GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Saudi-Iranian Rivalry: Egypt after the Revolution as an area of influence
Paper Proposal Text :
Seeking the position of the superpower in the Middle East has increased the competition among the main poles in the region to win individually this position. Saudi Arabia and Iran’s dispute for that regional power’s role take advantage of the effects of the Arab Spring’s Revolutions and the temporary withdrawal of some actors from being their competitors. Saudi Arabia and Iran aren’t only competing powers in the Middle East, but they have contradicting interests that make them similar to enemies. Egypt for both countries is a crucial ally in becoming the regional power especially after the decline of Egypt’s role in the region. However, Saudi Arabia for a long time granted support to the Mubarak regime, and the Iranian attempts to improve relations with Egypt under Mubarak have continued without any real success and with no real progress. Although some steps were taken by Iran, their influence was limited.
After the 25th January Revolution, Saudi Arabia not only lost its guarantees of having Egypt as an ally, but tensions between the two countries have been clearly on the rise for different reasons and the Revolution itself is on top of these reasons. And these tensions have been roughly ended after the result of presidential elections and President Morsi’s visit to the Kingdom. Iran, on the contrary, found in the Egyptian Revolution before the presidential elections the best environment to break the ice and start a new era of good relations with Egypt on the economic level with the aim to improve the political relations. Saudi Arabia and Iran in their competition have used the same tools to achieve their objectives; political, economic and cultural. For example, the economy has been one of these important tools that were used by both countries to put pressure on Egypt or open the door for good political relations. Saudi Arabia used the intensive economic relations with Egypt as a way of pressure to stop the Egyptian revolution’s domino effect on the Kingdom and the change in the world. On the other hand, Iran perceives the economy as the best way to enhance the political and diplomatic relations with Egypt and increase the power of Iran as a superpower in the Middle East by having Egypt as an ally.

Since the Egyptian Revolution wasn’t the only one in the Arab World, Saudi Arabia found many countries in the region in need for its support and grants and some of these countries are related directly to the national security of the Kingdom. In addition, the domestic challenges and demonstrations in some places in Saudi Arabia and the government's reactions of giving grants to the citizens to contain the protests and achieve the citizens' satisfaction decreased the Saudi's interest for some time in other regional or international matters. All these previous factors have affected the Saudi’ policies towards Egypt and the rivalry with Iran, so in analyzing the fluctuating policies of Saudi Arabia in using the various tools to put pressures on the Egyptian government, many informal aspects should be taken into consideration will be stated in the paper.
As for the Egyptian- Iranian economic relations, they were the only ties between the two countries under Mubarak, since there is no diplomatic relations between them since 1980. The evolution of these relations was measured by the increase in the number of Egypt-Iran Bank’ branches in Egypt, as commercial exchanges between them didn’t exceed 76 million dollars in 2009. After the 25th January Revolution, Iran has been among the first countries praising the Egyptian Revolution and expecting to have good relations with Egypt. Moreover, it perceives this new system in Egypt after the revolution as an opportunity to be exploited to enhance the political relations with Egypt, open new markets for Iranian goods to face the imposed economic sanctions on it, have a new and very crucial ally in the Middle East that can increase its power vis a vis other powers in the region.
The two countries Saudi Arabia and Iran strongly understand that having a dominant role in the Middle East is conditioned by good relations with Egypt especially, after the Revolution. Therefore, the paper will discuss these different tools the both countries use in their rivalry and the future of this Saudi-Iranian rivalry in Egypt.