In a region riddled with turmoil, Egypt has long maintained a watchful eye on its western neighbor, Libya, and its southern counterpart, Sudan.
However, it is the recent eruption of conflict in Gaza, its eastern neighbor, that has sent shockwaves through the most populous Arab nation, testing its stability and resilience.
For over a decade, Egypt has been deeply concerned about the armed conflict and ensuing chaos in Libya, exacerbated by the Nato-backed uprising in 2011.
This unrest allowed militants to find a haven in Libya’s eastern region, launching deadly attacks into Egypt.
To the south, Sudan has experienced ongoing internal strife since April, with violent confrontations between the army and a rival paramilitary group.
This conflict has displaced nearly six million people, with over a million seeking refuge in Egypt, further straining the nation’s resources.
The Gaza conflict, which ignited with a deadly rampage by Hamas in Israel on October 7, has posed unique challenges for Egypt.
Incidents such as a stray Israeli shell hitting a border tower and drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi forces striking Egyptian towns have raised alarm.
Egypt is also concerned that an escalation in attacks against Israel by Iran-backed groups like Hezbollah and the Houthis could lead to significant repercussions for the country.
Particularly worrisome is the potential closure of the Bab Al Mandeb at the southern entrance of the Red Sea or the Strait of Hormuz by Iran, as either event could disrupt shipping in the Red Sea.
This disruption would impact the Suez Canal, a vital waterway and a major source of foreign currency for Egypt, leading to a surge in oil prices and essential goods.
To prepare for such eventualities, Egypt has taken proactive measures over the past month. It has placed its armed forces and police on high alert, conducted displays of military might to deter potential adversaries, and called on government institutions to reduce fuel consumption.
The country is also hastening the procurement of essential items to bolster its strategic reserves in case of shipping disruptions.
Egypt’s foremost concern is the potential influx of Gaza’s population into its sparsely populated Sinai region due to the Gaza conflict. Egypt has made it clear that for reasons of national security and the preservation of the Palestinian cause, it will not permit this to happen.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who has emphasized not engaging in risky military campaigns outside Egypt, has reiterated the primary objective of Egypt’s armed forces: protecting the nation and its national security. This commitment has been underscored by recent military drills and exercises.
To maintain internal calm, Egyptian authorities have enforced a de facto ban on street protests, tightened control of the media, and increased scrutiny of social media platforms. Additionally, fuel prices have been raised, impacting various sectors, including transportation and food.
Unfortunately, Egypt’s economic crisis, attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, is coinciding with the Gaza conflict, adding to the nation’s challenges. The crisis has led to a significant devaluation of the local currency, a dollar shortage, and record-high inflation.
Adding to these woes, Fitch Ratings recently downgraded Egypt’s credit score, citing rising financial risks amid slow progress on fiscal reforms.
Egypt faces a delicate balancing act as it navigates both regional instability and its own economic challenges in the face of the Gaza conflict.
As Egypt quietly prepares for what the future may hold, the nation is poised at a pivotal juncture, striving to protect its national security and maintain stability amidst a region in turmoil.