News / Middle East

Would New Leader Change Egypt's Foreign Policy?

Elizabeth Arrott
CAIRO - The upcoming runoff presidential election in Egypt has raised fears of a radical shift in foreign policy, should Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsi win.  But, some see few changes on the immediate horizon.

A possible win by the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi has some wondering if Egypt could soon see a realignment of its foreign policy.

A spokesman for the Islamist candidate, Walid el Haddad, says a Morsi administration would strive to move beyond the U.S.-centered agenda of the past, but keep those decades-long ties strong.

"As we have a very good relation with America as one of the leaders of the world, so we have to have a good relation also with the Asian countries.  We will have a good relation with African countries, as the European countries," he said.

The key, el Haddad says, is balance.  Fifteen turbulent months after the old government fell, radical change is something the Morsi campaign is trying to play down.  Even on controversial issues such as Israel, the candidate vows to keep the peace.

"We are respecting any treaties," he said. "This is one of our Islamic references: to respect any treaties.  But also we are requesting the other side to respect [it]."

Morsi's opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister of the old government, also stresses staying the course in foreign relations.  

Political observers note that, throughout the campaign, no one called for the treaty to be broken, even those who verbally attacked Israel.  

"It can be done for domestic issues, for, you know, raising the popularity of a weak presidential candidate.  But it is rhetoric that means nothing," said Said Sadek of the American University in Cairo.

Sadek says Egypt's need to keep friends was seen when Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador following a violent protest at its Cairo embassy.

"Immediately, what did they do?  The Islamist-controlled parliament sent a big delegation, [saying] 'please come back.  We don't want trouble.'  They actually, I believe them, they don’t want.  Nobody wants any major trouble in foreign policy," he said.

Another factor at play is Egypt's influential military, which was dragged into three wars during the last century.  Political analyst Hisham Kassem says, since then, it has pledged not to be the victim of political ambitions.

"So the war decision will remain theirs," said Kassem. "Add to that anything in foreign policy that will lead to war, which means basically Israel, the Nile basin and Iran.  You cannot make foreign policy isolated from the military in the next coming 10 years on issues like that."

There is also what appears to be an overriding need for the candidate who wins to keep his eye on problems at home. 

"We have a lot of issues internally actually," said Morsi spokesman el Haddad.  "We have the economic problem, the security disturbance."

Morsi, he says, will focuss on domestic issues, first. Changing foreign policy, he adds, is just not a top priority.  At least for now.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs