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The Egyptian Armed Forces and the Remaking of an Economic Empire


Carnegie – Shana Marshall & prepared by Yasser Abdallah

The Egyptian military has gained unprecedented power since overseeing the ouster of two Egyptian presidents, Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and Mohamed Morsi in 2013. With its major political rivals sidelined, more than $20 billion in Gulf aid, and widespread domestic support for General-Turned-President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) has restarted its defunct industrial operations, secured control over massive infrastructure projects, and inserted generals at virtually all levels of government. But political overreach and internal rivalries may prove obstacles to long-term EAF control.

Regaining Lost Ground

  • Since the uprising that removed Mubarak, the EAF has proved itself the ultimate arbiter of Egypt’s economic and political system.
  • By protecting the strategic assets of its major investment partners during periods of unrest and taking control of the bidding process for major government procurement, the EAF has become the primary gatekeeper for the Egyptian economy.
  • Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government acquiesced to many of the EAF’s key demands. But that temporary pact broke down when Morsi tried to sideline the military on megaprojects such as the Suez Canal development plan and Toshka, a land reclamation project.
  • Sisi continues to attract substantial support from international investors and foreign governments, notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have replaced the United States as the regime’s top patrons.

Future Scenarios

Divisions within the military could surface. The EAF’s new allies and heightened influence may bring out cleavages that had been submerged, as factions struggle to stake a claim to new economic and political turf.

Evidence that the military worked behind the scenes to foment protests and weaken rivals could undercut its power. Revelations that began to emerge in late 2014 about the military’s direct role in financing anti-Morsi protests, as well as the leadership’s overt manipulation of the legal system and the media, may ultimately drive a wedge between the regime and its liberal supporters.

Institutional survival may trump the military’s economic and political aspirations. The EAF’s greatest concern is not a threat to its economic empire but the return of widespread antigovernment protests. If a military-led government must call on its own troops to violently put down protests, it risks both an internal schism and a legitimacy crisis.

The U.S. government is likely to continue military assistance despite the program’s failure to elicit reform from or enhance accountability of the EAF. This partnership, underscored by the March 2015 lifting of a temporary U.S. ban on weapons to Egypt, will become an even greater political liability for Washington as violence against Egyptian civilians continues.


The Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) is often referred to as a “black box”—especially with regard to the institution’s role in the domestic economy. Most of the military-controlled economy is off the books, and many of the EAF’s sources of influence are obscured—such as its control over parliamentary seats titularly reserved for peasants and workers.1

However, close observation of typically opaque institutions during periods of political upheaval can reveal significant insights that are not readily apparent under everyday conditions. This is certainly the case in Egypt, where the once obscure military hierarchy has assumed increasingly overt and powerful political roles since the 2011 revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak. It was the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a small body of top officers that convenes only in times of war or emergency, that took power and ruled the country until the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was elected president in June 2012. When Morsi was ousted in a coup one year later, a military-backed interim government (nominally headed by civilians) took control, tasked with overseeing a new round of voting that ended with the election of former defense minister General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as president in May 2014.

The EAF’s assumption of formal political power forced the institution’s leadership to take a number of extraordinary steps, not least of which was the issuance of official statements in defense of the military’s economic operations, which had previously been considered state secrets. In a press conference held by the SCAF in spring 2012, then assistant minister of defense for financial affairs Major General Mahmoud Nasr divulged the annual revenue of the military’s businesses ($198 million) and its take of the state budget (4.2 percent).Nasr stopped short of providing any evidence to support these figures, but the military’s decision to formally respond to very public criticism of its involvement in the economy marked a departure from the past.

The EAF’s efforts to maneuver between Egypt’s other political power brokers—primarily the Muslim Brotherhood and the so-called feloul (or leftovers) from the Mubarak regime—played out against a backdrop of authoritarian breakdown that made the economic resources and political practices of the military visible in a way they never had been before. The military’s subsequent struggle to reclaim control over critical enterprises has highlighted how the EAF uses its institutional influence to finance its operations, provide perks for its officer corps, and otherwise shape Egypt’s domestic political economy.

Many global actors—from the Gulf states to Russia to Japan—are now vying for influence with the country’s new political leadership, and presenting a fundamental challenge to the decades of diplomatic primacy enjoyed by Washington policymakers. The response of the U.S. policy community has been to call for increased military assistance and a light-touch approach to criticizing the new government.

But even if Washington doubled its $1.3 billion in annual military aid, the sum would still be dwarfed by an estimated $20 billion in Gulf financial assistance that has flowed into regime coffers since 2013. For now, neither Washington’s money nor its rhetoric is likely to elicit major changes from the Egyptian government. A wiser bet would be to pressure the United States’ Gulf allies to check the regime’s most extreme excesses, including the continued violent repression of opposition activists.

The Evolution of Egypt’s Modern Military Economy

The Egyptian Armed Forces’ contemporary influence must be situated within the broader context of mid-twentieth-century Pan-Arab nationalism and the prevailing development model, which identified the military as a key protagonist in indigenous industrialization and economic modernization. Under the theory of state-led development, the public sector was central to economic growth, and Egypt’s military became the engine of industry and the supplier of public services. Even the U.S. Agency for International Development treated the EAF as a preferred contracting partner.

Under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who led Egypt from 1956 to 1970, the resources of the state were steered toward the military, whose engineers and contractors took the lead in land reclamation projects, public infrastructure, the provision of basic commodities, and the domestic manufacturing of consumer appliances and electronics, as well as the production of industrial and agricultural inputs like steel and fertilizer. High-ranking members of the officer corps were also appointed to replace civilian factory managers;the presence of these military administrators in various state-owned and quasi-public enterprises created an influential constituency primed to support a continued EAF presence in the economy.

The military’s productive activities shifted slightly under Nasser’s successor, Anwar el-Sadat, to concentrate more narrowly on defense-related manufacturing. Not only did Sadat establish the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI) for the primary purpose of manufacturing military aircraft, he also shifted Egypt’s diplomatic focus from the Soviet Union to the United States, in part because the Americans were a more reliable source of military equipment, technology, and training. And, while the Soviets had emphasized the transfer of finished products, the U.S. military aid dollars that accompanied Sadat’s 1979 peace with Israel were channeled specifically into indigenous defense production, including the rehabilitation of armament factories built by the Europeans decades earlier.4  

Under Hosni Mubarak, who became president after Sadat’s 1981 assassination, the EAF’s historic position as the architect of Egypt’s modernization began to erode in earnest. The military did manage to maintain a long list of financial and industrial privileges, including subsidized fuel inputs, control over lucrative real estate, conscript labor, capital equipment transferred under arms sales agreements, preferential access to state contracts, and the use of special permits to exercise extralegal oversight in sectors ranging from petrochemicals to tourism. But the economic return on these privileges decreased as the Egyptian state lost market power relative to private investors and international lenders. At the same time, a precipitous decline in public investment chipped away at the established avenues the military used to support its manufacturing base and provide jobs to its own personnel.

Attracting Investment in the Mubarak Era

In order to hedge against the Mubarak government’s campaign of economic liberalization and privatization, Egypt’s military leaders diversified their formerly statist economic portfolio with financing and technology from foreign and domestic private sector sources, as well as joint partnerships with a variety of nonmilitary businessmen and foreign interests.5  

These novel funding and technology sources gained the EAF entry into global supply chains in industries ranging from automobile manufacturing and the production of computer hardware to wastewater recycling and solar panel fabrication. The EAF also worked to maintain its role as a domestic supplier and subcontractor in infrastructure projects—such as wind farms—financed by foreign donors.6 In addition, the EAF succeeded in securing small shareholdings in some of the high-profile projects that formed an important component of the Mubarak regime’s economic program—including the privately operated cargo container facilities that were being built at Egypt’s maritime ports.

These joint ventures represented significant new investment from state banks and international lenders and, in the case of maritime transport, some of the world’s largest shipping conglomerates. The enormous private investment in Egypt’s port sector triggered growth in complementary industries in which the military remained active, such as inland rail and the network of river barges that provides transport along the Nile.And because many of these joint ventures were organized in holding companies under the authority of the Ministry of Investment, the Egyptian state was liable for potential financial losses while the EAF had de facto control over revenues.This arrangement was not lost on regional investment analysts, who highlighted the “full support” of the government that these holding companies enjoyed as a factor for potential investors to consider when examining the viability of subsidiaries and joint ventures.9

It was precisely such investor confidence that the military had in mind when it deployed to protect the strategic assets of high-profile private sector investment partners during the unrest of 2011–2012, actions that included the violent repression of labor demonstrations that threatened production at critical sites.

Protecting Investment Partners and Production Sites

The immediate power vacuum resulting from Mubarak’s ouster—amplified by decades of repression and surveillance of political opposition—left the military as Cairo’s preeminent power broker. And the fluidity of the Egyptian political landscape that followed dramatically increased the military’s perceived value as an investment partner. The SCAF-managed transition allowed the EAF to send several signals to potential investors:

  1. The military is able to secure continued immunity from government oversight for its enterprises (and business partners).
  2. During periods of volatility, investing alongside the coercive arm of the state provides added security for costly assets.
  3. The potential marginalization and prosecution of Mubarak’s disgraced business associates could open up new space for investment and lead to the resale of previously privatized state assets, including land.

Many international firms and investors proved receptive to these messages and eager to placate the generals in hopes of exercising influence in the postrevolutionary economy.10 One proximate result was the rapid intensification and expansion of weapons coproduction contracts that were signed in the final days of Mubarak’s rule and during the SCAF’s early tenure.

Although joint production between the EAF and foreign defense firms had been ongoing for years, it failed to generate any significant export contracts for the Egyptian military, aside from deals to send surplus or repurposed systems to poor countries that could not afford better alternatives or sales pushed through under U.S. auspices.11 However, that began to change in the waning years of Mubarak’s rule. A 2010 report from the U.S. embassy in Cairo showed that technology transfer requests from the Egyptian Armament Authority had increased considerably over the previous year. This reflected the generals’ desire to expand the export of weapons that contained U.S. technology, including potential sales of M1A1 tanks to Iraq, ammunition to Saudi Arabia, and technical support for Turkey’s arsenal of Hawk missiles.12 During this same period, EAF officials also requested U.S. permission to give tours of military production facilities to officials from Iraq and Tunisia.13  

As Mubarak’s power waned, the military doubled down on its efforts to secure joint production agreements with foreign defense firms, which meant not only a better chance at future exports, but also access to new technologies and potential positions for officers in prestigious new ventures. For example, in February 2011—just as Mubarak teetered on the brink of a forced resignation—the Egyptian navy renegotiated a $13 million contract with the U.S. firm Swiftships that had originally been signed in 2008. The revised contract, which came at an increased cost of $20 million for the same four patrol vessels in the original contract, provided for an Egyptian shipyard to participate in the assembly and production of the vessels. Such conditions entail significant institutional benefits for the military, including technology transfer, the construction of new facilities, the import of additional capital equipment, long-term contracts for spare parts and repairs, and new personnel training.

The ultimate sign that the EAF remained open for business came five months later in July 2011, when—despite continued violence against demonstrators and hundreds of thousands in Cairo’s Tahrir Square protesting the SCAF government—the United States announced the eleventh installment of the $1.3 billion M1A1 tank coproduction program.

In September 2011, amid continued demonstrations, the Turkish company Yonca-Onuk JV signed an agreement with Egypt to manufacture six armed patrol boats at the EAF’s shipyard in Alexandria.14  Prior to this deal, collaborative arms production between Egypt and Turkey had taken place on one occasion—and even then only at the behest of Washington.15 However, the combination of the EAF’s magnified influence and the perceived inviolability of the U.S. military assistance program (which provides for the bulk of Egypt’s defense procurement budget) increased the EAF’s allure as a partner for foreign defense firms.

To buttress the confidence of its investment partners, the EAF issued various signals that it would work to maintain order at all costs, including by vilifying labor activists as thugs, violently breaking up strikes, and issuing bizarre threats—such as an intention to end a railroad worker strike by conscripting the offenders directly into the army. When work stoppages made the news, military officials were quick to reassure observers that ordinary operations would not be disrupted.16

The EAF also deployed troops to secure the assets of its corporate partners. During the 2011 uprising, the Egyptian subsidiary of the Kuwait-based Kharafi Group, which has a number of joint ventures with the EAF,17 was provided with an armored guard to ensure safe delivery of equipment to its al-Shabab power plant. According to the company’s newsletter:

The Egyptian military provided forces, reinforced with tanks, to protect the client’s major power sites in Al Shabab and Damietta. The Egyptian military also used armed military personnel to escort the transportation of large pieces of equipment for the gas turbines from Al Ismailiya Port to the Al Shabab site.18 

Despite the unrest, the Kharafi Group quickly announced an $80 million investment to expand its industrial infrastructure in Egypt.

Similarly, while many financial deals were put on hold amid the uncertainty surrounding Mubarak’s successor, private equity firms whose deals included companies and investors with military connections were less likely to be delayed by the SCAF government. One firm, Citadel Capital (now Qalaa Holdings), bought into a large logistics company in 2009 whose chairman was a retired general, and in fall 2011—despite heightened unrest and continued uncertainty—was able to secure a major loan backed by the U.S. government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation.19

Private equity firms without a history of doing business with the military—such as those associated with Hosni Mubarak’s youngest son, Gamal—were less fortunate.20 Equally unfortunate were businesses known (or believed) to be affiliated with members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Just as the presidential palace and major public hospitals were strategically abandoned by military police in an effort to undermine Morsi’s authority (and personal safety) at key junctures, these Brotherhood-linked enterprises were denied the type of police and security protection provided to army-partnered businesses like the Kharafi Group.21

The EAF also repressed labor demonstrations that took place in the vicinity of large economic operations in which the military had direct financial stakes—including petrochemical processing plants, export zones, maritime ports, and multinational manufacturing ventures. This was particularly true in Suez, where military police (and plainclothes police from the Interior Ministry) clashed repeatedly with protesters and striking workers.22 Work stoppages at Cairo Airport—where executive and upper-level management positions have been increasingly reserved for retiring officers as a sort of unofficial pension program23—were also broken up by military police.

By contrast, during Morsi’s presidency, the military was slow to intervene. Protests and labor demonstrations succeeded in disrupting operations at Ain Sukhna (on the Red Sea) and shut down the East Port Said facility for three days in spring 2013; several large maritime shipping companies actually switched their routes to off-load in Israel to avoid delays. Work eventually resumed at both locations after the conclusion of negotiations with union leaders. But when agreements went unfulfilled nearly one year later under Sisi’s new government, riot police and troops from the Third Army were dispatched to disperse strikers at Port Said, and in Ain Sukhna, military personnel off-loaded and serviced the waiting vessels themselves.24 The stark contrast in the military’s propensity to intervene suggests a purposeful strategy designed to exacerbate the economic failures of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) government.25

Throughout the postrevolutionary period, the SCAF also used its strategic investments to influence news coverage. In public statements highlighting what he said were the EAF’s charitable contributions to the Egyptian economy, Major General Nasr cited a $58 million cash infusion for the Egyptian Radio and Television Union. But what Nasr did not point out was that the military’s Arab Organization for Industrialization is invested alongside the union in the Egyptian Satellite Company. The company, known as Nilesat, proved to be a reliable counterrevolutionary partner for the military in the fall of 2013 when it blocked the Al Jazeera news station from using a Nilesat satellite to broadcast images of the ongoing crisis in Egypt.26 (That is not the only time Al Jazeera was targeted. Three journalists from the Qatar-based station were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in June 2014 after they were convicted on broadly discredited charges of falsifying news and aiding the Brotherhood.)27  

A Coalition With the Muslim Brotherhood

Actions taken by the EAF leadership to shape the post-SCAF political system also helped the military maintain and expand its institutional control over critical economic resources. The military succeeded in obtaining assurances of support (or at least noninterference) on key issues from the elected leadership of the FJP. Military leaders also tried to steer high-level economic policy in a direction that would selectively benefit their own operations, and they engaged in deft political maneuvering meant to marginalize or co-opt many of the power centers from the previous regime.

However, the repeated leaks of military officers’ taped conversations, which began in late 2014, are suggestive of a more destructive rift within the leadership. Early tapes revealed the military’s overt manipulation of the Egyptian legal system designed to ensure Morsi’s conviction on charges of treason.84 But subsequent tapes have been even more damning. They provide powerful evidence of what many secular activists feared, mainly that the military hierarchy and its supporters in the Gulf financed and directed the massive demonstrations that precipitated Morsi’s ouster in July 2013. The tapes, which directly implicate Sisi and his closest advisers and confidants, appear to have been leaked by others within the military hierarchy who are unhappy with the status quo.

Future Challenges

The speed and intensity with which the EAF has reconstituted its economic and political empire in the post-Mubarak era is staggering. In addition to restarting defunct industrial operations and securing control over massive infrastructure projects, military generals are now nearly ubiquitous in the halls of government. Seventeen of Egypt’s 27 provincial governors are military generals (nineteen if two police officers of equivalent rank are included) and the remaining civilian governors share rule with 24 major generals serving as deputy governors, secretaries-general, and assistant secretaries-general.85  

Although this certainly demonstrates a consolidation of power for the military, it may also suggest uncertainty among the EAF leadership over the longevity and sustainability of a military-led government. In an environment of uncertainty, the natural response is to quickly accumulate as much economic and political control as possible to hedge against future power struggles. But this strategy could (and most likely will) backfire, as grants from the Gulf states dwindle and the regime’s excesses continue to fester.

Many military coups follow a similar pattern: initial public support for the ouster of an unpopular civilian government is followed by a period in which the military consolidates power and becomes increasingly repressive and corrupt.

The pattern in Egypt seems largely similar. Initially the military was able to portray its actions as concrete expressions of the people’s will—first in refusing to support Mubarak, and subsequently in ensuring Morsi’s ouster by rejecting a compromise with the FJP leadership.86 The SCAF’s decision to make two major deposits into the central bank to prop up the flagging Egyptian currency (in late 2011 and again in 2014); its early rebuff of an International Monetary Fund loan agreement; and Sisi’s refusal to pander to Egypt’s traditional patrons (the United States, Western Europe, and major international donor agencies) were well-crafted moves designed to highlight the differences between the military leadership and the disgraced regime of Hosni Mubarak.

Since his election, Sisi has raised taxes on the very wealthy and attempted to scale back some of the excesses of big business by imposing a new capital gains tax—while also loosening currency controls. This has earned his government significant public praise. It is also increasingly clear that the scions of Egypt’s most influential institutions—including the judiciary and the media—are firmly in the Sisi camp, and are willing to lend their institutional weight to the president’s goals.

But revelations since Sisi took power about the military’s efforts to weaken the FJP government87  and the EAF’s direct role in fomenting and financing the anti-Morsi protests, as well as the leadership’s contempt for (and overt manipulation of) both the legal system and loyal media outlets,88 are unlikely to pass unnoticed.

It is also possible that the EAF will decide that the institutional cost of failure exceeds the benefits of being formally in charge. The greatest concern for Egypt’s military hierarchy is not its economic empire, but the return of widespread domestic unrest. Civilian governments that call on the army to put down protests can avoid full responsibility for violence and bloodshed—but military governments like Sisi’s have no such luxury. The army is the regime and the regime is the army. This is why cash aid and commitments to finance major infrastructure projects have so quickly cemented ties between Sisi’s government and the Gulf monarchies. It is housing projects, water treatment facilities, and vocational training programs (funded by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE) that will assuage public anger—keeping the military out of the streets and helping it avoid existential challenges to its legitimacy. This is also why the police are ubiquitous in the everyday violence and surveillance meted out against activists and ordinary citizens—the Interior Ministry is at once both the military’s enforcer and its scapegoat.

For most of the EAF’s recent history, its role in the economy has been defined less by its dominance of megaprojects and more by its ability to leverage marginal influence across an enormous range of enterprises financed by both foreign capital and wealthy Egyptian businessmen. This is a role it could maintain under a friendly civilian government, which would insulate the military from responsibility for economic failure and (some degree of) political violence. This form of military economic interference has rarely been onerous enough to deter would-be investors in sectors such as energy, petrochemicals, and real estate, which are where foreign investment in Egypt has long been concentrated. It is, however, enough to ensure that the military remains an important gatekeeper for investment in new projects.

Sisi’s security measures—including a law that formalized the military’s role in protecting critical infrastructure (previously the remit of police)—are likely to enhance that gatekeeping role by generating additional contacts and linkages between the generals and the businessmen that finance this infrastructure.89 Such conditions suggest that future foreign investment is likely to be more concentrated in ventures where the military has a stake—not less. There is no reason to believe a subsequent civilian government would be willing or able to reverse these policies.


The Egyptian military’s current dominance—buttressed by popular support and Gulf assistance—leaves U.S. policymakers with few meaningful options to pressure Cairo on human rights or political reform. Withholding military aid is less of a threat than it once was, as the $1.3 billion annual sum is dwarfed by the magnitude of Gulf assistance, which has exceeded $20 billion since 2013. Even absent Gulf assistance, U.S. military aid to Egypt has not kept pace with inflation, and so it provides only a fraction of the institutional benefits it did in the past.90  

Unless the U.S. government is willing to impose a ban on the export of coveted military items or spare parts (both extremely unlikely), the EAF will be able to obtain what it needs through regular purchasing channels using Gulf funds. The ability of U.S. defense industry lobbyists to dictate export policy, the relaxation of U.S. rules governing the sale of spare military parts in 2013,91  and the illicit proliferation of defense technology have all further weakened the ability of U.S. policymakers to use military assistance as a form of leverage.

Nor would a large increase in military aid necessarily improve relations with Cairo, as the U.S. military assistance program has in fact been extremely costly to the Egyptian side. U.S. military aid enabled the continuation of expensive industrial collaboration ventures whose resources could have been put to better use in the civilian private economy (or even in some of Egypt’s better-performing civilian public sector enterprises). The future price for spare parts, maintenance, storage, and site security is compounded with each new tranche of “free” weapons. And if the military leadership is now responsible for the performance of the civilian economy, it must deal with such competing priorities.

Institutional priorities will also necessarily bump up against the professional and financial aspirations of high-ranking members of the officer corps, many of whom see Sisi’s presidency as their ticket to privilege. A number of retired EAF generals have in the past reaped substantial benefit from U.S. military aid contracts by acting as private sector service providers—renting warehouse space, coordinating shipping logistics, and providing other services to facilitate the functioning of the military assistance program.

But it is precisely this system of top-heavy institutional privilege that contributed to the malaise and resentment that has been brewing among the ranks of junior officers for over a decade. If many observers see the U.S. military aid program as basically a giveaway to Egypt’s top brass, then the perception among the rank and file and junior officers must be similarly negative. And in any military—including Egypt’s arguably dysfunctional one—institutional cohesion and loyalty are fundamental requirements that no armed forces leadership can afford to ignore.

Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations called in early 2015 for an increase in U.S. military aid, arguing that more money would help keep Egypt from sliding out of the U.S. orbit and into closer relations with potentially hostile states like Russia.92  Cook argued that boosting U.S. assistance would not only help to secure the EAF’s more parochial interests—mainly its admittedly bloated arsenal of tanks and fighter jets—but would also serve genuine strategic goals by supplying new weapons and training for counterterrorism operations in the Sinai, where hundreds of Egyptian soldiers have been killed in clashes with violent Islamists.

However, the provision of additional funding for counterterrorism operations is only a good option if the violence in Sinai is being waged by transnational terrorists who are temporarily exploiting the area because it is a relatively ungoverned space. If this is the case, bringing in more weapons and troops may indeed help protect Egyptian soldiers—thus tempering the EAF’s current siege mentality that Cook identifies as an obstacle to political reform. But such an increase will do little to improve regional security in the long term, as these groups will just relocate to less militarized spaces in neighboring states. Evidence that U.S. weapons are already being used in acts of collective retribution that decimate entire communities in the Sinai is also a major concern—and will no doubt engender more violent opposition to the military government.

If, on the other hand, violence in the Sinai originated from groups with legitimate grievances that are specific to the military government in Egypt—which seems to be the case—then the solution requires political negotiations and concessions from Sisi’s government, not more weapons. Political negotiations and restorative justice for both secular and religious victims of the current and former regimes are what is needed, and more U.S. money for weapons will bring about neither of those.

About the Author

Shana Marshall is associate director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and research faculty member at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. She earned her PhD in International Relations and Comparative Politics of the Middle East at the University of Maryland in 2012. Her dissertation, The New Politics of Patronage: The Arms Trade and Clientelism in the Arab World (forthcoming, Columbia University Press), examines how Middle East governments use arms sales agreements to channel financial resources and economic privileges to domestic pro-regime elites. Her work has appeared in the Middle East Report (MERIP), the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Middle East Policy, and Jadaliyya.

Prior to coming to George Washington University, Marshall was a research fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University and the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University. Her current research focuses on patterns of military entrepreneurship in Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as how forms of bribery are adapted over time to circumvent existing legal regimes.


This paper was prepared under the auspices of a grant from the International Development Research Center.

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