Egypt's New Rulers to Confront Big Choices in Relations With US
By: Amro Abd el-Aati Translated from Al-Hayat (Pan Arab).
Although Mohammad Morsi was not the US’ favorite candidate in the Egyptian elections, given that he constitutes a threat to US interests in Egypt, the Obama administration exerted enormous pressure on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to keep it from manipulating the election results in favor of Morsi’s opponent, Ahmed Shafiq. On June 24, the Washington Post published a piece saying that the Obama Administration contributed to Morsi’s victory. It stated that the White House had pressured the military council not to tamper with the elections results, threatening to cut of the US aid if it did.
About This Article
Relations between the United States and Egypt are at a crossroads, writes Amro Abd el Aati. While the White House reportedly aided the Muslim Brotherhood by pressuring the military council not to tamper with the elections, the Brotherhood has yet to take a clear stance on issues that matter greatly to the US — such as the recognition of Israel.Publisher: Al-Hayat (Pan Arab)
The Egyptian-American relations after Morsi’s Victory
Author: Amro Abd el-Aati
First Published: July 5, 2012
Posted on: July 5 2012
Translated by: Sahar Ghoussoub and Joelle El-Khoury
Categories : Egypt
Once Morsi won the elections, observers in the US were spilt into two opposing camps. The first believes that a democratic Egypt where an Islamist president won the first free and fair elections will bolster its position in the Middle East. According to these analysts, a democratic Egypt will be much stronger than a non-democratic one. In consequence, the new Egyptian president will adopt policies that directly conflict with the US and Israel. They claim that relations between Egypt and the US and Israel will soon be strained. This group refused to pressure the SCAF into confirming Morsi as president, and support the SCAF’s measures to limit his powers.
The other group is relatively more realistic. Members of this camp support US intervention only as long as it respects the free will of the Egyptian voters. This group has also urged the US administration not to limit its relations with Egypt to those with the Muslim Brotherhood, but instead to establish new relations with the country based on respect and common interests.
Given this split in US opinion, and the fact that there is now an Islamic ruler in an Arab country that weighs significantly on Middle Eastern security and US interests, US officials have started to pay attention to what future relations between Washington and Cairo may look like. The Muslim Brotherhood has yet to take a clear stance on the regional issues that matter greatly to the US — most importantly, the recognition of the State of Israel.
President Morsi has been avoiding the slightest mention of Israel in his speeches, which has aroused fears in Washington and Tel Aviv. The fact of the matter is that Morsi’s victory in the presidential elections will change Egyptian foreign policy toward the US in general. In a speech delivered at Cairo University, Morsi pledged that he would respect all standing international agreements and treaties. The president’s speech illustrated his commitment to Egypt’s foreign policy. However, it also demonstrated a desire to revive its regional and international role, which deteriorated during the rule of Hosni Mubark due to the following reasons:
First, understandings between the US and the Muslim Brotherhood: No visit from a US official to Egypt would skip a meeting with the Brotherhood’s leaders. This does not include the Brotherhood’s numerous visits to the US. From January 25, 2011 until the end of the presidential elections, many meetings between the Brotherhood’s leadership and US officials took place.
The most recent was the visit of a parliamentary delegation from the dissolved People’s Assembly to meet with officials in the US. Many press leaks about these meetings said that both parties reached an understanding on many issues. Moreover, the Brotherhood began reassuring the US when many Islamic leaders, such as Khairat el-Shater, were mentioned in numerous US newspapers. The Brotherhood talked about the its openness toward the West and said that their intentions would not jeopardize US interests, as long as these intentions do not come at the expense of Egypt’s dignity. The Brotherhood stressed that the relationship with the US must be based on common interests and mutual respect.
Second, the SCAF’s role in Egypt’s decision-making: Although a new president was democratically elected in revolutionary Egypt and was entrusted, among other powers, with the country’s foreign policy, the SCAF will continue to have a prominent role in this regard. This is especially true with the country’s foreign policy on the US — regardless of what the complementary constitution declaration says. Many US reports and studies show that there are solid relationships between many SCAF officials and their US counterparts, not to mention that a large portion of the SCAF’s arms supply is provided by the US. The military council is also unwilling to sacrifice the military aid that the US gives to the Egyptian army, which is estimated at $1.3 billion annually.
Third, the Egyptian economy's needs: International institutions and organizations will be essential in helping the Egyptian economy recover. Egypt is in a financial and economic crisis, and since the president is trying to revive the economy, rally the support of the people and prove himself an able economic interlocutor, he must turn to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for assistance, even though they are controlled by Washington. President Morsi must gain the support of the Egyptian people to strengthen his position of power relative to the SCAF and his political opponents.
Fourth, the position of foriegn affairs in the president's priority list: He will instead focus on domestic issues, which are the area of greatest concern among the public. With the focus mainly on domestic issues, the president probably won’t focus on contentious issues in the US-Egypt relationship, since he wants to demonstrate his openness to the international community. As such, it is expected that the US and Egypt will come to understandings on controversial issues. They will not be publicly declared so as to not affect the ties between the two countries, and these agreements won’t stop either side from making statements for domestic consumption, especially in the upcoming US presidential election, which is scheduled for November 6. In addition, American pro-Israel parties will try to pressure the president and Congress to get declared guarantees from Egypt regarding Israel’s security.
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