Egypt's foreign minister recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, amid signs of tensions between the two countries following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In an e-mail interview, Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow and program officer at the Century Foundation, discussed Egyptian-Saudi relations.
WPR: What has the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia been historically?
Michael Wahid Hanna: Following the Egyptian Free Officer's Revolution in 1952 and the subsequent emergence of President Gamal Abdel Nasser as a champion of Arab nationalism, Egyptian-Saudi relations were marked by considerable strife. Indeed, for the most part, Egypt and Saudi Arabia remained rivals and at times foes until the defeat of the Arab armies led by Egypt in the 1967 war with Israel. The subsequent rapprochement accelerated under Anwar al-Sadat, who increasingly sought out Saudi financial assistance after the oil boom of the 1970s. While Egypt's relations with the entire Arab world were severed following the signing of the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1979, the Arab effort to support Iraq in its war with revolutionary Iran brought the two countries closer. As Egypt reintegrated into the Arab world, the Egyptian-Saudi relationship emerged as a key strategic relationship, and the ties between the countries deepened during the Mubarak regime.