How Egypt Lost Its Leadership of the Arab World

The country has gone a long way since its rise as a champion of Arab nationalism.

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For centuries, Egypt had positioned itself as a leader of the Arab world. Even before the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt’s second president and a major proponent of pan-Arabism, Egyptian leaders sought to unite Arabs from across the Middle East and North Africa. But in recent years, the country has lost its place as the champion of Arab nationalism as it grows increasingly inwardly focused. Egypt’s Rise Egypt’s rise as the leader of the Arab world began in the early 19th century with an army officer and Ottoman governor named Muhammad Ali. After the British forced Napoleon out of Egypt in 1801, the Ottoman Empire sent Muhammad Ali, who was a military commander in the Balkans, to Egypt to rein in the Mamluks, who had dominated Egypt a few centuries prior. Four years later, he declared himself viceroy of Egypt and ordered his son, Ibrahim Pasha, to create a dynasty for him. Not being ethnically Arab themselves, they believed that the Arab language would define the boundaries of their new state. Ibrahim defeated the Ottoman army in 1832 in the Battle of Homs, in central Syria, and again in 1839 in the Battle of Nizip, in modern-day southeastern Turkey. […]

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Hilal Khashan
Hilal Khashan is a Professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. He is a respected author and analyst of Middle Eastern affairs. He is the author of six books, including Hizbullah: A Mission to Nowhere. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019.) He is currently writing a book titled Saudi Arabia: The Dilemma of Political Reform and the Illusion of Economic Development. He is also the author of more than 110 articles that appeared in journals such as Orbis, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, Israel Affairs, Journal of Religion and Society, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.