Egypt has always found itself in the crosshairs of history, balancing precariously between its glorious past as the arbiter of all things Arab and its own increasingly unwieldy and imploding societal demands. It struggles to stay afloat, to find its way out of an impossible demographic dilemma and the contending forces of authoritarianism and the specter of militant Islam. As Fouad Ajami wrote more than twenty years ago “A fissure has opened, right in the heart of Egypt’s traditionally stoic and reliable middle class. A wing of this class has defected to theocratic politics. The rest are disaffected and demoralized. There is no resolution in sight for this dilemma.”
As a new administration devises its strategy towards the Middle East, the predicament of the Arabic speaking world’s largest country cannot be ignored. The essays assembled here take on the pivotal challenges facing Egypt – the future of Islamism in the land that gave the phenomenon its birth, the country’s attempt to balance the United States by pivoting towards Russia, the troubles of the American Egyptian relationship, the emerging Egyptian regional policy, and the country’s relationship with its neighbor to the east, Israel, with whom it has fought four wars and established a cold peace.
With a population of over 90 million and a legacy that continues to influence trends in the Arab world – for better or worse, it is a nation that demands the attention of those shaping American foreign policy. The analysis provided in this collection offers some compelling reasons as to why this is so.