This article seeks to complement current research on the international dimension of the recent transformations in the Arab world by focusing on the subjective domestic political debates on external actors in Egypt. Approaching political transformations in post-revolutionary Egypt (2010–2014) as dynamic and reciprocal processes of claim making and receiving, I explore how the representations of external actors served as an important source for the military to legitimize the continuous expansion of its political powers. By doing so, I hope to illuminate on a period that was celebrated as a departure towards democracy, yet regressed into the re-emergence of a military regime three years later. Drawing from empirical findings gained in a multi-sited long-term field study from 2010 to 2014, I show that the ‘third hand’ – a concept that is commonly used in the streets, the media and in political speeches to designate external interventions as attempts to undermine the stability of the country – had a major impact on the transformations. The article shows how the exploration of domestic public debates is key to a better understanding of the international dimension in political transformations.