He sees himself as the contemporary embodiment of Egypt's grandeur, against which a coalition of dark forces, both Islamist and Western, would be conspiring. A patriot on the verge of xenophobia, he applauded the election of Donald Trump, who quickly welcomed him with regards in the White House. Sisi is equally comfortable with Putin, with whom he exchanged flamboyant visits and unprecedented agreements. His first decision once in power was to reestablish diplomatic relations with Bashar al-Assad's regime, whom he has always treated with respect.
The Egypt Sisi dreams of is nevertheless nothing more than a shadow of itself, too entangled in its structural crisis to project power and exert influence beyond its borders. Cairo's secondary role in Libya and its inability to determine Gaza's fate are severe reminders of this failure. Egypt never weighs as much as when it abstains, as it did, for example, when it wisely refused to get involved in the Yemen conflict. A sad observation for President Sisi, who is condemned, like so many of his predecessors, to spy endlessly on the military hierarchy in order to nip in the bud any temptation of dissent. Complicit in, and later instigator of two coups in two years, he measures more than anyone the fragility of power, even when it is absolute. The novelist Gamal el-Ghitani sublimated this autocratic fatality in a historical allegory, Zayni Barakat, published in 1973, which is unfortunately still topical.
Jean-Pierre FILIU, From Deep state to Islamic state, New York, Oxford University press, 2015.
Gamal GHITANY, Zayni Barakat, Paris, Seuil, 2003.
Bernard ROUGIER et Stéphane LACROIX (under the direction of), L’Egypte en révolutions, Paris, PUF, 2015.
Robert SPRINGBORG, Egypt, Cambridge, Polity, 2017.
Illustration : David MARTIN for Institut Montaigne