Essay: United States – Egypt relations

The United States has been in a diplom1atic relation with Egypt since 1922, after Egypt regained its independence from a protectorate status under the political and economic influence of United Kingdom . The government claims that America would ‘share a relationship based on mutual interest in Middle East peace and stability, revitalizing the Egyptian economy and strengthening trade relations, and promoting regional security’ . However, as a result of U.S. adjusting its Middle East strategies, the relations between Egypt government and the United States has not been steady and consistent. Right after the resignation of Mubarak in 2011, the United State has been struggling with the development of a coherent policy and a suitable diplomatic attitude towards Egypt. The aim has always been to ensure American interests in Egypt while winning trust and understanding of Egyptians and their political leaders. Nonetheless, with U.S. interference in Egypt domestic and international affairs, a wide rejection against current U.S. government is growing and spreading. The U.S. funding for non-governmental organizations including International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), as well as its military support for Sisi regime have proven very unpopular among Egyptians . The tendency is undesirable given that Egypt plays a serious role in America’s Middle East blueprint of the region both politically and militarily. The recent suspension of military deliveries of missiles and attacking helicopters also added another layer of political suspicion on the declining intimacy of U.S.-Egypt relations. Even though U.S. announced to thaw the arm sale suspension on Egypt recently, the announcement also made point clear that its attitude towards Egypt version of ‘Democracy’ had not changed.

B: Alliance

Historically, Egypt has always been an important actor in Middle East region as well as North Africa. Its geographic, demographic and political postures are essential to any power who wants to have a strong stance in these regions. Not mentioning that about 8% of global maritime shipping passes through its Suez Canal; the more than 80 millions of people is by far the largest population among Arab countries . This old nation may be less important and influential compare to its ancient glories, but culturally and academically it is still in a central position that shapes the values of Arab world . This can be exemplified by the fact that the center of Arab League bases in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Therefore the political and strategic significance of Egypt to the essential interests of U.S. in Middle East is explicit. Firstly, even though power struggle with this region has gone far beyond expectation with the deeper involvement of powerful players such as China and Russia, as an ally of America Egypt is still the most powerful and moderate voice in the Arab world at many occasions. Egypt’s attitude and political clout towards key issues can still shape outlook and orientate agendas among Arab nations . Secondly, as an active and influential member of Organization of African Unity (OAU), Egypt is certainly at a liable position to speak for the U.S. to induce African events. Thirdly, being geopolitically adjacent to Israel, the central actor of U.S. Middle East strategy, the alliance between U.S. and Egypt is crucial to guarantee safety of Israel so that it can push forwards smoothly with no threat from its backyard or draw back from a rash advance under the cover and assistance from Egypt .

C. Will VS. Strength
The current anarchic state of Middle East region under the influence of various powers has been an issue rooted in the Cold War period . However, this does not imply that we can work out a helpful algorithm to settle the problems there still based on the Cold War mentality. The global politics has evolved far more complicated than a bipolar or hegemonic world. It is of absolute certainty that U.S. government has been adaptable, making political and diplomatic changes to keep up with the latest agendas around the world. But with our propaganda still trying to hypnotize Americans that the great U.S. has no obstacles to practice its global control, the question is how much reality our arrogance is willing to comprehend and how many changes the power ‘holders are willing to make effective .

Two essential rivalries are Russia and China. While being not even close to a full recovery from its Soviet Collapse trauma, Russia got into new political and economic crises’so desperate that Russia chose to interfere Ukraine internal affairs, and stand by its ground troops and navy in a way that many western media interpret as may probably initiate a new world war . Last November, Putin’s early leave from G20 summit after harsh reception provided by Australia was also considered an unsuitable and inappropriate way to irritate the Russian bear. On the other hand, China adds great pressure across Southern China sea. America alliance within pacific region are thus split into different camps with one camp supporting China expansion while others fearing that the developing power struggle between U.S. and China would disrupt the military, political and economic stability . Pro-American countries such as Singapore even warned about how the dominant position of U.S. in this region may be challenged and replaced by China, and expected American government to devote more attention and resources to ensure its control across Southern China sea in order to further contain China from mounting its influence . Besides Southern China sea confrontation, China’s growing enthusiasm in Middle East and international activities in the name of peacekeeping force should also have stimulated anxiety of U.S. government . On top of all these Russia and China’s individual power practice, it should be more frightening for U.S. to see the emergent intimacy between these two governments who both were the targets of America’s containment policy .

The list of problems above is not to show how weak and incapable U.S. is now but how limited energy and resources we have regarding how large and complex the world is. There is a need to calculate the order of priority and how much time and resources U.S. is able and willing to deploy on Egypt issues. The fact is there is a strong will for U.S. to operate every section of the planet right in American way, but the relatively weakening national strength forces U.S. to make choice and compromises at some places at some times.


A. Accept moderated Democracy
While the ancient kings conquered one another with soldiers and industrialized Britain expanded through colonization, U.S. has been playing the card of ‘universal value’ to ensure its influence and control. The main product America sold was never about coca cola or McDonald’s but the democratic ideas in American way. This strategy has helped U.S. win the Cold War against Soviet Union, and maintained a world order according to its own will till so far. Nevertheless, as the world multi-polarizes, there has been a serious debate over how U.S. should sell its ‘democracy’ values under current circumstances: keep it as authentic as possible or be localized and flexible at times . Either way of sale strategy requires an accurate evaluation of efficiency and cost. Pragmatically speaking, either sale strategy has to serve the ultimate goal: maximize U.S. interests.

Before implanting democratic values, we examine what U.S. can gain from a democratic Egypt. First and foremost, it is an ideology label showing a popularity and general acceptance by Egyptians of democracy over other forms of political system, such as socialism . Secondly, a democratic system is deemed to be stable and pro-America’a stable and pro-America system will surely help U.S. to realize its Middle East plans more easily, and even better that Egypt could provide more military and political support for Israel and U.S. when necessary . These three benefits can be achieved by promoting American democracy. Nonetheless, it is believed that an Egyptian democracy can also do the trick, and it is doing it now. Firstly, Egypt, like many other countries, having a proper democratic system or not, gets use to include a democracy label to demonstrate its legitimacy. It may be a defective even false democratic system, but on the international scope, it does depict an ideological winning of democracy over communist belief. After all, elections and protests do take place in Egypt the same as in a real democracy. Secondly, even though the current Egypt administration is not ideologically recognized by U.S. as a democratic government, it has kept their commitment in terms of cooperation with American government on key Arab issues. In many occasions, this undemocratic Egypt authority successfully delivers information and supports opinions in the way that the United States expects . Therefore, it seems to be unnecessary for U.S. government to enhance American democracy in Egypt. This is understandable since whether pro-U.S. or not is simply a political preference. It does not have to base on an ideological alliance.

Some may argue that an ideological based government is expected to be more consistent and reliable for U.S. authorities. As a matter of fact, America’s attitude towards Egypt democracy progress reflects a more general issue about how U.S. policymakers are able to balance competing priority: strictly stick to democratic principles or follow the national interests . On a short run, a national interests-oriented democracy promotion requires U.S. to make compromise . The nice part of such holdback gesture is that the target government will see this altruistic offer immediately and hopefully respond likewise instantly. The risk is that a tolerance attitude can hardly direct a developing country to the right track of democracy. And according to U.S. opinion, a non-democratic country will hardly maintain peace, improving literacy and lifting standard of living. This may be part of reason that U.S. keeps accusing Egypt government and urges it to establish a real democratic system.

However’at current stage U.S. will have to choose short term national interests over democratic principles. The reason consists two parts. Firstly, a refusal of Egypt democratic system will cause more rejection of Egyptians against U.S. government. After all those interference and shelter for NGOs, though the new elected government decided to work with U.S., the society is not able to comprehend U.S.’s expectation for a better Egypt by promoting American democracy . The more rejection of Egypt democracy we show, the further from American democracy Egypt might be. Secondly, as discussed in the previous chapter, given the changing international political phenomenon and eluding economic advantage, to confront Russia and China at the same time in various regions and aspects is arduous. Unfortunately, this arduousness cannot be avoided. It concerns the core national security, economic growth and political pursue of United States. Essentially, it has always been the top priority of U.S. diplomatic activities. With more and more resource scheduled into South China Sea, there is less and less time and energy U.S. can employ to deal with Egypt. But to enhance a strict democracy requires large dedication of time and energy. If turning Egypt into real democracy is difficult, the next best thing would be to pacify the Egypt government and keep dissenting voice against U.S. as low as possible for the time being. Therefore, to provide them understanding and recognition of their political system would bring sufficient satisfactory and promote international image of Egypt government. This may not be able to improve intimacy between two governments, but at least we are not driving it away either. After dealing with the rising trend of Russian and China, U.S. can then discuss principles of democracy with Egypt government.

B. Resume Arm Sale and Economic Aids
While dealing with all the games going around the world against big international powers, it would be better if U.S. can maintain arm sale to Egypt and keep offering financial and military aids of two billion dollars every year. After all, besides any political play, military cooperation and all sorts of aids are one of the pillars of a healthy and applicable U.S.-Egyptian relationship .

Arm sale and economic aids shows U.S. trust and support of Egypt administration, which is helpful to improve military and political cooperation. To work with the largest Arab country in military symbolizes domestic moderation as well as deterrence of the region. It demonstrates both governments’ attitude towards any Islamic political radicalism. Moreover, Egypt offers overflight rights, shares intelligence, allow transit through Suez Canal and provide military support for U.S. army shows the tacit understanding and mutual trust especially during wars. However, after the military coup in October 2013, U.S. declared a suspension of arm sale to Egypt upon accuses against Egypt’s democratic progress. This decision used to bring U.S.-Egypt relation to low ebbs. Egypt government spokesman used the word ‘turmoil’ to describe the declining relationship between two governments. On one hand, it jeopardized the stable alliance which has been established for years, and it added uncertainty and security problems to Egypt government and make them to reevaluate the trustworthiness of U.S. cooperation. On the other hand, Egypt had to negotiate with Russia for defensive weapon system. This action was interpreted in two ways. Firstly, the cutting off of military sale cause distrust against U.S. and makes Egypt desperate to look for new partners to ensure security. As a matter of fact, though being a military alliance with U.S. for years, Egypt has never denied any good opportunity finding support from Russia. Secondly, Analysts point out that from the nature of cooperation between Egypt and Russia was not ‘exclusive’, and therefore should not be understood as ‘Egypt turns towards Russia’. But it cannot rule out of possibility that Egypt strengthening cooperation with Russia is out of a stress reaction after a few number of diplomatic fight and disagreement. It then takes this out of Egypt expression of dissatisfaction against America unilateral political decision, and also, to a certain extent, echoed the anti-American sentiment in its society. Though the latter explanation seems more probable, it is true and alarming that after the collapse of the Soviet union and relative decline in the influence of Russia in the Middle East, this traditional players would like to return to Middle East by looking for more cooperation and support inside the domain. Due to its strategic position, Egypt naturally comes into the sight. The purpose here of resuming offer of military sale and financial aids is the same as recognize democracy suggested in the last section: if we cannot bring Egypt closer, we should not drive it away either. Thus, the cost is quite high worthy.

C. Strengthen Ant-terrorism Cooperation
One of the main reasons that U.S. cooperates closely with Egypt militarily is about fighting against terrorism or any other Islamic radicals. Egypt has been fighting against Islamic radicalism for decades. While the situation develops after September 11, it is no longer a fight that can be won by Egypt government along. Recently, across Egypt, the frequency of terrorist attacks and explosion rises. Some state that this is a result of Egypt military clean up against terrorist organization on Sinai Peninsula. Ironically, it was point out that Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the September 11 terrorist attack, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the organizational force behind al-Qaeda, were Egyptian. It is a terrifying fact showing that Egypt, though being alliance with U.S., may become a base for terrorism if not under the influence and help of America. Therefore, to

Part III: Conclusion
U.S.-Egypt relation experienced turmoil period since the coup in 2013. However, there is no doubt about how significant this alliance means to either country. It is fortunate that the damaged bonding can be mended with U.S. active shift of diplomatic policy. But it is also the hard part that U.S. would have to make concession and spend a large amount of financial support. Since the Middle East situation is getting harsher for U.S. with desperate Russia and rising China involvement, to consolidate whatever U.S. has already achieved in the domain rather than expanding influence is more pragmatic. Therefore, U.S. may have to try to accept the defective democracy which Egypt government could offer, resume arm sale and economic aids, and work closer with Egypt army and government in anti-terrorist wars. The essence of these proposals is to pacify and stabilize Egypt so as to ensure a safer Middle East base before any major gaming take place among powers in the region. It would be recommended that to accept Egypt democratic system is of top priority since it can cool the tense between two government immediately and even open new dialogues for cooperation at deeper level. At the same time, arm sale and economic aids are foundation to support U.S. friendly gesture of acceptance and help. As for anti-terrorism, it is a long lasting battle for both U.S. and Egypt. It ties the national interests of both countries and offers a common goal for two governments to extend cooperation.

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