World Sociopolitical Studies

Iran and Egypt: Emotionally Constructed Identities and the Failure to Rebuild Relations

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Nearly four decades after Iranian-Egyptian diplomatic relations were severed, the two countries are yet to restore them. This is a result of the predominance of certain negative emotional attachments embedded in Iranian and Egyptian identities, which have clouded their respective attitudes toward one another. Mired in resentment against Arabism, the national component of the Iranian state identity catalyzes a disinclination to resolve problems with Egypt; in addition, Iran’s religious component carries resentment against Egypt as a state against Shia identification. The anti-western dimension of the Iranian state identity strengthens Iran’s negative emotional attachment to Egypt as a country allied with the United States and recently reconciling with Israel. On the Egyptian side, the Arab nationalism as the defining feature of the Egyptian state identity dictates estrangement from Iran and reluctance to engage with that. These negative emotional predispositions shape Iran and Egypt’s understanding of one another and, in the absence of pressing material interests, explain the continuous failure of the two countries to rebuild their relations.