Sudan-Egypt Relations Amidst Shifting Regional Dynamics in the Middle East

IDE Research Bulletin

March 2020

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For many decades, Egypt has maintained a powerful hydro political position in the Nile River basin through an optimal combination of power resources. Recently, however, Egypt’s regional stature as a regional hegemon has significantly declined due to crises at home, shifts in the regional balance of power in the Middle East, and a growing asymmetry in power relations in the Nile basin. This transformation has manifested itself clearly in Egypt’s loss of influence over its southern neighbor, Sudan, which has previously been its only strong ally in the Nile basin.

How has Egypt’s loss of influence over Sudan on the one hand happened, and how shifts in power relations between Egypt and the upstream riparian states in the Nile basin on the other hand occurred? How important was Sudan’s support for Egypt in maintaining its hegemony in the basin and how has its positionality affected political and power relations and control of the Nile waters between upstream and downstream riparian states? In addition, the recent geopolitical shifts in the Middle East and the Nile basin have given rise to a strong and influential role played by non-riparian states in the Nile basin, exacerbating in the process the geopolitical contest over the Nile basin, particularly the current dispute between Ethiopia and Egypt over the former’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. This research has utilized the framework of hydro hegemony to examine (1) the geostrategic imperatives and constraints that have shaped Egypt’s relations with its southern neighbors, (2) the impact of Egypt’s economic dependency on its foreign policy and regional stature, (3) and the impact of the volatile and unpredictable regional landscape on Sudan’s relations with Egypt with regard to the hydro political shift in power relations between downstream and upstream riparian states in the Nile River basin.