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Debunking Five Myths of Washington’s Leverage in Egypt

Mohamed Elmenshawy explains why US influence in Egypt is not what many believe it is, or should be.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (2nd R) walks with Egyptian army officials before laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Cairo April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Watson/Pool (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) - RTXYY94

Last week’s visit by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to Cairo came amid several discussions in Washington and Cairo about US leverage in Egyptian politics since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011. Most of these discussions overestimate US influence. Indeed, last month’s proposed amendments from both Republican and Democratic senators aiming to attach conditions to military assistance to Egypt reveal an old-fashioned and overconfident understanding of Washington’s sway. The reality is that US influence in Egypt is tempered by a number of factors, including Egyptian domestic politics, funding and the United States’ own need for stability and cooperation in the region. Deconstructing a number of myths that perpetuate the idea of an all-powerful United States may help bring to light the reality of the situation.

Myth  No. 1: The United States has many cards it can play to affect Egyptian domestic politics.

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