There have been a number of articles and op-eds published in Daily News Egypt; however, last week two significant ones were published describing the current situation in Egypt and how it got there.
The first article was published in the National Interest by Andrew Miller and Michele Dunne, which focuses on how Egypt is no longer a strategic prize that needs to be won rather, it has become a semi-failed state in need of reform to prevent collapse; this would consequently threaten the stability of the Middle East. While their analysis relies on sound judgment and reasoning, their policy recommendation that the U.S. needs to manage this through careful, if necessary coercive, diplomacy is controversial. Both authors address the fact that Egypt is no longer the pivotal state it used to be decades ago, mainly due to poor governance and economic fragility that characterized decades of military rulership over the country. This leadership has consequently lead to the continuous decline in its state affairs and allowed other countries to surpass it.Also, both authors are correct in stating that the generals in Cairo aren't attempting to replace the U.S. with Russia, an argument that has been used extensively in Washington to avert pressuring the regime in Cairo otherwise it would leave the U.S. orbit of influence and go to Moscow instead. It is true that Russia can't offer the regime in Cairo the same privileges that the U.S. has – lately releasing $195 million in aid to Cairo despite objections due to its draconian record of human rights abuses – but also that the personal and institutional dimension of such relationship that links the generals and their staff to the U.S., where most received their training and formed a bond with the security establishment there.
Where the accuracy of the article can be questioned is assuming that the U.S. can change the course Cairo is taking through diplomacy or other means; the U.S. has been a detrimental factor in such a course.
This is noted clearly in the second article penned by David Kirkpatrick in the New York Times where he shed light on the role American officials played in the period prior to and following the coup led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in 2013. The articles detail how both Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry then adopted the coupists' narrative against the elected government in Egypt and supported that narrative in Washington and through their policies. U.S. President Barack Obama, despite his public rhetoric on supporting the Arab Spring and its protests and urging against any military power seizure in Egypt, did not take any concrete steps to oppose the coup or curb the pro-coup wing in his administration. In fact, within a few days he yielded to that faction who accepted the military takeover. The same president who challenged wide sectors of the political establishment in Washington and the U.S. regional allies for passing the Iran deal did not do anything to pressure the U.S. funded and trained generals and later embraced them.
Despite withholding and decreasing some military and economic aid, both aid programs eventually resumed. Obama handled the coup – and its catastrophic consequences on Egypt and the democratization of the Middle East – in a fashion typical of his predecessors, and currently his successor for that matter, by standing with the oppressive regime so long as they refrained from threatening U.S. interests in the region. Yes, the U.S. may not have orchestrated the coup in Egypt, but there was no need for directly doing this in light of the strong counter-revolution wave designed by the Gulf monarchs – specifically Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – and Israel along with the apparent naivety of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; otherwise, there was a high probability that the U.S. would have intervened directly like it did in Iran in 1953.
Overall, as the first article concludes, Egypt has been plagued by decades of tyrannical ruling generals that have left it in the miserable shape it is in now; however, the U.S., through its embrace of such generals and their military hatred for political Islam was depicted in the second article, rendering it liable for this tragedy rather that a potential actor that could push Egypt toward beneficial reform.
* Foreign affairs analyst interested in Middle East geopolitics
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