, by the end of his presidency, seemingly reduced the military from leaders of the regime to one of its main pillars.

Under Mubarak the military remained a powerful corporate actor in the political system, and the case of Minister of Defense Abdul Halim Abu Ghazala manifested both the power and limits of the military establishment. Mubarak was initially less careful than Sadat to rotate military chieftains and to balance them with rival officers or with strong civilian politicians. As a result, Abu Ghazala, an ambitious politicized and conservative general, appeared to establish unprecedented power and acknowledged status as the number-two man in the regime. He positioned himself as champion of arms spending, resisting all decreases in the defense budget and pushing for greater autonomy for the armed forces in the political system. He widened the role of the army in the economy, making it a font of patronage, subcontracting to the private sector, and establishing close relations between the Egyptian arms industry and United States arms suppliers. Abu Ghazala also presided over the growth of privileged facilities for the military, a development that made him something of a hero in the ranks. He appeared to stake out positions independent of the president, apparently objecting to Mubarak's soft-line handling of the Achille Lauro terrorist incident in October 1985. Whereas the president sought to step back from the close alliance with Washington, Abu Ghazala was known for his intimate connections to influential Americans.

In 1987 the army had to be called out when the riots of the security police left the government otherwise defenseless. Having saved the regime, Abu Ghazala seemed to have strengthened his position. He even carried influence in the appointment of cabinet ministers. But Abu Ghazala lacked the crucial control over military appointments to turn the army into a personal fiefdom; Mubarak, waking up to the danger, had by 1987 positioned his own men as chief of staff and as minister of war production. Perhaps aided by Abu Ghazala's loss of American support over an arms smuggling scandal, Mubarak had no difficulty removing him from his post in 1989. Generally, Mubarak tried to curb military aggrandizement that diminished the civilian sector. The professionalization of the officer corps, its tradition of respect for legal legitimacy, and the reluctance of an army lacking in national vision or ambition to assume responsibility for Egypt's problems all made it unlikely that any top general could carry the officer corps in an overt challenge to Mubarak.

The Politics of Economic Strategy

The most important decision taken by the Egyptian government since Nasser was Sadat's infitah to foreign and domestic private capital. While the stagnation of the early 1970s raised the issue of economic reform, the decision to implement infitah did not take place in a political vacuum. A number of different elite factions prescribed different solutions to the economic problems. A handful of Marxists favored a "deepening" of the socialist experiment. Another small group called for a rapid move to free-market capitalism. The third, statist trend, led by Prime Minister Aziz Sidqi, stood for a controlled role for private and foreign capital compatible with the dominance of the public sector. In May 1973, Sadat dismissed Sidqi, who was an influential possible rival associated with the Nasser era, and before long outstanding leftists, such as Minister of Planning Ismail Sabri Abdullah, were also forced out. The dominant thinking that emerged advocated creation of a new foreign sector, restriction of the public sector to large industry and infrastructure, and the opening of all other sectors to private capital. Some of Sadat's closest confidants, major figures of the Egyptian bourgeoisie such as Osman Ahmad Osman and Sayyid Marii, played major roles in swinging him toward this option. The legitimacy won in the October 1973 War gave him the strength to make this break with Nasserism.

Egypt's state-dominated economy, Sadat declared, was too burdened by military spending and bureaucratic inertia to mobilize the resources for an economic recovery. But postwar conditions, namely the diplomatic opening to the United States and the new petrodollars in Arab hands, presented a unique opportunity to spark a new economic take-off combining Western technology, Arab capital, and Egyptian labor.

An infitah would also consolidate Sadat's support among the Egyptian landed and business classes and among the state elite who had enriched themselves in office and were seeking security and investment outlets for their new wealth. In addition, Sadat viewed infitah as essential to winning American commitment to Egypt's recovery of the Sinai Peninsula from Israel.

Abdul Aziz Hijazi, a long-time minister of finance and liberal economist with links to Western and Arab capital, was appointed prime minister in 1974, charged with implementing the infitah. To neutralize resistance inside the state, Sadat encouraged a "de-Nasserization" campaign in which all those who had grievances against socialism publicly attacked it for having ruined the economy. As the emerging ills of infitah--inflation and corruption--generated discontent over the new course, Hijazi was sacked, and Mamduh Salim, Sadat's police "strong man," took over as prime minister with a mission to push ahead with infitah, overruling those who were obstructing it and those who were abusing it.

Once infitah was established as Egypt's economic strategy, intraelite conflicts centered on its proper scope and management. These conflicts typically pitted liberalizing economists, who were convinced that a fully capitalist economy would be more efficient than an economy incorporating a public sector, against more statist-minded bureaucrats and state managers, who wanted to reform, rather than to dismantle, the public sector. The latter were often allied with politicians fearful of public reaction to the rollback of populist measures such as subsidies and public- sector employment. One major episode in this conflict came in 1976 over pressures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and foreign banks to cut subsidies and devalue the Egyptian pound (for value of the Egyptian pound) as necessary steps in the liberalization of the economy. Sadat's minister of economy, Zaki Shafii, and his minister of finance, Ahmad Abu Ismail, fearful of the consequences on the mass standard of living, urged him to resist pressures for rapid reform. But other economists, chief among them Abdul Munim Qaysuni, argued that Egypt could not afford costly welfare programs if it were to revitalize its productive bases. Top Western bankers, such as David Rockefeller and William Simon, urged Sadat to go beyond half measures if he wanted to make the infitah a success. Sadat overruled his own ministers and replaced them with a new team headed by Qaysuni, who began to cut the subsidies. But decision makers had misjudged their political environment. The subsidy cuts triggered the 1977 food riots, which shattered much of the support Sadat had carefully built up. The government backed down and did not again attempt such a radical cut in the social safety net for the poor.

Managing infitah remained the major problem of public policy under Mubarak. Rather than producing a dynamic capitalist alternative to Nasserite statism, infitah had stimulated a consumption boom that put Egypt in debt and made it heavily dependent on external revenues, which declined in the mid-1980s, plunging the country into economic crisis. Mubarak insisted that infitah would be reformed, not reversed, but the government's freedom of action was limited by conflicting domestic constraints. The interests created under Nasser remained obstacles to capitalist rationalization and belt-tightening. The public sector was still the main engine of investment, and public sector managers and unionized labor tenaciously defended it. The bureaucracy, employing a large portion of the middle class, was a formidable constituency. Meanwhile, Egypt's huge army had not been demobilized, and, indeed, Sadat had bought its acquiescence to his policy by replacing weapons from the Soviet Union with more expensive arms from the United States, for which the military showed a voracious appetite. Marshal Abu Ghazala rejected demands by Prime Minister Ali Lutfi that he pay off Egypt's military debts from revenues of arms sales overseas; instead he plowed funds into subsidized apartments, shops, and sports clubs for the officer corps. Populist "rights" acquired under Nasser had grown into a tacit social contract by which the government provided subsidized food to the masses in return for their tolerance of growing inequality. The contrast between the conspicuous new wealth and the mass poverty generated a moral malaise, making Egypt's debt a political issue. "We're asked to pay the debt," chanted demonstrators in 1986, "while they live in palaces and villas." Thus, attacking populist policies seemed likely to fuel Islamist political activism.

Infitah had itself, however, created interests resistant to reform. A larger and richer bourgeoisie was unprepared to give up opportunities for enrichment or to trim its level of consumption. Any reversal of the course that so favored this class would have cost the regime its strongest social support. Indeed, the increasing power of the bourgeoisie was manifest in its successful veto of several government reform initiatives. Prime Minister Ali Lutfi was expected to produce difficult reforms but was stymied by powerful business interests. The ability of the regime to raise domestic revenues to cope with the financial imbalance was limited because those who could pay represented the government's own support base. Thus, when importers staged demonstrations against increased customs duties, the government rescinded the duties, and the ruling party parliamentary caucus turned back its own government's proposal to tax lucrative urban real estate interests.

Caught between rich and poor, the regime opted for incrementalism. It gradually shaved subsidies, replacing the one piaster loaf of bread with a supposedly better quality, higher priced loaf; raising electricity prices; and eliminating subsidies on feed corn. The regime also partially reformed the exchange rate and raised taxes on imported luxuries. But, unable to undertake radical reform, it chiefly concentrated on negotiations with creditors for a rescheduling of debts, lower interest rates, and new loans to support the balance of payments, merely postponing the day of reckoning.

The growing power of the bourgeoisie and the determination of Mubarak's state to maintain its independence from this class was reflected in another case of economic policy making, a battle over control of foreign currency. The government wanted this control in order to protect the value of the Egyptian pound. In 1985 Minister of Economy Mustafa Said tried to close down black-market money changers who absorbed most workers' remittances but was dismissed when foreign currency dried up and business demanded his head. In 1986 the Lutfi government fell because of a bid by the governor of the Central Bank, Ali Nijm, to rein in the Islamic investment companies that also dealt in foreign currency. The new power of this rising independent bourgeoisie resulted from its ability to disrupt the economy, its payoffs to the press, and its connections to the political opposition and inside the elite itself. In 1988 Prime Minister Atif Sidqi personally led the government's efforts while the companies mobilized the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan al Muslimun; also known as the Brotherhood) and the New Wafd Party in defense of the private sector. Aided by financial scandals that damaged depositor confidence, the government brought the companies under its regulative sway, but they retained considerable autonomy. Whereas Mubarak's state was no longer a mere champion of bourgeois interests as was the state under Sadat, neither had it regained the power over society of Nasser's days.

Despite the power of elites, they did not operate in a vacuum. Many of their decisions were reached in response to economic pressures that sharply limited their options. They also had to consider the political consequences of their decisions. The major change from Nasser's era was that the bourgeoisie acquired the capacity to advance and defend its interests in the system; the 1977 riots made clear, however, that mass reaction must also be included in regime calculations. Thus, while the Egyptian state remained essentially authoritarian, decision makers could not ignore societal wishes, nor could they escape environmental constraints.

Egypt - The Bureaucracy

Egypt's public bureaucracy was an enormous establishment encompassing at least thirty ministries and hundreds of public agencies and companies. There were ministries devoted to the traditional tasks of governance, such as the Ministry of Interior, charged with the maintenance of internal order, and the ministries of defense, finance, foreign affairs, and justice. There was also a multitude of ministries charged with managing the economy and promoting development, such as the ministries of economy and foreign trade, industry, international investment and cooperation, irrigation, petroleum, planning, power, and reconstruction. Others provided public services, such as the ministries of culture, education, health, and manpower and training. There was also a vast public sector. Under Nasser, 62 public authorities and public service organizations responsible to various ministries presided over about 600 public companies. Public authorities were holding companies coordinating profit-oriented public sector firms of similar function, whereas public service organizations were nonprofit in orientation.

Below the politically appointed ministers and deputy ministers was the civil service. It was ranked in six grades, the most senior ranks being first undersecretary, undersecretary, and general manager. Under the Nasser regime, efforts to reform and modernize the traditional civil service raised the professional qualifications of senior civil servants and opened the service to wider recruitment from the educated middle class. But to curb favoritism, seniority rather than performance was made the main criterion for advancement. In addition, Nasser used the bureaucracy to provide employment for university graduates. The reform of the bureaucracy soon fell behind its expansion in size and functions, making Egypt an overadministered society. Sadat pared back the state's control over the economy but failed to restrain the growth of the state bureaucracy and allowed its standards and efficiency to decline. The bureaucracy mushroomed from 1.2 million at the end of the Nasser era to 2 million at the end of Sadat's rule (20 percent of the work force) and 2.6 million in 1986.

The bureaucracy had a number of outstanding achievements to its credit. The special ministries and agencies set up under Nasser to build the Aswan High Dam, to carry out agrarian reform, and to operate the Suez Canal had the budgets to recruit quality personnel and carried out their missions with distinction. But by the Sadat era, the bureaucracy and the public sector were afflicted with a multitude of pathologies that made them more of a burden on, rather than an instrument of, development. The Council of Ministers generally failed to provide the strong administrative leadership needed to coordinate the sprawling state apparatus, and therefore its various parts often worked at cross-purposes. Many middle-rank bureaucrats were statists at odds with the liberalization initiatives from the top. There was a general breakdown in performance and discipline in the public service; employees generally could not be dismissed, pay was dismal except at the highest levels, and most officials moonlighted after putting in only a few hours each day at work. The excessive number of employees charged with the same job made it impossible to distinguish conscientious officials from timeservers. Under these conditions, little responsibility could be delegated to lower bureaucrats, and little initiative was expected of them.

Infitah-era policies also enervated government planning and control of the public sector. Abolishing the public authorities created under Nasser as layers between the ministries and public sector firms was supposed to give the latter greater freedom of management, but instead it brought a decline in financial accountability without really allowing managers to respond to a free market. The partial "privatization" of public sector companies cost the treasury. Government investments in joint ventures with the private or foreign sector often escaped the control of government auditors and ended up in the pockets of the officials, ex-officials, and private business partners who ran the companies. The bureaucracy was afflicted with corruption. At senior levels there were periodic scandals over embezzlement and acceptance of commissions; at lower levels, petty graft was rampant. This propensity toward corruption damaged the regime's effort to manage its most crucial and costly welfare program. The theft of subsidized commodities was facilitated by official collusion, from the clerks of government retail outlets to the high officials of the Ministry of Supply. The decline of the bureaucracy also had deleterious economic consequences; the public sector suffered from an erosion in management, while bureaucratic red tape remained an obstruction to the private and foreign sectors. The latter often had to pay off officials to negotiate the complex webs of administrative requirements.

Egypt - Local Government

Local government traditionally enjoyed limited power in Egypt's highly centralized state. Under the central government were twentysix governorates (sing., muhafazah; pl., muhafazat). These were subdivided into districts (sing., markaz; pl., marakaz) and villages (sing., qaryah; pl., qura) or towns. At each level, there was a governing structure that combined representative councils and government-appointed executive organs headed by governors, district officers, and mayors, respectively. Governors were appointed by the president, and they, in turn, appointed subordinate executive officers. The coercive backbone of the state apparatus ran downward from the Ministry of Interior through the governors' executive organs to the district police station and the village headman (sing., umdah; pl., umadah).

Before the revolution, state penetration of the rural areas was limited by the power of local notables, but under Nasser, land reform reduced their socioeconomic dominance, and the incorporation of peasants into cooperatives transferred mass dependence from landlords to government. The extension of officials into the countryside permitted the regime to bring development and services to the village. The local branches of the ruling party, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), fostered a certain peasant political activism and coopted the local notables--in particular the village headmen--and checked their independence from the regime.

State penetration did not retreat under Sadat and Mubarak. The earlier effort to mobilize peasants and deliver services disappeared as the local party and cooperative withered, but administrative controls over the peasants remained intact. The local power of the old families and the headmen revived but more at the expense of peasants than of the state. The district police station balanced the notables, and the system of local government (the mayor and council) integrated them into the regime.

Sadat took several measures to decentralize power to the provinces and towns. Governors acquired more authority under Law Number 43 of 1979, which reduced the administrative and budgetary controls of the central government over the provinces. The elected councils acquired, at least formally, the right to approve or disapprove the local budget. In an effort to reduce local demands on the central treasury, local government was given wider powers to raise local taxes. But local representative councils became vehicles of pressure for government spending, and the soaring deficits of local government bodies had to be covered by the central government. Local government was encouraged to enter into joint ventures with private investors, and these ventures stimulated an alliance between government officials and the local rich that paralleled the infitah alliance at the national level. Under Mubarak decentralization and local autonomy became more of a reality, and local policies often reflected special local conditions. Thus, officials in Upper Egypt often bowed to the powerful Islamic movement there, while those in the port cities struck alliances with importers.


The Egyptian state was by no means "captured" by Egypt's bourgeoisie; it retained its essential autonomy and often put its own interests ahead of those of the upper classes, whether the issue was control of the economy or the need to placate the masses and maintain social peace. But, beginning under Sadat, the regime gradually came to share power with the business, landed, and professional strata that made up a large portion of the most politically active public and represented its main constituency. This power sharing was essentially channeled through parliament, interest groups, the judiciary, and the press.


Egypt had a two-chamber legislature made up of the lower People's Assembly (Majlis ash Shaab), which was the locus of legislative power, and the upper Consultative Council (Majlis ash Shura). Power in the People's Assembly was concentrated in the hands of the leadership, an elected speaker and the chairs of the specialized committees into which the assembly was divided. The president and prime minister began each legislative session, which lasted seven months, with an overview of government policy. Laws proposed by the executive or by legislators were first considered in committee and then, with the consent of the legislative leadership, by the full assembly.

The early parliaments under Nasser were dominated by officials and by owners of medium-sized property. In the 1960s, the regime decreed that half the seats had to be reserved for the lower classes; thus, in each electoral district, one seat was filled by a worker or peasant and the other by a professional or official. Although this provision was never repealed, in practice, since Nasser, those who filled peasant seats were actually either clients of notables or wealthy peasants enriched by such ventures as labor contracting, while most "worker" deputies were trade union officials or government employees. There was no sign of any parliamentary voice speaking for the have-nots, save the occasional leftist intellectual who managed to get a seat but carried no weight. Beginning in 1979, a third seat, to be filled by a woman, was added in thirty constituencies, but this provision was abolished in the 1980s under conservative Islamic influence. The president appointed ten Copts to parliament to make sure this minority had some representation.

Constitutional practice put parliament at a great disadvantage in relation to the executive. The president is above parliamentary authority and appoints the prime minister and his government. Constitutionally, parliament must approve the government. Moreover, it can remove a minister by a vote of no- confidence. It can also, in theory, similarly challenge the prime minister and his cabinet; if it does so, the president must dissolve the government or obtain its endorsement in a popular referendum. In practice, however, governments have changed exclusively at the will of the president and never following a vote of no-confidence. The president can legislate by decree when parliament is not in session and can bypass parliament through a government-controlled plebiscite. Sadat carried out some of his most politically controversial initiatives independently of parliament, including his 1978 repression of the New Wafd Party and his 1979 promulgation of a liberal law of personal status that was resisted by Muslim opinion.

The cabinet and even individual ministers enjoyed, on the authority of very loosely worded laws, what in effect amounted to decree power, which they used to make crucial decisions, including the cut in subsidies that touched off the 1977 riots. The budget must be accepted or rejected in toto by parliament unless the executive consents to amendments. The executive must present its policy agenda to parliament, and ministers are subject to interpolation, but parliament regularly approves executive initiatives.

Because defense and foreign policy matters are reserved to the executive, defense budgets are never debated in parliament. Likewise, during negotiations over the peace treaty with Israel, Sadat rejected, without repercussions, nearly unanimous parliamentary resolutions to break off the negotiations, to give the Arab Defense Pact priority over the treaty, and to permit normalization of relations with Israel to proceed only within the framework of a comprehensive settlement.

The president's trusted confidants were the legislative leaders, and they easily set the agenda. The ruling party, subordinate to the president, dominated the assembly and in a number of cases ousted its own parliamentary peers when their criticism antagonized the government. Many deputies were economically dependent on the government; in the 1980s a third of them were employed by the state. Because the executive can dissolve parliament and through its control of the ruling party and the electoral process replace incumbents with more docile deputies, the legislature was really at the president's mercy. When opposition parties appeared in parliament, it became a less submissive body, but the members of the large government majority did not view challenging the executive as part of their role. Generally, the legislature, lacking all traditions of independence or collective solidarity, had only the most modest capacity to check the government or hold it accountable.

Nevertheless, as limited political liberalization advanced, parliament played a growing, if still subordinate, role in the political system. Two changes fostered this role: first, the government relegated authority over lesser matters to parliament and, along with it, wider scope for debate and expression; second, opposition parties were permitted to win seats in parliament.

The chief result of this liberalization was that parliament became an arena through which the state shared power with its constituency, the dominant landed and business classes, allowing them to articulate their interests, albeit generally within the broader lines of presidential policy. Thus, parliamentary committees were breeding grounds for an endless stream of initiatives that sought to roll back state control or populist regulation of the private sector. For example, the Planning and Budget Committee demanded that the private sector get a fair share of foreign exchange and bank credit, that public sector shares be sold to investors, and that public industry be confined to areas private firms could not undertake. The Housing Committee pressured the Antiquities Department to divest itself of land coveted by developers. The Religious Affairs Committee became a sounding board for conservative religious opinion, pushing Islamization measures, and proposing bans on alcohol, Western films, and even belly dancing. Parliament also played some role in the budgetary process by which public resources were allocated and on a number of occasions blocked measures to levy taxes on wealthy farmers and business people.

Parliament had no record of deciding the big issues, but occasionally it became an arena for debating them. When the regime wished to change policy, parliament was sometimes the arena for testing the waters or for discrediting old policies as a prelude to launching new ones. Sadat encouraged parliament under his confidant, Sayyid Marii, to criticize the statist Sidqi government and used parliament as a vehicle of his de-Nasserization campaign. Once opposition parties took their seats in parliament, they attempted, with mixed success, to raise issues in opposition to government policy.

Parliament also played an "oversight" role, calling attention to shortcomings in the performance of the bureaucracy or bringing constituent grievances to government attention. Ministers were constantly criticized over market shortages and service breakdowns, and deputies who took their role seriously spent a great deal of time intervening with the bureaucracy on behalf of constituents. On occasion, parliament challenged the probity of actions by ministers and high officials. It attacked the Sidqi government over irregularities in the arrangements of a major oil pipeline project and the Khalil government over the awarding of a telecommunications contract. A project to build a resort near the pyramids, although involving persons close to President Sadat, was investigated and rejected in parliament. Whereas such parliamentary activities could serve the leader as a useful way of controlling the bureaucracy and as a safety valve for redress of grievances, if deputies went too far, they invited a reaction. Sadat was so irritated by the rise of parliamentary criticism that in 1979 he dissolved the People's Assembly and called new elections, in which the regime, by a combination of fraud and intimidation, made sure its main critics lost their seats. Finally, however, for those deputies willing to exercise their political skills in support of the government, parliamentary seats could be stepping-stones to political influence and elite careers. Parliamentary seats allowed deputies to act as brokers between government and their constituency, might serve as a base from which to cultivate strategic connections in government, and became something of a political apprenticeship by which certain more influential deputies became eligible for ministerial office. Parliament also served as a repository for high officials out of office who wished to keep their hand in the political pot. Judging by the number of candidates who sought parliamentary seats, these seats were worthwhile for developing connections in the capital and influence at home.

A second chamber was added to the legislature in the late 1970s when the Central Committee of the ASU was transformed into the Consultative Council, essentially an advisory chamber of notables and retired officials. In 1980 the membership was overhauled; 70 members were appointed by the president, and the ruling party won all 140 elected seats. In 1989 the ruling party again took all seats.

Egypt - The Judiciary, Civil Rights, and the Rule of Law

The Egyptian legal system was built on both the sharia (Islamic law) and the Napoleonic Code introduced during Napoleon Bonaparte's occupation and the subsequent training of Egyptian jurists in France. Until they were abolished in the 1940s, consular courts and mixed courts (of foreign and Egyptian jurists), products of the capitulations, had jurisdiction over cases involving foreigners. Until the l952 Revolution, there was a separate system of religious courts that applied the law of personal status, ruling in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Sharia courts had jurisdiction over Muslims while the Coptic minority had its own communal courts. Under the republic, religious courts were abolished and their functions transferred to the secular court system, although religious law continued to influence the decisions of these courts, especially in matters of personal status. In 1990 Egypt's court system was otherwise chiefly secular, applying criminal and civil law deriving primarily from the French heritage. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, Muslim political activists had fought with some success to advance the impact of the sharia in adjudication; for example, they were influential in reversing a liberal law of personal status decreed under Sadat that had expanded the rights of women. They also achieved the passage of a constitutional amendment making the sharia in principle the sole source of legislation, a potential ground for ruling unconstitutional a whole corpus of secular law.

Under the Constitution, the executive is prohibited from "interfering" in lawsuits or in the affairs of justice. Judges are appointed for life and cannot be dismissed without serious cause. This provision did not deter Nasser from a wholesale purge of politically hostile judges in the late 1960s, but his action was the exception. Under Sadat, who sought to replace revolutionary with constitutional legitimacy, the role of the judiciary was largely respected. Although often annoyed by their rulings in political cases, Sadat eschewed any purge of judges and resorted instead to the creation of exceptional courts for political offenses; for its part, the judiciary was able to ensure that a majority of appointees to these courts be trained judges. The presidency, nevertheless, continued to enjoy considerable influence over the judiciary since judicial appointments are a presidential prerogative. Judges were considered functionaries of the Ministry of Justice, which administered and financed the court system. The president headed the Supreme Council of Judicial Organs, which established regulations governing the judiciary.

The base of the court system was made up of district tribunals, single-judge courts with jurisdiction over minor civil and criminal cases. (Minor civil cases involved less than £E250, and minor criminal cases were punished by less than three years' imprisonment.) Over these there was in each governorate at least one tribunal of first instance, which was composed of a presiding judge and two sitting judges. These tribunals of first instance dealt with serious crimes and heard appeals from district courts. Seven higher-level courts of appeals in Cairo (Al Qahirah), Alexandria (Al Iskandariyah), Tanta, Asyut, Mansurah, Ismailia (Al Ismailiyah), and Bani Suwayf were divided into criminal and civil chambers; the former tried certain felonies, and the latter heard appeals against judgments of the tribunals of first instance. The Court of Cassation in Cairo heard petitions on final judgments rendered by the courts of appeals, made on grounds of defective application of the law or violation of due process. It had a president, fifteen vice-presidents, and eighty justices. Alongside these courts of general jurisdiction were special courts, such as labor tribunals and security courts, headed by the Supreme State Security Court, which heard cases involving political and military security. A three-level hierarchy of administrative courts adjudicated administrative disputes among ministries and agencies and was headed by the Council of State. The Office of the Public Prosecutor, headed by the attorney general and staffed by his public prosecutors, supervised the enforcement of criminal law judgments. At the apex of the judiciary was the Supreme Constitutional Court made up of a chief justice and nine justices. It settled disputes between courts and rendered binding interpretations in matters that were grave enough to require conformity of interpretation under the Constitution.

The rule of law expanded in the post-Nasser era, and judges became a vigorous force defending the legal rights of citizens against the state. Nonpolitical personal rights, much restricted under Nasser, were effectively restored under Sadat. It was a sign of the new political climate he fostered that not only were private property rights considered inviolable but also the courts proved zealous in defending the rights of those charged with abuse of public property. Political rights were less secure. In contrast to Nasser, Sadat allowed private criticism of the government, but rights of public assembly were circumscribed by draconian laws against even peaceful protest and the distribution or possession of "subversive"--normally leftist--literature. Although the courts frequently dismissed charges on such offenses, those arrested nevertheless often spent much time in jail, nor have the courts been able to restrain the regime when it wanted badly enough to end dissidence. While Islamic radicals have been regularly subjected to arbitrary arrest, the most dramatic case of the "iron fist" was the 1981 crackdown when Sadat arrested about 1,500 of Egypt's most prominent public figures.

Under Mubarak the independence of the courts and their role in expanding constitutional rights and procedures grew. Courts overturned a ban on the New Wafd Party, threw out the Electoral Law of 1984, and declared unconstitutional a Sadat decree issued in the absence of parliament. Judges expanded the scope of press freedom by dismissing libel suits of government ministers against the opposition press and widened the scope of labor rights by dismissing charges against strikers. But the regime saw fit to ignore a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that overturned the distribution of certain seats in parliament to the disadvantage of the ruling party. The Ministry of Interior continued to exercise sweeping powers of arrest and detention of dissidents and frequently ignored court decisions.

Egypt - The Political Role of the Media

Under Nasser the media were brought under state control and harnessed as instruments of the revolutionary government for shaping public opinion. Radio and television, in particular, began to penetrate the villages. Nasser used them to speak directly to Egyptians in their own language, and they were major factors in his rise as a charismatic leader. Radio Cairo was a link between Nasser and his pan-Arab constituency in the Arab world and was regularly used to stir up popular feeling against rival Arab leaders. In the print media, however, the government did not speak with one voice. There were identifiable differences in the government-controlled press between those on the right of the political spectrum (Al Akhbar, The News), the center (Al Ahram, The Pyramids), and the left (Ruz al Yusuf). Nasser, a voracious reader, appears to have been influenced by the views expressed in the prestigious Al Ahram, headed by Muhammad Hassanain Haikal. Criticism in the left-wing press played a role in the drift of his policies to the left in the 1960s. Thus, the press had a certain role in transmitting opinion upward.

In the post-Nasser era, the broadcast media remained government controlled. Fairly developed radio and television facilities existed. Egypt had sixty-two medium-wave (AM--amplitude modulation) radio stations, representing at least one for each major town in the country, and three short-wave transmitters that relayed programs to listeners in Egypt and overseas. Domestically, stations carried a number of national programs as well as regional programs designed for different parts of Egypt. In its foreign programs, Egypt broadcast in thirty-three languages, including the most common European languages in addition to such African languages as Amharic, Hausa, Wolof, Swahili, and Yoruba and such Asian languages as Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, and Urdu. Egyptians were estimated to own 14 million radios in 1989 and about 3.5 million television sets. Television had two national networks, an additional channel in Cairo, and a regional "Sinai network"; programs were televised in Arabic only. The broadcast media permitted the government to blanket the country with its messages. For example, the government enjoyed a virtual monopoly at election time. To placate Muslim opinion, television programming was increasingly Islamized, and several popular preachers in alliance with the government used the electronic media to broaden their followings.

Newspapers were scarcely more autonomous: government-appointed editors were still expected to "self-censor" their product and were subject to removal when they did not. Generally, Sadat used his prerogative of editorial appointment to eject editors and journalists with left-wing views and to foster conservative voices. For example, the anti-Nasser Amin brothers, Ali and Mustafa, reappeared in the journalistic establishment, and Ibrahim Saada was permitted to turn Al Akhbar into a vehicle of anti-Soviet and anti-Arab propaganda. The fall of Haikal at Al-Ahram for allegedly trying to turn the paper into a "center of power" showed Sadat was no more willing than Nasser to tolerate a major journalistic voice at variance with his policy. On the other hand, Sadat permitted the founding of an independent opposition press that reached far fewer readers but expressed much more diverse views than the government press. Al Ahali (The Folk) spoke for the left, Al Ahrar (The Liberals) for the right, Ad Dawah (The Call) and later Al Ihtisan (Adherence) for the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ash Shaab (The People) for the center-left Labor Party. The government party published Al Mayu (May). Opposition newspapers were sometimes joined by government papers in investigative journalism that uncovered scandals embarrassing to the government. The left-wing press, in particular, carried on a campaign against the infitah and Sadat's foreign policy that led to the closing of Al Ahali.

Mubarak restored freedom to the secular press, allowed the New Wafd Party to publish Al Wafd (The Mission) and Nasserites to open Sawt al Arab (Voice of the Arabs), while repressing the Brotherhood's Ad Dawah. The rise of Islamist sentiment was nevertheless reflected in the proliferation of Islamist periodicals put out by the various parties, such as Al Liwa al Islami (The Islamic Standard) by the government party and An Nur (The Light) by the Liberal Party (Ahrar). One sign of the growing independence and influence of the press under Mubarak was the 1987 trial of police officers for torturing Islamic activists, a milestone in the protection of individual rights that resulted largely from public pressures generated by the press. But there were limits to the influence of the press: the circulation of the main government dailies did not exceed 1 million each, and except for Al Wafd, the opposition papers were all weeklies lucky to get a tenth of that figure.

Egypt - Interest Groups

The widening scope for interest-group politics was one of the most significant dimensions of the limited liberalization begun under Sadat. Under the Nasser regime, which distrusted the effect of pressure groups on public policy, interest groups were brought into a corporatist system whereby their leaders were government appointed. They were thus rendered powerless to deflect the mounting state assault on private interests launched in the name of socialism. Sadat, seeking to win the support of the land- owning and educated classes, permitted their associated interest groups greater autonomy and opened greater access for them into the decision-making process. Their members turned parliament into a channel for promoting their interests, and their representatives carried weight in the system of consultative national councils. Under Mubarak the numbers and influence of interest groups grew, and although the relation between the state and these associations was by no means free of conflict, they carried much more weight in policy councils than the unorganized mass public. Of all interests, business made the best use of the widened scope for interest-group activity. In men such as Osman Ahmad Osman, business enjoyed the direct access to Sadat critical for steering the transition from statism. But organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Industries also spoke with increasing authority for their interests against both the state sector and labor. The Businessmen's Association and the Egyptian-American Chamber of Commerce united the most powerful business interests and facilitated their access to state resources. The government even encouraged formation of new business organizations, such as a joint venture investors' association and an exporters' union.

To be sure, the bourgeoisie was far from united on many issues. Business people vied for lucrative privileged deals with the public sector, and those connected to its patronage networks were much more favorable to the state than those in competition with it. Such competition included the bankers, who fought the public sector for control of foreign exchange, and others who had to pay off officials merely to operate. Clashes also occurred between the interests of importers and of local industrialists and between the secular haute bourgeoisie and Islamic-oriented small business.

Nevertheless, on the big issues such as infitah, government regulation, taxation, prices, and wages, business shared a common view. Thus, business people and business groups were instrumental in pressuring for the widening of infitah under Sadat. They continually lobbied, with considerable success, for tax reductions and exemptions on the ground that the mobilization of savings and investment required these concessions. The government responded by reducing the progressive rates of the income tax and permitting a proliferation of "tax holidays" for new investment. The ability of the rich to evade taxes had become such a scandal by the end of the 1970s that Sadat declared the rich were not paying their fair share of taxes. The Chamber of Commerce lobbied aggressively against attempts by the Ministry of Supply to fix profit ceilings on imported commodities and fought back pressures from the trade unions for increases in minimum wages. Construction and real estate interests, operating through the Housing Committee of parliament, pushed through the demolition of lower-income neighborhoods to make way for luxury hotels, highways, parking lots, and office towers. The Federation of Industries launched a campaign to roll back public sector monopolies in fields where industrialists wanted to invest, while at the same time pushing for protection from foreign competition. Owners of large farms were also successful in advancing their interests. Operating through the Agricultural Affairs Committee of parliament, they won an alteration in the Law on Agrarian Relations, reducing the security of tenants and raising their rents; had public money allocated to compensate victims of the Nasserite land reforms; and won the right to bid on reclaimed state land, unrestricted by the agrarian reform ceiling.

The professional syndicates or unions also worked to defend the interests of their members. The medical syndicate, for example, lobbied to restrain the indiscriminate expansion of professional school enrollments, which it said was producing a surplus of undertrained graduates. The engineers' syndicate insisted that foreign firms be required to hire a quota of Egyptian engineers.

The actions of the journalists' and lawyers' syndicates stood out as cases where professionals took positions on wider political issues in opposition to the regime. The syndicates took these positions partly because these associations were battlegrounds between rival political forces and partly because their professional interests demanded political freedoms greater than those that the regime was willing to concede. Thus, the journalists' union long fought to expand press freedoms. Sadat inserted a trusted confidant to discipline the union, and when the strong leftist influence in the profession led to the election of a leftist, he tried unsuccessfully to abolish the union. The Mubarak regime, however, managed to reassert its control.

The lawyers' syndicate also became an independent force troublesome to the regime. While lawyers generally applauded Sadat's liberalization and the restoration of the rule of law, he did not go far enough to please many. The union gave New Wafdist leader Fuad Siraj ad Din (also seen as Serag al Din) a forum for his attempt to resurrect his party. Siraj ad Din vigorously attacked Sadat's Law of Shame by which he attempted to outlaw all criticism "disrespectful" of presidential authority. Sadat finally purged the syndicate leadership when it attacked the normalization of relations with Israel. Under Mubarak the syndicate became an even more contentious defender of civil liberties; in 1986 lawyers staged a strike against the continuation of emergency laws, and in 1988 the syndicate raised a public storm when it launched a campaign against the abuse of emergency laws and illegal detentions.

Public sector managers also entered the interest group arena as the infitah unfolded, embodying both threats and opportunities for them. The Ministry of Industry convened assemblies in which public sector officials were allowed to vent their grievances. Seeking to compete and survive in a freer economy, they demanded discretion to raise prices as costs rose, reduction of their tax burden, and authority over personnel policy to "link incentives to production." They also lobbied against a joint- venture textile factory that threatened to flood the market at the expense of the public textile industry. The managers had but limited success, however, because their desire for lower taxes clashed with the needs of the treasury, and their desire to raise prices and dismiss excess labor risked a popular reaction the government could ill afford. Public sector managers increasingly saw their salvation, therefore, in joint ventures with foreign firms that would release them from government restrictions and from the provisions of the labor code. Pushing from the other side with mixed success, the trade unions voiced the objections of public sector workers to any weakening of the labor code. The unions fought for increases in the minimum wage, too, but raises always seemed to lag behind the rising cost of living.

Generally speaking, the widened scope for interest-group politics in post-Nasser Egypt opened access for the "haves" to the policy process. But this was to the exclusion of, and often at the expense of, the less well connected or unorganized masses.


A state may control the political arena through some combination of legitimacy, coercion, and the incorporation of participation through political institutions. Nasser used charisma and coercion to impose a nationalist-populist ideological consensus on Egypt's political arena and to incorporate a broad support coalition in a single--albeit weak--party, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU). His charismatic legitimacy allowed him to balance rival social forces. For example, he used popular support to curb the bourgeoisie, rather than to accommodate their participatory propensities, and to repress those--the Wafd (Al Wafd al Misri), and the Muslim Brotherhood--that refused incorporation into his coalition. The post-Nasser regime had to reshape Egypt's political institutions in order to maintain control over the political arena without the legitimacy and coercive assets he had commanded.

Sadat resorted to a strategy mixing limited liberalization, retraditionalization, and repression. He pioneered an experiment in limited political pluralization designed to control the politically attentive public. Needing to solicit the support of the bourgeoisie in the absence of the broad mass legitimacy Nasser had enjoyed, Sadat had to address its desires for political liberalization. Moreover, as his "rightward" policy course shattered the consensus Nasser had built and precipitated the emergence of leftistNasserite opposition, Sadat sought to balance this opposition by allowing the mainstream Islamic movement and the liberal New Wafd Party to reenter the political arena. As Egypt's political arena was thus pluralized, Sadat attempted to incorporate it through a controlled multiparty system. The ASU was dismantled and opposition parties allowed to coalesce around its fragments or the remnants of resurrected prerevolutionary parties. They were expected to be "loyal" opposition parties that would refrain from "destructive" criticism of regime policy but within this limit were allowed to compete with the government party in parliamentary elections. Even Nasserites and the Marxist left were more or less accommodated within these parties, although they were vulnerable to exclusion from the system when they pushed their cases too far; indeed, ultimately, when they refused to play by his rules, Sadat suspended the experiment.

Toward the more passive masses, Sadat's strategy was to replace charismatic with traditional personal legitimacy, projecting himself as a pious and patriarchal leader and, after 1973, as a successful war hero. But as corruption and inequality spread while he pursued Westernization and accommodation with Israel, this strategy gradually failed, leaving a legitimacy vacuum that paved the way for his assassination. The absence of public mourning on his death, in stark contrast to the mass hysteria on Nasser's passing, was a measure of the decline of regime legitimacy by the end of Sadat's presidency.

Mubarak inherited a regime lacking a credible legitimizing ideology or a leading personality capable of attracting mass loyalties to the state. Indicative of the regime's ideological bankruptcy following Sadat's death was Mubarak's attempt to portray his new regime as both Nasserite and Islamic, all the while continuing Sadatist policies. In the absence of ideological legitimacy, the Mubarak regime had to restore the faltering political liberalization pioneered by Sadat. Mubarak revived opposition parties and widened freedom of political expression, particularly of the press, permitting much more unrestrained criticism of the government than was permitted under Sadat. Limited political pluralization was essential to accommodate the participatory demands of the educated upper and middle classes, and given the continuing passivity, poverty, and deference of a large part of the masses, such pluralization could be managed with less risk than the alternative of large-scale repression. Moreover, as under Sadat, liberalization was not uniformly applied to social groups. The regime sought to accommodate more conservative forces, such as the liberal bourgeoisie and conservative Islamists, while reserving selective repression for leftists, strikers, and Islamic radicals.

Egypt - The "Dominant Party System"

In Egypt's "dominant party system," a big ruling party straddling the center of the ideological spectrum was flanked by small opposition "parties of pressure" on its left and right.

The Ruling Party

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) was a direct descendant of Nasser's Arab Socialist Union, albeit shorn of the left-wing intellectuals and politicized officers who dominated it in the 1960s. By the 1980s, it incorporated the ruling alliance of senior bureaucrats, top police and army officers, business people, and large landowners who dominated the governorates. Most of these elites had a foot in both state and society, combining public office and private assets. The party's official ideology expressed this social composition: it stood for a middle way between socialism and individualistic capitalism. This middle way would be compatible with a large public sector, in which the many senior bureaucrats and state managers had a stake, and with the growing private and foreign capitalism, on which both officials and proregime business people were thriving. The party's ideology was generally too vague and ambivalent to determine government policy, but it authentically expressed the stake of its constituents in both a massive state and an open economy. The relative balance between the party's elements shifted over time; under Sadat the infitah bourgeoisie rose to prominence, while Mubarak shifted the balance in favor of the state bourgeoisie and the old pre-1952 aristocracy.

The NDP, lacking developed organization and ideological solidarity, was a weak party, in many ways more an appendage of government than an autonomous political force. But it performed useful functions for both the regime and its membership. Although the bureaucracy and academia remained the principal channels of elite recruitment, party credentials and service became a factor in such cooptation, and the party represented a ladder of recruitment for the private sector bourgeoisie. The party did not make high policy, and many of the policy recommendations of its committees, such as calls for the application of the sharia and abolition of the public sector, were simply ignored by the government. But its parliamentary caucus assumed considerable authority over lesser matters: it was the source of a constant stream of initiatives and responses to government meant to defend or to promote the interest of its largely bourgeois constituency. Thus, the NDP incorporated major segments of the most strategic social forces into the ruling coalition; it conceded no accountability to them but provided enough privileged access to satisfy them.

The party lacked a strong extragovernmental organization, enjoyed little loyalty from its members, and had few activists; indeed, police officials played a prominent role in its leadership, and in the governorates the Ministry of Interior seemed to act for the party in the absence of a real apparatus. But by way of the client networks of progovernment notables, the party brought a portion of the village and urban masses into the regime's camp, denying the opposition access to them. The party also nominally incorporated large numbers of government employees and managed to place its partisans in the top posts of most of the professional and labor syndicates. The party lacked an interest in mass mobilization, and, if anything, its function was to enforce demobilization. The government had to depend on the Ministry of Interior, village headmen, and local notables to bring out the vote. But as an organizational bond between the regime and the local subelites that represented its core support and its linkage to wider social forces, the party helped protect the government's societal base.

Egypt - The Opposition Parties

The once monolithic Egyptian political arena gave birth in the 1970s to a rich array of new political parties competing with the ruling party. While some were a "loyal" opposition and others closer to counterregime movements, all gave expression to interests and values different from those of the ruling party.

The tiny Liberal Party was formed in 1976 from a right-wing sliver of the ASU by an ex-army officer. Grouping landowners and professionals, it was to the right of the ruling party. Its ideology combined calls for the selling of the public sector, an end to subsidies, and unrestricted foreign investment with demands for further political liberalization and an attempt to mobilize God and Islam in defense of capitalism. Having little popular appeal, it operated as an elite pressure group speaking for private enterprise and generally in support of Sadat's liberalization policies.

Although also beginning as a faction of the ASU headed by a left-wing Free Officer, Khalid Muhi ad Din, the National Progressive Unionist Party (NPUP or Tagamu) evolved into an authentic opposition party of the left. It brought together, behind an ideology of nationalist populism, a coalition of Marxist and Nasserite intellectuals and trade union leaders. It defended the Nasserite heritage, rejected the alignment with the United States and the separate peace with Israel, and called for a return to Egypt's anti-imperialist role. It rejected the infitah as damaging to national industry and leading to foreign domination, debt, corruption, and inequality; it called for a return to development led by the public sector. It had a small but well organized base of activists.

The Socialist Labor Party (SLP or Amal) was formed in 1979 under Sadat's encouragement to displace the NPUP (which was proving too critical) as the loyal opposition party of the left. While its social composition--landlords and professionals--resembled the Liberal Party, many of its leaders were quite different in political background, having belonged to the radical nationalist Young Egypt Party (Misr al Fatat) before 1952. Despite its origin, the party, alienated by Sadat's separate peace, by the corruption in his regime, and by the excesses of infitah, soon moved into opposition, becoming a public sector defender critical of untrammeled capitalism and Western alignment. The SLP lacked a large organized base and relied on the personal followings of its leaders. It and the Liberal Party, in an effort to overcome their limited popular appeal, joined in 1987 with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Islamic Alliance under the slogan "Islam is the solution."

The New Wafd Party was a coalition of landowners, professionals, and merchants, led by a number of prominent leaders of the original Wafd, notably Fuad Siraj ad Din. It was the voice of the old aristocracy excluded from power by Nasser and of the wing of the private bourgeoisie still antagonistic to the state bourgeoisie that emerged in the shadow of the regime. It also enjoyed a significant following among the educated middle class. The party's main plank called for genuine political liberalization, including competitive election of the president. It demanded thorough economic liberalization to match political liberalization, including a radical reduction in the public sector, in state intervention in the economy, and in barriers to a full opening to international capitalism. Although it clashed with Sadat over the legitimacy of the 1952 Revolution, as the economic role of the state was strengthened under Mubarak, the New Wafd Party came to speak with a Sadatist slant to the "right" of the ruling NDP.

The Islamic movement was fragmented into a multitude of autonomous factions that shared the common goal of an Islamic state but differed in social origin and in tactics. Those that were willing to work through the system were allowed to organize and nominate candidates in parliamentary elections. But no Islamic party, as such, was permitted, and major sections of the movement remained in intense, often violent conflict with the regime. Thus, the movement was only partially integrated into the party system.

The mainstream of the movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, was a coalition led by ulama, merchants, and lower-middle-class student activists commanding a following in the traditional urban quarters. It was founded as a radical movement in the 1930s by Hasan al Banna, was repressed under Nasser, and reemerged in more moderate form under Sadat. Umar Tilmasani, its main leader in the Sadat era, was associated with the infitah and its leader thereafter, Muhammad Hamid Abu an Nasr, was from a wealthy provincial family. The Brotherhood was split along generational lines among factions loyal to its various previous leaders. These factions included the more radical elements loyal to the founder, the conservative Tilmasani faction, and the parliamentary caucus in the late 1980s led by Mahmud al Hudaibi, son of the second Supreme Guide, or party leader. On the Brotherhood's right were wealthy conservatives who justified capitalism in the language of religion. The more activist Jamaat al Islamiyah (Islamic Associations), an amorphous movement of many small groups, were drawn from a cross-section of the student population, while the most radical Islamic groups, such as At Takfir wal Hijra (Atonement and Alienation) and Al Jihad (Holy War), were made up of educated, lower-middle-class elements and recent urban emigrants from the village. Various populist preachers in the traditional urban neighborhoods enjoyed broad personal followings. Whereas the movement was weak among industrial workers and peasants, it was strongly attractive to more "marginal" elements such as educated, unemployed, rural migrants and the traditional mass of small merchants and artisans. All the Islamic groups shared a rejection of both Marxism and Westernization in the name of an Islamic third way that accepted private property and profit but sought to contain their inegalitarian consequences by a moral code and a welfare state. The main ideological difference between the Islamic groups centered on the means for reaching an Islamic order; whereas moderate groups advocated peaceful proselytization, detente with the regime, and work through established institutions, radical groups pursued a more activist challenge to the secular order, and some advocated its violent overthrow.

Egypt - Elections

The pluralization of the party system was accompanied by a parallel but limited opening up of the electoral system. Parliamentary elections continued to be held even after the 1952 establishment of an authoritarian system, although they were never truly competitive and played almost no role in recruitment of the top elite, which was selected from above. The elections were not meaningless, however. They were a mechanism by which the regime coopted into parliament politically acceptable local notables, and they served as a safety valve for managing the pressures for participation.

During the period of single-party elections (1957-72), government controls were tight, and candidates were screened for political loyalty by the leading Free Officers who dominated the party. Some choice was permitted among candidates, who normally were authentic local notables, and the personal prestige and resources of rival candidates often decided the outcome. In the 1960s, a dual-member constituency system was introduced, in which one of two seats was reserved for a worker or peasant. As mentioned earlier, this system was a largely unsuccessful attempt to draw the lower classes into the electoral process.

Beginning in 1976, Sadat permitted competition among three proto-parties of the left, center, and right, a major step on the road to a more open political process; scores of independents were also allowed to run. The 1979 elections, in which antigovernment candidates running against the peace treaty with Israel encountered a wall of government harassment and fraud, represented a step backward from liberalization.

The 1984 and 1987 elections under Mubarak, however, were the most open and competitive elections since 1952. There were more parties, because the New Wafd Party and the NPUP, excluded by Sadat, were readmitted, and the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to run individual candidates under the auspices of an allied secular party. Because campaigning was freer and more extensive than ever, it was also clearer to more people that party stands on issues were important in the elections. But, as if to counter this, the government's introduction of the 1984 Election Law meant to exclude smaller parties from parliament: no party that received less than 8 percent of the vote would receive seats, and its votes would be added to the party achieving a plurality. Moreover, the dual-member constituency system was replaced with large multimember districts in which party lists competed. This arrangement diluted the influence of local notables vis-à-vis the government but also reduced the regime's ability to coopt them, because many refused to run for election under these conditions. It also ended the guarantee of half of the seats for workers and peasants. The low turnout for elections indicated that many Egyptians were unconvinced that voting under these conditions made any difference to political outcomes; although officials announced a 47 percent 1987 turnout, the number of voters was actually closer to 25 percent.

Even under the relatively open multiparty elections, the government party continued to have the upper hand and never failed to win a large majority. The government party monopolized the broadcast media, and the government tried to restrict opposition attempts to reach the voters. The Ministry of Interior ran the elections, in which the ballot was not really secret; it mobilized local headmen on the side of government; and it sometimes resorted to outright stuffing of ballot boxes. Ruling-party "toughs" and police often intimidated opposition poll watchers and voters. The government benefited from the tendency of many voters to support the government candidate out of deference to authority, hope for advantage, or realization that the opposition would not be permitted a majority. Many workers and peasants, economically dependent on a government job or agricultural services, dared not antagonize the government.

Because the scope of opposition on issues was so narrow, the personal prestige and patronage resources of candidates played a major role in swaying votes, and the government party typically coopted its candidates from local notables with such resources. Patronage could range from the distribution of chickens at election time, to the promise of government jobs or the delivery of roads and utilities to a village, to the refurbishing of the local mosque. Voters were also influenced by the prestige of wealth and profession, the well-known family name that could forge intricate patterns of family alliances, and the national-level stature that made one a local "favorite son." Only as the electoral process was pluralized did ideologies and issues come to play a role, but this role remained limited; many voters either lacked political consciousness or were unconvinced of the efficacy of issue voting in an authoritarian regime. Urban middle- and working-class voters were most likely to vote on an issue basis, but in the rural areas most people cast their votes for the notables for whom they worked or for those who had the government connections best able to do them favors. Thus, the government could offset the votes of the more politically conscious with a mass of rural votes delivered on a clientage basis.

The outcomes of the four multiparty elections reflected a certain changing balance of power between government and the opposition and among the competing opposition forces. In the first multiparty elections of 1976, the government center faction won 280 of 350 seats; the right (soon-to-be Liberal Party) 12; and the left (soon-to-be NPUP), 4. In addition, there were forty-eight independents, some of whom emerged as leading opposition figures. In 1979 Sadat, having repressed the NPUP and the just-formed New Wafd Party, allowed only one supposedly loyal opposition party, the Socialist Labor Party, to compete, and the government party (the NDP) won all but thirty seats. In the 1984 elections, the New Wafd Party and the Muslim Brotherhood formed a joint ticket. The NDP got 73 percent of the vote and took 390 of 448 seats whereas, the New Wafd Party-Brotherhood alliance captured 58 seats with 15 percent of the vote and emerged as the main opposition force. The smaller parties were excluded from parliament by the 8 percent rule. In 1987 the New Wafd Party ran alone, while the small Liberal and Socialist Labor parties joined with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Islamic Alliance. The New Wafd Party won thirty-five seats and the Islamic Alliance, sixty. Thus, under Mubarak the government majority remained unchallengeable, but it had declined, and the New Wafd Party and the Islamic movement had emerged as a significant opposition presence in parliament. However, the exclusion of the NPUP from parliament, principally through the 1984 Election Law, marginalized Egypt's only unambiguously populist voice, the one force that was free of wealthy patrons or powerful economic interests and that set forth an alternative noncapitalist economic program. Parliament remained almost exclusively a preserve of the bourgeoisie. The 1987 elections marked not only the growing influence of Islam and the decline of the secular left, but also the rise of a new Islamic-secular cleavage cutting across class- based rifts and putting the regime, the NPUP, and the New Wafd Party on the same side. This cross-cutting tended to mute political conflict to the advantage of the regime.

Despite their seeming inability to win power, the opposition parties had a real function as "parties of pressure" in the dominant party system. They articulated the interests and values of sectors of the population ignored by the dominant party. They helped frame the terms of public debate by raising issues that would otherwise have remained off the public agenda. For opposition activists, participation offered the chance to espouse ideas, to shape public opinion, and occasionally even to influence policy because if they threatened to capture enough support, they might force the government to alter its course. The Liberal Party helped advance economic liberalization under Sadat, while the NPUP was a brake on the reversal of populist policies. The Islamists won Islamization concessions from the secular regime, whereas the New Wafd Party helped make partial political liberalization irreversible.

A party of pressure might also act as an interest group advocating particular interests in elite circles or promoting the fortunes of aspirant politicians hoping for cooptation. Mubarak's more consensual style of rule and regular consultation with opposition leaders marginally advanced their ability to influence government policy. For example, in early 1990 Mubarak bowed to an opposition campaign and removed the unpopular minister of interior, Zaki Badr. A tacit understanding existed between government and opposition: the latter knew if it went too far in challenging the regime, it invited repression, whereas the former knew if it were too unresponsive or tightened controls too much, it risked antisystem mobilization.

The primary consequence of the system in the short run was the stabilization of the regime. The divisions in the opposition allowed the regime to play them against each other. Secularists were pitted against Islamists, left against right. The opposition parties channeled much political activity that might otherwise have taken a covert, even violent, antiregime direction into more tame, manageable forms. Opposition elites, in working through the system, brought their followings into it; a sign of the regime's success was the incorporation of the three political formations that had been most independent under Sadat--the New Wafd Party, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the NPUP--into the system under Mubarak.

In the longer run, the party experiment was deepening the pluralization of the political arena. That the pluralization begun under Sadat was real was clear from the persistence of all the parties then founded. They proved to be more than personalistic or official factions and either revived some political tradition or were rooted in an underlying social cleavage or dissent on a major issue. The rough correspondence between the ideologies of the parties and their social bases indicated a "blocking out" of the political arena, moving Egyptian politics beyond a mere competition of patrons and shillas without social roots. This pluralization had, however, only begun to seep down to the level of the mass public, much of which remained politically apathetic or attached to traditional client networks. The dominant party system had adapted sufficiently to the level of pluralization in the 1980s to impart a crucial element of stability to the regime.

Egypt - The Rise of Political Islam and Repression

The social base of the state under Sadat and Mubarak was undoubtedly narrower than it had been under Nasser. In some ways, it was more solid. It rested on the hard-core support of the most strategic social force, the bourgeoisie, which had a major stake in its survival, and it at least partially incorporated elements of the opposition through the party/interest group structure created under limited liberalization. Yet, although the parties articulated interests, they did not, as in strong party systems, incorporate a large mobilized public or the interests of the masses into the making of public policies. There was still an institutional gap between public wishes and policy outcomes; decisions, still made in limited elite circles, therefore enjoyed too little societal support. Moreover, the regime still lacked the ideological legitimacy to win the loyalty of the masses. By the middle of the 1980s, as economic expansion gave way to austerity, the challenge of mass control became ever more burdensome. The limits of the regime's capacity to incorporate dissident factions left the door open to the rise of a counterelite in the form of the Islamic movement, and the regime had to continue to rely on coercion and repression to stave off dissent and rebellion.

The development of the Islamic movement in the 1980s was the most significant change in the political arena and one with the potential to transform the system. Sadat originally unleashed the movement against his leftist opponents, but as Westernization and the infitah advanced, the Islamic movement became a vehicle of opposition, sometimes violent, to his regime. He attempted to curb it, but under Mubarak it took on new dimensions. The more violent messianic groups, such as Al Jihad, were the targets of continual repression and containment, apparently only partly successful. Their destabilizing potential was indicated by their role in the assassination of Sadat, a major rebellion they mounted in Asyut at that time, a 1986 wave of attacks on video shops and Westernized boutiques, and assassination attempts against high officials. The regime responded by arresting thousands of these radical activists. Another Islamic group, the Jamaat al Islamiyah, recovered the control of the student unions Sadat tried to break. In the mid-1980s, they won twice the number of votes of the NDP in student union elections, and the secular opposition was squeezed out. The left made inroads in their dominance toward the end of the decade, however. Radical groups belonging to Jamaat al Islamiyah tried to impose a puritanical, sometimes anti-Coptic, Islamic regime on the campuses and in the towns of Upper Egypt, where local government sometimes bowed to their demands. More moderate groups in Jamaat al Islamiyah could turn out large disciplined crowds for public prayer, the nearest thing to a mass demonstration that the regime reluctantly permitted. A major contest was waged over Egypt's 40,000 mosques; the government sought to appoint imams but had too few reliable candidates, while the movement sought to wrest control of these major potential centers of Islamic propaganda.

The influence of Islamic groups in poor urban neighborhoods seemed to grow in the 1980s. In 1985 when parliament rejected immediate application of the sharia, Islamic agitation led by Shaykh Hafiz Salama swept Cairo, and in the late 1980s bitter clashes occurred in Ayn Shams between a kind of Islamic "shadow government" there and the security forces. Although Islamic militants were certainly a minority and were even resented by a good portion of the public, their activism in a largely passive political arena gave them great power. The government tried to drive a wedge between the more militant youth groups and the Islamic mainstream; thus, in 1989 Shaykh Muhammad Mutwalli Sharawi, a prestigious and popular preacher, was brought to denounce the use of violence in the name of Islam.

The Islamic mainstream, possessed of increasing cohesion, organization, and mobilizational capability, rapidly took advantage of the legitimate channels of activity opened by the regime under Mubarak. The mainstream Muslim Brotherhood and its conservative cousins were incorporated into parliament; they infiltrated the parties, the judiciary, and the press; and they generally put secular forces on the defensive. The more the secular opposition proved impotent to wrest a share of power from the regime, the more dissidents seemed to turn to political Islam as the only viable alternative. A dramatic indicator of this was the substantial representation Islamists won in the professional syndicates, especially the doctors' union, traditionally bastions of the liberal, upper-middle class; only the lawyers' and journalists' unions resisted their sway. Victories indicative of Islamic influence included the reversal of Sadat's law of personal status that gave women some modest rights, a decision by certain state companies to cease hiring women so they could take their "proper place in the home," and a constitutional amendment making sharia the sole basis of legislation. Islamic sentiment and practices were widespread in the 1980s. Filling the vacuum left by the withering of state populism, the Islamic movement constructed an alternative social infrastructure--mosques, clinics, cooperatives--to bring the masses under Islamic leadership.

The movement was backed by the power of Islamic banking and investment houses, an enigmatic development that possibly was filling the gap left by the decline of the state economy. Claiming to represent an alternative economic way, these Islamic banks initially seemed better positioned than government or foreign banks to mobilize the savings of ordinary people. Yet, while the Islamic movement grew up in opposition to Westernization and the infitah, these institutions were linked to entrepreneurs enriched in the oil states who made huge profits on the same international connections and through many of the same speculative financial, black-market, and tertiary enterprises infitah had encouraged. As scandals shook public confidence in them, the government moved to curb their autonomy. But their tentacles reached into the political system. They were major contributors to the ruling NDP and had forged alliances with the New Wafd Party and the Islamic Alliance as well. It was unclear by 1990 whether the effect of Islamic banking institutions would be to incorporate ordinary Egyptians into a more indigenous, broader-based capitalism adjusted to the infitah regime, to provide the economic basis for an alternative socio-political order, or to prove a mere flash in the pan. The regime's mix of hostility and wary tolerance toward them suggested it was not sure itself.

The Islamic movement thus emerged as a powerful cross-class political alliance, a potential counterestablishment. As its economic and political power grew, however, there were signs that its antiregime populism was being overshadowed by the emergence of a bourgeois leadership preaching conservative values: class deference, respect for elders, female submission, the right to a fair profit, and the superiority of the private sector. To the extent that its program thus became indistinguishable, except in symbolism, from regime policies, a gap threatened to separate this leadership from its plebeian following, splitting or enervating the movement. If the bourgeois leadership prevailed, the outcome was likely to be a gradual cooptation of the Islamic movement and Islamization of the regime rather than Islamic revolution.

To the extent control mechanisms proved inadequate, a role remained for coercion and repression in the political system. Under Nasser coercive controls were very tight although largely directed at the upper class and limited numbers of middle-class opposition activists. Sadat initially relaxed controls, particularly over the bourgeoisie, but when opposition became too insistent, he did not hesitate to repress it. His massive 1981 purge showed how quickly the regime could change from conciliation to repression. Under the more tolerant Mubarak regime, political freedoms were still unequally enjoyed. Dissent within regime institutions was tolerated, but when it crossed the line into mass action--such as Islamic street demonstrations for implementation of sharia and anti-Israeli protests--it was regularly repressed. Strikes were also regularly smashed with the use of force. The regime continued to round up leftist and Islamic dissidents, charging them with belonging to illegal organizations or spreading antigovernment propaganda, apparently part of a strategy to keep dissent within manageable bounds. Indeed, the regime went so far as to arrest whole families of political dissidents and to hold them as virtual hostages in order to pressure suspects to surrender.

The security apparatus, more massive than ever, contained the main episodes of violent challenge to the regime--notably the food riots and localized Islamic uprisings at Sadat's death. The Ministry of Interior presided over several coercive arms including the General Directorate for State Security Investigations (GDSSI), the domestic security organization, and the gendarmerie-like Central Security Forces; behind the police stood the army itself. But there were signs that these forces were neither totally reliable nor effective. In the 1977 riots, the army reputedly refused to intervene unless the government rescinded the price rises, and scattered Nasserite and Islamic dissidence in the military continued in the 1980s. There were rivalries between the army and the Ministry of Interior, and disagreements inside the latter over whether dialogue or the iron fist could best deal with opposition. In 1986 the CSF itself revolted. Although the rebellion had no political program and was mainly sparked by worsening treatment of the lower ranks, it signaled that the use of conscripts from the poorest sectors of society to contain radical opposition to a bourgeois regime was ever more risky. Yet the regime continued thereafter to use the CSF against students, strikers, and Islamic militants. Finally, the assassination of Sadat after his crackdown on the opposition showed that coercion could run two ways; according to its perpetrators, their purpose was "to warn all who come after him and teach them a lesson."


The Determinants of Foreign Policy

Geopolitics inevitably shaped Egypt's foreign policy. Egypt occupies a strategic position as a landbridge between two continents and a link between two principal waterways, the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. It must therefore be strong enough to dominate its environment or risk becoming the victim of outside powers. Its security is also linked to control of the Nile, on whose waters its survival depends. It has, therefore, had historical ties with Sudan and has sought satisfactory relations with the states on Sudan's southern borders, Uganda and Zaire. The landbridge to Asia, route of potential conquerors, had also to be secured, and Egyptian rulers traditionally tried to project their power into Syria and Arabia, often in contest with other powers in Anatolia (present-day Turkey), or the Euphrates River valley (present-day Iraq). In contemporary times, Israel, backed by a superpower, located on Egypt's border, and blocking its access to the East, was perceived as the greatest threat to Egyptian security.

Egypt was also politically strategic. As Nasser saw it, with considerable justice, Egypt was potentially at the center of three "circles," the African, the Arab, and the Islamic. Egypt viewed itself as playing a major role in Africa and, beyond that, was long a leading mover in the wider Third World camp and a major advocate of neutralism and nonalignment. This geopolitical importance made the country the object of interest to the great powers, and when Egypt was strong enough, as under Nasser, allowed it to play the great powers against each other and win political support and economic and military aid from all sides. Even the weakened Egypt of Mubarak was able to parlay its strategic importance in the ArabIsraeli conflict and as a bulwark against Islamic political activism into political support and economic aid from both the West and the Arab world.

A second constant that shaped Egypt's foreign policy was its Arab-Islamic character. To be sure, Egypt had a long pre-Islamic heritage that gave it a distinct identity, and in periods such as the British occupation it developed apart from the Arab world. Egypt's national identity was never merged in an undifferentiated Arabism; Egyptians were shaped by their own distinct geography, history, dialect, and customs. But the content of Egyptian identity was indisputably Arab-Islamic. Egypt was inextricably a part of the Arab world. It was the largest Arabic-speaking country and the intellectual and political center to which the whole Arab world looked in modern times. It was also a center of Islamic civilization, its Al Azhar University one of Islam's major religious institutions and its popular culture profoundly Islamic. Although a portion of the most Westernized upper class at times saw Egypt as Mediterranean or pharaonic, for the overwhelming majority, Egypt's identity was Arab-Islamic. Indeed, Egypt saw itself as the leader of the Arab world, entitled to preeminence in proportion to the heavy burdens it bore in defense of the Arab cause. This Arab-Islamic identity was a great asset for Egyptian leaders. To the extent that Egyptian leadership was acknowledged in the Arab world, this prestige bolstered the stature of the ruler at home, entitled Egypt to a portion of Arab oil wealth, and gave credence to Egypt's ability to define a common Arab policy, hence increasing the country's strategic weight in world affairs. This leadership position also meant that Egypt was a natural part of the inter-Arab power balance, typically embroiled in the rivalries that split the Arab world and a part of the solidarities that united it. In the 1950s, modernizing, nationalist Egypt's rivals were traditional pro-Western Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and its main ally was Syria. In the 1970s, an alliance of Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia led the Arab world in its search for peace with honor; when Sadat made a separate peace, Syria became Egypt's main rival. The country's Arab-Islamic identity also put certain constraints on foreign-policy decision makers: to violate it risked the legitimacy of the whole regime.

Finally, Egypt's foreign policy was pulled in contrary directions by the ideals of anti-imperialist nonalignment and the webs of dependency in which the country was increasingly enmeshed. Egypt's long history of subordination to foreign rulers, especially European imperialism, produced an inferiority complex, an intense anti-imperialism, a quest for dignity, and, particularly under Nasser, a powerful national pride among Egyptians. Egypt's national ideal was to be independent of both East and West, to be a strong prosperous state, to stand up to Israel, and to lead the Arab world. Yet, as a poverty-stricken developing country and a new state actor in the international power game, Egypt could not do without large amounts of economic aid and military assistance from the advanced economies and the great powers. Such dependency, of course, carried heavy costs and threats to national independence. The problem of dependency could be minimized by diversifying aid sources, and Nasser initially pursued a policy of balance between East and West, which won aid from both sides and minimized dependence on any one.

United States support for Israel after the June 1967 War made Egypt ever more dependent on the Soviet Union for military aid and protection, but this dependence was, in part, balanced by increasing financial aid from the conservative Arab oil states. By the late 1970s, Sadat, in choosing to rely on American diplomacy to recover Egyptian land from Israel and in allowing his ties to the Soviet Union and the Arab world to wither, had led Egypt into heavy economic and military dependency on the United States. This dependency, by precluding foreign-policy decisions displeasing to Israel and Washington, sharply limited Egypt's pursuit of a vigorous Arab and independent foreign policy. The basic dilemma of Egypt's foreign policy was that its dependence on foreign assistance conflicted with its aspiration for national independence and its concept of its role as an Arab-Islamic and traditionally nonaligned entity.

<>Foreign Policy Decision Making
<>The Development of Foreign Policy

Egypt - Foreign Policy Decision Making

The great risks and opportunities inherent in Egypt's foreign relations made it inevitable that foreign policy dominated the leader's political agenda. Performance on foreign policy could make or break the leadership. Nasser's charisma was rooted above all in his nationalist victories over "imperialism," and the decline of Nasserism was a direct function of Egypt's 1967 defeat by Israel; similarly, Sadat's achievements in the October 1973 War gave him legitimacy, whereas his separate peace with Israel destroyed it.

It was not surprising, therefore, that foreign policy was virtually a "reserved sphere" of the presidency. Nasser concentrated and personalized foreign policy decision making in his own hands, taking alone such crucial decisions as the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Sadat asserted a similar prerogative; a major issue in the power struggle with left-wing Free Officers after Nasser's death was Sadat's insistence on his right to make independent foreign policy decisions, such as his offer to open the Suez Canal in return for a partial Israeli withdrawal from its banks and his decision to join the Federation of Arab Republics with Libya and Syria. Once he consolidated his power, Sadat continued the tradition of presidential decision making in foreign policy, making many decisions in defiance of elite opinion and in disregard of professional military and diplomatic advice. In crucial negotiations over Sinai I and Sinai II, the disengagement agreements with Israel after the October 1973 War, he excluded his top advisers from key sessions with United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger and overrode their objections to many details of these agreements. He made his momentous decision to go to Jerusalem without even bothering to create an elite consensus behind him. As a result, both the minister of foreign affairs and his deputy resigned. Sadat allowed his top generals little say at Camp David. His unilateral concessions so often undermined the hand of his diplomats in the negotiations over the peace treaty with Israel that they sought to keep the Israelis away from him. Mubarak inherited the tradition of presidential dominance in foreign policy, but he seemed to make his decisions in closer consultation with his advisers, such as Usamah al Baz, Butrus Butrus Ghali, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ismat Abdul Majid.

Despite presidential dominance, the Egyptian foreign policy bureaucracy was the most sophisticated and influential in the Arab world. Under the minister of foreign affairs was a minister of state for foreign affairs, a position long held by Butrus Ghali. Under them were a first undersecretary and a series of other undersecretaries in charge of geographical areas (America, Africa, Asia, Europe) and functional departments (economic affairs, cultural affairs, and the like). Al Ahram's Center for Political and Strategic Studies acted as a think tank in support of decision makers. Career diplomats were recruited chiefly through competitive examinations and trained at the Egyptian Diplomatic Institute. In 1982 Egypt had diplomatic relations with 95 foreign countries and had more than 1,000 diplomatic service officers.

Egypt - The Development of Foreign Policy

Despite certain constants, Egyptian foreign policy underwent substantial evolution shaped by the differing values and perceptions of the country's presidents and the changing constraints and opportunities of its environment. Under Nasser the core of the regime's ideology and the very basis of its legitimacy was radical nationalism. Nasser sought to end the legacy of Egypt's long political subordination to Western imperialism, to restore its Arab-Islamic identity diluted by a century of Westernization, and to launch independent national economic development. He also aimed to replace Western domination of the Arab states with Egyptian leadership of a nonaligned Arab world and thus to forestall security threats and to enhance Egypt's stature as head of a concert of kindred states.

Nasser's foreign policy seemed, until 1967, a qualified success. He adeptly exploited changes in the international balance of power, namely the local weakening of Western imperialism, the Soviet challenge to Western dominance, and the national awakening of the Arab peoples, to win a series of significant nationalist victories. The long-sought British withdrawal from Egypt, the defeat of the security pacts by which the West sought to harness the Arabs against the Soviet Union, the successful nationalization of the Suez Canal, and the failure of the 1956 French-British- Israeli invasion put Egypt at the head of an aroused Arab nationalist movement and resulted in a substantial retreat of Western control from the Middle East. This policy also won political and economic benefits internally. The Arab adulation of Nasser was a major component of the regime's legitimacy. It was as leader of the Arab world that Egypt won substantial foreign assistance from both East and West.

Nasser's success was, of course, only relative to the failure of previous Arab leaders, and his policies had mounting costs. The other Arab regimes were unwilling to accept Egyptian hegemony and, although largely on the defensive, worked to thwart Nasser's effort to impose a foreign policy consensus on the Arab world. The effort to project Egyptian influence drained the country's resources; Egyptian intervention in support of the republican revolution (1962-70) in the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) was particularly costly. Generally, Nasser's Egypt failed to become the Prussia of the Arab world, but it played the decisive role in the emergence of an Arab state system independent of overt foreign control.

Pan-Arab leadership, however, carried heavy responsibilities, including above all the defense of the Arab world and the championing of the Arab and Palestinian cause against Israel. These responsibilities, which entailed grave economic burdens and security risks, eventually led Nasser into the disastrous June 1967 War with Israel. Nasser did not seek a war, but he allowed circumstances to bring on one that caught him unprepared. Nasser's challenge to Western interests in the region had earned him accumulated resentment in the West where, many perceived him as a Soviet client who should be brought down. At the same time, a rising Syrian-Palestinian challenge to Israel was peaking, threatening to provoke an Israeli attack on Syria. Despite an unfavorable military balance, Nasser, as leader of the Arab world, was obliged to deter Israel by mobilizing on its southern front. This opened the door to an Israeli "first strike" against Egypt. The rapid collapse of the Egyptian army in the war showed how far Nasser's foreign policy ambitions had exceeded his capabilities. Israel occupied Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The same nationalist foreign policy by which Nasser had ended the Western domination of Egypt had led him into a trap that entrenched a new foreign presence on Egyptian soil.

Nasser's response to the crisis was two-fold. In accepting the plan of United States secretary of state William P. Rogers, he signaled Egypt's readiness for a peaceful settlement of the Arab- Israeli conflict. This meant the acceptance of Israel and acknowledged the role of the United States as a dominant power broker in the Middle East. Convinced that diplomacy alone, however, would never recover Sinai and skeptical of American intentions, he launched a major overhaul and expansion of the armed forces and in the War of Attrition (1969-70) contested Israel's hold on the Sinai Peninsula. But the shattering of Egyptian self-confidence in the 1967 defeat, the growing belief that the Soviet Union would not supply the offensive weapons for a military recovery of Sinai, and the conviction that the United States would keep Israel strong enough to repulse any such recovery, combined to convince a growing portion of the Egyptian political elite that the United States "held the cards" to a solution and that Cairo would have to come to terms with Washington.

Sadat came to power ready for a diplomatic opening to the West, a political solution to the crisis and a compromise settlement, even if it were a partial one. He sought a United States-sponsored peace, believing that only those who provided the Israelis with the means of occupation had the means to end it. The expulsion of the Soviet advisers from Egypt in 1972 was in part an effort to court American favor. He also struck a close alliance with the conservative Arab oil states, headed by Saudi Arabia, whose influence in Washington, money, and potential to use the "oil weapon" were crucial elements in building Egyptian leverage with Israel. Once it was clear that Egypt's interests would be ignored until Egyptians showed they could fight and upset a status quo comfortable to Israel and the United States, Sadat turned seriously to war as an option. But rather than a war to recapture Sinai, he decided on a strictly limited one to establish a bridgehead on the east bank of the Suez Canal as a way of breaking the Israeli grip on the area and opening the way for negotiations. Such a limited war, Sadat calculated, would rally the Arab world around Egypt, bring the oil weapon into play, challenge Israel's reliance on security through territorial expansion, and, above all, pave the way for a United States diplomatic intervention that would force Israel to accept a peaceful settlement. The price of an American peace, however, would almost certainly be an end to Egypt's anti- imperialist Arab nationalist policy.

The October 1973 War did upset the status quo and ended with Egyptian forces in Sinai. But because Israeli forces had penetrated the west bank of the Suez Canal, Sadat badly needed and accepted a United States-sponsored disengagement of forces. Sinai I removed the Israelis from the west bank but, in defusing the war crisis, also reduced Arab leverage in bargaining for an overall Israeli withdrawal. In subsequently allowing his relations with the Soviet Union and Syria to deteriorate and hence decreasing the viability of war as an option, Sadat became so dependent on American diplomacy that he had little choice but to accept a second partial and separate agreement, Sinai II, in which Egypt recovered further territory but was allowed a mere token military force in Sinai. This so undermined Arab leverage that negotiations for a comprehensive peace stalled. A frustrated Sadat, hoping to win world support and weaken Israeli hard-liners, embarked on his trip to Jerusalem. Even if Israel refused concessions to Syria or the Palestinians, it might thereby be brought to relinquish Sinai in return for a separate peace that took Egypt out of the Arab-Israeli power balance.

At Camp David and in the subsequent negotiations over a peace treaty, Sadat found out just how much his new diplomatic currency would purchase: a return of Sinai and, at most, a relaxation of Israeli control over the West Bank ("autonomy"), but no Palestinian state. By 1979 Egypt was finally at peace. But because the separate peace removed any remaining incentive for Israel to settle on the other fronts, Egypt was ostracized from the Arab world, forfeiting its leadership and the aid to which this had entitled the country.

Simultaneously, as Sadat broke his links with the Soviet Union and the Arab states and needed the United States increasingly to mediate with the Israelis, to provide arms, and to fill the aid gap, Sadat moved Egypt into an ever closer American alliance. Particularly after the fall of the shah of Iran, he openly seemed to assume the role of guardian of American interests in the area. Joint military maneuvers were held, facilities granted to United States forces, and Egyptian troops deployed to prop up conservative regimes, such as that of Zaire. Sadat seemingly reasoned that Washington's support for Israel derived from its role in protecting American interests in the area, and if he could arrogate that role to himself, then Egypt would be eligible for the same aid and support and the importance of Israel to Washington would decline. The Egypt that had led the fight to expel Western influence from the Arab world now welcomed it back. Mubarak's main foreign policy challenge was to resolve the contradiction between the standards of nationalist legitimacy established under Nasser and the combination of close United States and Israeli connections and isolation from the Arab world brought on by Sadat's policies. It took Mubarak nearly a decade to make any significant progress, however, because Sadat's legacy proved quite durable. The regime's dependence on the United States was irreversible: for arms, for cheap food to maintain social peace, and--especially as oil-linked earnings plummeted--for US$2 billion in yearly aid to keep the economy afloat. Dependency dictated continuing close political and military alignment largely aimed at radical nationalist forces in the Arab world--not at Israel, Egypt's traditional enemy since 1948. Mubarak had to maintain the Israeli connection despite the lack of progress toward a comprehensive peace or recognition of Palestinian rights. He remained passive during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, a major blow to the Arab world made possible largely by Israel's no longer needing to station substantial forces along the southern front as a result of the Camp David Accords. This invasion and the Israeli raids on Iraq in 1981 and on Tunis in 1986 showed how Sadat had opened the Arab world to Israeli power as never before.

Mubarak did recover some foreign policy independence. He rejected pressures from the United States government in late 1985 and early 1986 for joint action against Libya, and he restored Cairo's diplomatic relations with Moscow. Moreover, he had some leverage over the United States: Washington had invested so much in Egypt and gained so much from Sadat's policies--defusing the threat of an Arab-Israeli war, rolling back the influence of the Soviet Union and radicals in the Arab world--that it could not afford to alienate the regime or to let it go under.

The continuing Israeli-American connection deepened Egypt's crisis of nationalist legitimacy, however. Israel was widely seen in Egypt as having "betrayed" the peace by its rejection of Palestinian rights; its attempt to keep the Sinai enclave of Taba; and its attacks on Iraq, Lebanon, and Tunis. Evidence of the Egyptians' deep resentment of Israeli policy was demonstrated by the way they made a folk hero of Sulayman Khatir, a policeman who killed Israeli tourists in 1985. Egyptians also resented economic dependency on the United States, and the United States' forcing down of an Egyptian aircraft after the Achille Lauro incident in October 1985 was taken as a national insult and set off the first nationalist street disturbances in years. This sentiment did not become a mass movement able to force a policy change despite demands by opposition leaders and isolated attacks on Israeli and American officials by disgruntled "Nasserist" officers. But few governments anywhere have been saddled with so unpopular a foreign policy.

What saved the regime was that Mubarak's astute diplomacy and the mistakes of his rivals allowed him to achieve a gradual re- integration of Egypt into the Arab world without prejudice to Egypt's Israeli links. The first break in Egypt's isolation came when Yasir Arafat's 1983 quarrel with Syria enabled Egypt to extend him protection and assume patronage of the Palestinian resistance. Then the Arab oil states, fearful of Iran and of the spread of Shia Islamic activism, looked to Egypt for a counterbalance. Thus, Mubarak was able to demonstrate Egypt's usefulness to the Arabs and to inch out of his isolation. Egypt's 1989 readmission to the League of Arab States (Arab League) crowned his efforts.

Mubarak's Egypt viewed its role in the Arab world as that of a mediator, particularly in trying to advance the peace process between Israel and the Arabs. Thus, the regime invested its prestige in the 1989 attempt to bridge differences between Israel and the Palestinians over West Bank elections. By 1990 these efforts had not resolved the stalemate over Palestinian rights, but the restoration of ties between Egypt and Syria amounted to a Syrian acknowledgment that Egypt's peace with Israel was irreversible. Thus, Egypt's rehabilitation as a major power in the Arab world was completed, undoing a good bit of the damage done to regime legitimacy under Sadat.

After Egypt had established its alliance with the United States, the formerly significant roles of non-Arab powers in Egyptian foreign policy waned. Relations with Western Europe remained important, if secondary. With some success, Egypt regularly sought the intervention of West European governments with its international creditors. When the United States commitment to pushing the peace process beyond Camp David stalled, Egypt also looked to Europe to pressure Israel, but the Europeans were, in this respect, no substitute for Washington.

The role of the Soviet Union dwindled even more dramatically. Under Nasser, Moscow was Cairo's main military supplier and political protector and a main market and source of development assistance; Soviet aid helped build such important projects as the Aswan High Dam and the country's steel industry. Without Soviet arms Egypt would have been helpless to mount the October 1973 War that broke the Israeli grip on Sinai. But Sadat's 1972 expulsion of Soviet advisers and his subsequent reliance on the United States to recover the rest of Sinai soured relations with the Soviet Union. Wanting American diplomatic help and economic largesse, Sadat had to portray Egypt to United States interests as a bulwark against Soviet threats; under these conditions Soviet relations naturally turned hostile and were broken in 1980. Under Mubarak amicable--but still low-key--relations were reestablished. Mubarak sought better Soviet relations to enhance his leverage over the United States, but Moscow was in no position to offer a credible threat to American influence.

In 1990 Mubarak governed a state that was the product of both persistence and change. Continuity was manifest in the durability of the structures built by Nasser. The authoritarian presidency remained the command post of the state. Nasserist policies--from Arab nationalism to the food subsidies and the public sector-- created durable interests and standards of legitimacy. Under Sadat Egypt had accommodated itself to the dominant forces in the regime's environment; in Sadat's "postpopulist" regime, charisma, social reform, and leadership of the Arab world achieved by Nasser gave way to their opposites. Sadat had also adapted the state to new conditions, altering the goals and style of presidential power and liberalizing the political structure. The survival of most of Sadat's work under Mubarak suggested that, more successfully than Nasser, he had partially institutionalized it in a massive political structure, an alliance with the dominant social forces, and a web of constraints against significant change. Under Mubarak the state's ability to manipulate its environment retreated before rising societal forces and powerful external constraints. But Mubarak also consolidated the limited liberalization of the political system and restored an Arab role for Egypt. Although it cost the concession of its initial ideology, the Egyptian state resulting from the Nasser-led 1952 Revolution had shown a remarkable capacity to survive in the face of intense pressures.

Yet Sadat's innovations, in stimulating rising autonomous forces while narrowing regime options, had set change in motion. Although the massive bureaucratic state was sure to persist, the capitalist forces unleashed by the infitah contained the seeds of countervailing power, the social basis for further political liberalization. The widening inequality and social mobilization precipitated by capitalist development threatened, however, to produce growing class conflicts. In a regime with precarious legitimacy, these conflicts could spell instability or revolution and could require continuing authoritarian control. Should rising economic constraints force the government to abandon the residues of populism, such a regime might have an ever more repressive face. If this increasing repression were accompanied by accommodation between the regime and political Islam, the end might be conservative rule by consensus; otherwise, a crumbling of the secular state under pressures from the street and defections within could still produce a new Islamic order. At the beginning of the 1990s, however, the regime was continuing its established course, avoiding radical turns to left or right, and mixing doses of limited liberalization, limited repression, and limited Islamization.


It was not until the period of the New Kingdom (1552-664 B.C.) that standing military units were formed, including the appearance of chariotry and the organization of infantry into companies of about 250 men. Egyptian armies then became militarily involved in the Near East, contending for Syria and Palestine. By the later periods beginning in the seventh century B.C., foreign mercenaries formed the core of Egyptian military power. From the time Greek rule was established in 332 B.C. until 1952 A.D., the country was subject to foreign domination. Under the successive control of Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Turkish, French, and British forces, the Egyptians remained disdainful of the military. In 1951 a prominent Egyptian author described military service as "an object of ridicule, a laughingstock which is to be avoided whenever possible." He added that the military was "left for the poor and uneducated" and called it "a derisory profession commanding contempt rather than honor or pride."

Under Muhammad Ali, the Albanian soldier who governed Egypt during the first half of the nineteenth century, a conscripted Egyptian army pursued campaigns on behalf of the Ottoman sultan in the Arabian Peninsula, Sudan, and Greece. In a disagreement over the control of Syria, his army, consisting of more than 250,000 Egyptians, advanced nearly to Constantinople (formerly Byzantium; present-day Istarbal) before the European powers pressured him into withdrawing. After the deaths of Muhammad Ali and his son, Ibrahim, Egypt's military strength declined, and the country slipped increasingly under European control. In 1879 a nationalist revolt erupted over proposed restrictions to prevent Egyptians from entering the officer corps. Ahmad Urabi, an Egyptian colonel, led the countrywide uprising which was suppressed after British troops crushed the Egyptians in 1882.

The British began their era of domination in Egypt and assumed responsibility for defending the country and the Suez Canal, which were of particular interest to the British Empire. The British disbanded the Egyptian army, and recreated it by incorporating Egyptian units staffed by British officers into British commands. British regiments remained to defend the canal. To mobilize personnel for the Egyptian units, the British resorted to irregular conscription among the fellahin (peasants), who went to great lengths to avoid military service. Potential conscripts, however, could make a cash payment in lieu of service. This practice resulted in units that were staffed mostly by the poorest members of society. Egyptians who became officers were almost always from wealthy and distinguished families.

Egyptian nationalism intensified after World War I, and with certain reservations, Britain granted Egypt independence in 1922. Britain transferred command over the armed forces to Egyptians but retained a British inspector general at the top. The Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, however, eliminated this vestige of British control. Egypt then expanded the army, making enrollment in the Military Academy and a subsequent army career much more attainable and desirable for young middle-class Egyptians.

<>The Egyptian Military in World War II
<>First Arab-Israeli War
<>The 1956 War
<>The June 1967 War
<>War of Attrition and the October 1973 War

Egypt - The Egyptian Military in World War II

Before World War II, military service was compulsory for men between the ages of nineteen and twenty-seven, but because of the limited size of the army--about 23,000 in 1939--few were actually conscripted. During World War II, Egypt's army grew to about 100,000 troops. Britain maintained a strong influence in the military and provided it with equipment, instruction, and technicians. Under the terms of the 1936 treaty, British troops remained in the country to defend the Suez Canal. During the war, Egypt became the principal Allied base in the Middle East.

Egypt severed relations with the Axis powers soon after the outbreak of World War II but remained technically neutral until near the end of the war. The Italians first brought the war to Egypt in 1940 but were repelled by the British. In late 1941, the German Afrika Korps entered western Egypt and threatened the country and the canal. But the British Eighth Army defeated the German force at Al Alamayn in October 1942. Some Egyptians flew patrol duty in British planes with British pilots during the war, and Egypt inaugurated a naval service with a few patrol boats supplied by Britain. Egyptians were used primarily for guard duty and logistical tasks rather than for combat. Some Egyptian officers favored Germany as a way to end Britain's influence in the country. (The British had imprisoned Anwar as Sadat because of his pro-German activities.) Aware of such sentiments, the British command was reluctant to employ Egyptian units in combat even after King Faruk formally declared war against the Axis in February 1945.

Egypt - First Arab-Israeli War

During the First Arab-Israeli War (1948-49), an Egyptian invasion force of 7,000 men crossed the Palestinian border at Rafah on the Mediterranean coast and at Al Awja (Nizzana) farther inland. They soon reached Ashdod, less than thirty-five kilometers from Tel Aviv. But by the time the first truce ended in mid-July, the Israelis had reinforced their positions, beating off Egyptian attacks and recovering territory to protect Jewish settlements in the Negev. By the fall of 1948, the Israelis put Egypt's 18,000 troops deployed in Palestine on the defensive and penetrated the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt and Israel concluded an armistice under United Nations (UN) auspices at the end of 1948 and later agreed on a cease-fire line that generally followed the prewar boundary between Palestine and Sinai. But Egyptian forces still occupied and administered the narrow coastal strip of southwestern Palestine, the Gaza Strip.

The venality and ineffectiveness of the Faruk regime were the main causes of Egypt's failures in the war. Although inexperienced, Egypt's troops had performed well in defensive operations before being driven back by the Israelis.

A coup d'état in 1952 toppled Faruk's regime and brought to power younger officers of the Free Officers' movement. From then on, Egypt gave priority to the development of the military. In 1955 the government enacted the National Military Service Law, which aimed at reforming and upgrading the armed forces.

Egypt - The 1956 War

After President Gamal Abdul Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal in July 1956, the British, French, and Israelis began coordinating an invasion. On October 29, 1956, the Israelis struck across Sinai toward the canal and southward toward Sharm ash Shaykh to relieve the Egyptian blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba. At the crossroads of Abu Uwayqilah, thirty kilometers from the Israeli border, and at the Mitla Pass, Egyptian troops resisted fiercely, repelling several attacks by larger Israeli forces. British and French forces bombed Egyptian air bases, causing Nasser to withdraw Egyptian troops from Sinai to protect the canal. At the heavily fortified complex of Rafah in the northwestern corner of Sinai and at other points, the Egyptians carried out effective delaying actions before retreating. Egypt vigorously defended Sharm ash Shaykh in the extreme south until two advancing Israeli columns took control of the area. At Port Said (Bur Said), at the north end of the canal, Egyptian soldiers battled the initial British and French airborne assault, but resistance quickly collapsed when allied forces landed on the beach with support from heavy naval gunfire.

The performance of many of the Egyptian units was determined and resourceful in the face of the qualitative and numerical superiority of the invaders. Nasser claimed that Egypt had not been defeated by the Israelis but that it had been forced to abandon Sinai to defend the canal against the Anglo-French attacks. According to foreign military observers, about 1,650 of Egypt's ground forces were killed in the campaign. Another 4,900 were wounded, and more than 6,000 were captured or missing.

Respect for the armed forces grew in response to Nasser's rise to political preeminence in the Arab world, his widespread support among Egyptians, hostility toward Israel, and the broadened base of military service. But Egypt's army suffered a psychological setback in September 1962 when it intervened unsuccessfully in a civil war in what later became the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen). Nasser moved large numbers of Egyptian troops into the country after a group of Yemeni army officers staged a coup against the royalist regime. The number of Egyptian troops in the country rose from 20,000 in 1963 to 70,000 by 1965. The Egyptians, who were not well trained or equipped for battle in Yemen's rugged mountain terrain, failed to defeat the royalists. Some of Egypt's best troops were still stalemated in Yemen when Israel attacked Egypt in 1967.

Egypt - The June 1967 War

In the eleven years leading up to the June 1967 War (also seen as the Arab-Israeli War and the Six-Day War), the military had been intensively trained for combat and outfitted with new Soviet weapons and equipment. Despite these preparations, the war proved to be a debacle for Egypt. Although there had been many indications that an attack was imminent, the Israelis still took Egypt by surprise on June 5, when their aircraft approached from the Mediterranean at low altitudes to avoid detection by radar and attacked the Egyptian air force while it was still on the ground. Within three hours, the Israelis had destroyed 300 Egyptian cokmbat aircraft, including all of Egypt's 30 long-range bombers. Israel focused its ground attack on the heavily fortified Sinai road junction of Abu Uwayqilah as it had done in 1956. After a fierce battle, the Israelis overwhelmed Egyptian forces in fewer than twelve hours. The devastating air attacks and initial Israeli ground successes panicked Egyptian commander in chief Field Marshal Abdul Hakim Amir into withdrawing army units from Sinai to the west bank of the Suez Canal. Staff officers later persuaded Amir to rescind his order, but by that time all the main elements of the four frontline divisions had already begun retreating westward. At several points, rearguard actions delayed Israeli advances, but Israeli forces managed to block bottlenecks in the Giddi Pass and the Mitla Pass and at Bir al Jifjafah and prevented the escape of Egyptian troops and equipment. The Israeli air force bombed and strafed thousands of Egyptian tanks, guns, and vehicles caught in the bottleneck.

After four days of intensive fighting, Israel controlled the entire Sinai Peninsula up to the east bank of the canal. Egypt acknowledged that of approximately 100,000 troops in Sinai, 10,000 soldiers and 1,500 officers were casualties. Observers estimated that about half of the dead had succumbed to thirst or exhaustion in the desert. A further 5,000 soldiers and 500 officers were captured, many of whom were wounded. Israel also destroyed or captured about 700 of Egypt's 930 tanks. Popular support for the military subsided rapidly after the June 1967 War, and morale within the forces plunged to its lowest level since before the military takeover of 1952. Although individually and in some cases as units the Egyptians often performed bravely, the Israeli army again demonstrated the self-reliance of its unit leaders, its better training, and the superior use of its armor.

Egypt - War of Attrition and the October 1973 War

After conquering Sinai, the Israelis constructed the Bar-Lev Line, a series of thirty-three small, heavily fortified observation posts atop sand ramparts eight to ten meters high along the east bank of the Suez Canal. They built a second sand embankment several kilometers behind the first one. Both embankments had firing ramps for roving armored patrols. In January 1969, Egypt began the War of Attrition with an intensive eighty-day bombardment along the whole canal. Israeli positions along the Bar-Lev Line survived the attack but suffered heavy damage. Egypt followed the attack with commando raids on the line itself and against Israeli patrols and rear installations. Israel launched a severe reprisal that included bombing raids against military and strategic targets deep in the interior of Egypt. The relative ineffectiveness of Egypt's Soviet SA-2 high-altitude surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) against the Israeli raids necessitated the introduction of low-level SA-3 SAMs, manned mostly by Soviet technicians. Egypt reinforced the new missiles with more than 100 MiG-21 aircraft flown by Soviet pilots. Egypt's revitalized air defense system succeeded in destroying a considerable number of Israeli aircraft. Still, in the only major battle between Israeli and Soviet fighters, the Israeli air force quickly prevailed. In August 1970, a cease-fire negotiated by the United States with Soviet support ended the fighting between Israel and Egypt.

Sadat, who succeeded Nasser in September 1970, assumed the responsibility of managing the international and domestic pressures that were impelling Egypt and the Middle East toward another war. Although the Soviets had replaced the enormous amounts of arms and equipment lost during the June 1967 War, Sadat and other Egyptian military leaders had become wary of the Soviet military's increasing influence on national affairs. In mid-1972 Sadat dismissed most of the Soviet advisers as part of his preparations for recovering Sinai. In January 1973, Egypt began planning a topsecret project known as Operation Badr in conjunction with Syria.

Early in the afternoon of October 6, 1973, Egypt launched the operation with a massive artillery barrage against Israeli positions on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal. Water cannons mounted on pontoons sliced gaps in the high sandbank of the Bar-Lev Line, permitting armored vehicles to cross on assault craft. By midnight ten bridges and fifty ferries had carried 80,000 Egyptian troops across the waterway and one kilometer beyond the embankment. Almost all of the armor of the Egyptian Second Army and Third Army crossed the following day. By October 9, the Egyptian bridgeheads were seven to ten kilometers east of the canal. The Soviet-supplied antitank missiles and rockets repulsed the initial Israeli counterattacks. The newer Soviet SAMs protected Egyptian forces from Israeli air attacks, but as Egyptian troops advanced beyond the missile defenses, they were exposed to punishing air attacks.

On October 14, Egyptian armored columns took the offensive to try to seize the main routes leading to Tasa and the Giddi and Mitla passes. In the largest tank battle since World War II, the Egyptian attack failed when Israeli gunnery proved superior, and the Israelis' defensive positions gave them an added advantage. Mounting a strong counterattack, the Israelis thrust toward the canal and narrowly succeeded in crossing it just north of Great Bitter Lake. Egyptian forces on the east bank heavily contested Israel's weak link to the canal bridgehead, but by October 19, the Israelis succeeded in breaking out west of the canal. Stubborn Egyptian defenses prevented the loss of the cities of Ismailia (Al Ismailiyah) and Suez at the southern end of the canal until a UN cease-fire took effect on October 24, 1973. Before the cease-fire, however, the Israelis had isolated the Egyptian Third Army on the east bank of the canal.

Under a disengagement agreement reached on January 17, 1974, Israel withdrew its forces from west of the canal while Egyptian forces withdrew from the east bank to a depth of about eight kilometers. The agreement also provided for a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to occupy a north-south buffer strip about eight kilometers wide and allowed a limited number of Israeli troops to occupy a similar zone to the east of the UNEF.

Although Egypt's armed forces suffered severely in the October 1973 War, the losses were not nearly as heavy as they had been in 1967. Of the combined strength of 200,000 in Egypt's Second and Third armies, approximately 8,000 men were killed in combat. Egypt also lost more than 200 aircraft, 1,100 tanks, and large quantities of other weapons, vehicles, and equipment. Despite these losses, the effect of the war on the armed forces was as exhilarating as the defeat in 1967 had been debilitating. Although they had not recovered Sinai, their initial successes in securing the east bank of the canal had an important positive psychological impact on the armed forces. The war enabled Egypt to negotiate from strength rather than from the abject weakness of the post-1967 period. At the same time, Egypt had proved that it was capable of successful military planning and of inflicting painful losses on Israel.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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