Egypt's military-backed government led by Abdel Falah al Sisi is trying to establish a political order since July 2013. The political order has been given tremendous public support in Egypt, and the authorities have sensed this. Many observers and authors are of the opinion that after the riots against former president Husni Mubarak, Egyptian society has become more opinionated, connected to the world, daring and more economically and socially entrepreneur. There could be no central power which can control or rule such a society for an indefinite period. Some are also of the opinion that Egyptian security forces have reemerged as a decisive factor in regulating its civil society especially its economic conditions. These circumstances impose further pressure on people in control to deliver or be ready to face criticism.
A Synopsis on US Policy towards Egypt
After the military crackdown against the Muslim brotherhood president Muhammad Morsi in July 2013, the relationships of U.S with Egypt are under stress. A new debate has been open up to reconsider the cost and benefit of maintaining bilateral securities with Egypt. Overall there is still lack of consensus over the range of US policy towards Egypt. U.S military still thinks that Egyptian support and cooperation is important due to US national security interests in Middle East (Lloyd, 2014). However, many democratic and human rights ambassadors in US have viewpoint that US military support to Egypt may destroy security interests along with democratic values (Bork and Kagan, 2014).
The Obama administration attempted to craft a policy toward Egypt that relies on strong military-to-military support without overlooking Egypt's crackdown against opposition. Experts do believe that in order to see some improvement in Egypt-US relation, it is necessary that each government has to understand other's perspective better. After the election in Egypt, Sisi has become the president. In his reign, Egyptian officials may tend to normalize bilateral relations with US. Egypt relies heavily for financial assistance on Arabian Gulf states and also seeks support for Russia apart from US. The political transition that is being carried out in Egypt will be sound enough to quiet the critics both inside and outside of America. Thus, the Egypt and the Arab Gulf monarchies want the US administration and the Congress to continue support to Egypt without imposing any additional conditions. This may help in reforming economic structure like support in programs to minimize the high rate of youth unemployment, reduce high budget deficits and support to compensate energy shortages. Since other Arab countries have already acquired International Monetary Fund (IMF) like Tunisia and Jordan, so Egypt is also expecting the similar support. The Gulf Monarchies intend Egypt to establish strong relations with its west partners in order to seek continuous support. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE have promised to provide $18 billion regarding direct loans. It also includes Egyptian government grant, fuel subsidiaries along with billions being invested from the private sector in residential and commercial real estates (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2014).
The amended constitution that was passed on Jan 2014 facilitated the election of Sisi as president. Egypt is very close to transformational reforms in its political structure through the parliamentary elections. Due to these elections, it is expected that a consensus may come across between IMF and Egypt. For the fiscal year 2014, Congress has passed a bill to provide $1.3 billion support in Foreign Military Financing and $250 million in Economic Support Fund to Egypt but this support is not free of conditions.
US gave up on Mubarak’s regime right from the first minute when the 25th Jan revolution took place. US claimed to support the choice of the people of the Egypt and will always consider the voice of people. But it didn’t support the 30th June revolution despite its claims. After the first revolt, US continued its aid to Egypt convincing the Egyptian authorities to move toward democratic stability and to ensure the end of this violence (Plumer, 2013). Moreover, after the 30th June revolution, US did cut down the aid that has been providing to Egypt. This aid includes the military aid like Apache helicopters, F-16s, Harpoon Missile and other massive weapon systems. It is also holding the $260 million cash payouts to Egypt as Egypt in total receives about $1.5 billion from US regarding aid. The reason being provided by US authorities for cutting down of this aid is to achieve the goals of US administration in order to convince Egyptian authorities to restore peace. In addition, nonviolent democracy along with preserving US military interest in the region through this aid (Martinez, 2013).
After the massive revolt in Egypt on Jan 25th, Egyptians was successful in removing Husni Mubarak from the presidential office who was a 30-years long-ruling dictator in Egypt. Before leaving his office, he transferred the authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). In March, interim elections were held in Egypt speculating that SCAF will transfer the control back to civilian government but it is sad that SCAF wasn't successful. The revolution didn’t succeed to select its leader. SCAF was proved to work against the revolution. It intended to keep control in military hands and to limit this revolution. This revolution didn’t see any change in form of the improved economy and social betterment for the people of Egypt in general. There are multiple views of people about the relationship of US with SCAF. Some activists are of the opinion that United States administration is working with the leaders of Egyptian army who saved this revolution. While some activists in Egypt raised their concerns about how much close relationship exist between the army leaders and the United States. These activists still think the SCAF is successful in making the transition phase in Egypt. They also believed to make the revolution a realization as per the choice of the millions of Egyptians. They intend to protect the business interests of the ruling parties in Egypt, as well as the US interest in the region (Said, 2012).
US was seen having quite strong relationship with SCAF as it proposed extra-constitutional principles showing itself as a neutral body to protect society. This was performed as per the wishes of the US and to get the $1.5 billion yearly military aid from US. Since in Egypt, army control 40% of the country’s economy. So there is a probability to create a military-state-above-the-state. SCAF is considered to be closely tied with the US military-industrial complex. Consequently, activist in Egypt are worried regarding the change that may appear in Egypt governed by SCAF and the US.
The Obama Administration especially conducted an assessment of the Muslim brotherhood in 2010 and 2011. The president himself issued a presidential directive in 2010. It stated that the United States now should move its policy from supporting stability in Middle East and North Africa to a policy of supporting moderate Islamic political movements (Greenfield, 2014). Contrary to the fact that the Muslim brotherhood regime in Egypt was formed on anti-U.S. concerns even then it is to receive 20 number of F-16s from US. Islamic supremacist movements have influence on Washington, and this was reported in "Impeachable Offenses: The Case to Remove Barack Obama from Office" by Klein and Elliott in New York Times. This was also documented that Obama has helped and supported the rise to power of Islamic groups in Middle East as members to serve on important national security boards (Unruh, 2014).
It has been seen that US administration has half-heartedly welcomed the new regime in Egypt, the regime of Sisi. Secretary of the state-john Kerry-clearly mentioned the US strong support to Egypt’s new president and given clear signal that Washington will continue the military aid to welcome the Sisi government (Solomon, 2014). US freeze its $1.3 billion annual aid to Egypt last year including the military aid as the supply of helicopters and so forth. This happened after removal of President Morsi by army who was a leader of Muslim brotherhood Islamist movement. This shows that United States has accepted the new revolution in Egypt and is ready to support the new regime by Sisi. How much it has its interest in it, time has to decide (Martinez, 2013).
Members of Congress are intensively monitoring the situation in Egypt, and leading personalities have called for US assistance to be frozen or should be conditionally pending till the resolution of the crisis in Egypt. Some of the US policy makers, have a desire to observe an orderly, legal and transparent transfer of control in Egypt where US interests should be kept in contact. The US foreign policy towards Egypt includes Egypt’s have peace with Israel, US access to Suez Canal and bilateral military cooperation among the two countries. While others think that Egypt should steadily and harmoniously move towards the establishment of democracy even if it empowers Muslim brotherhood. Muslim brotherhood in Egypt was founded in 1928 in order to run Egypt away from secularism and close to the Islamic government based on Shariah and Islamic principles. The Muslim brotherhood works as charitable and educational institute which was banned as a political party in 1954 in Egypt. However, many Brotherhood members went to parliament as independent members. On one hand, there is a general reluctance among US policy makers to push for Islamist inclusion in politics. They may go for action that will harm US interest and will transform Egypt state to the theocratic state like Iran. However, the US ambassador to Egypt said that the Muslim brotherhood banned in Egypt and US has no direct link with them as well. But the US way of working is to deal with people through parliament (Sharp, 2011).
Before the 2011 revolts, Egypt military always tried to refrain from getting direct involved in the affairs of civilian-run government. But the scenario is completely changed after the revolts and the military is at the forefront being the preeminent institute of the society. In Egypt many governments have called on military for internal stability, harmony and peace at many occasions. Military also provided job opportunities to millions of unemployed and youth of Egypt. Egypt military is considered as large among the militaries of the world. Military has major contributions for the people of Egypt at large scale (Sharp, 2011).
US attitude towards Egypt’s political system keeps on varying. It also wishes a passionate opposition and a strong regime in Egypt that is supportive of US policies and interests. Still there is no common consensus among US think tanks as to adopt an approach that could bring democracy in Egypt. Although it is a common idea of all that Egypt should remain at peace with its neighboring countries as well as maintaining internal peace for its people which best suits to US National interest. While at the time of implementing these principles, there is always clash between US administration and Egyptian critics. They don't want US interference in Egypt internal affairs charging the US interference empowers the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt. The Egypt-US relations are always on hype due to tensions persisting for the non-materialization of true democracy in Egypt. The disappointment for the people of Egypt is due to the lack of US pressure on Israel to make it compromise with Palestine. It emerged the reservations about Obama Administration that is trying to calm the hot diplomatic atmosphere (Sharp, 2014; Sharp, 2011).
Successive governments have sensed it that US aid is symbolic for strong strategic partnership directly benefiting US national security interests. Keeping strong bilateral ties between the duo shows that Egypt is the key for the United States in maintaining strong military presence in oil-rich Persian Gulf along with showing power in central and south Asia. Reducing aid to Egypt, will automatically hamper these objectives of US. US military having the opinion that the aid to Egypt is helpful in maintaining strong military-to-military relationship with Egypt. US navy used to send an average of a dozen ships through Suez Canal per month, which may be very expensive in case of another route is followed. This is undeniable that route of Suez Canal is very economical. Egypt also allows US with over-flight rights. Since US has reduced a significant amount of funding to Egypt, and there are several reasons for this reduction. Every year a portion of USAID to Egypt is for the democratic reforms in the country. To be honest, Egyptian government rejects US assistance for democracy promotion though it has accepted certain level of suggestions. Even though some of the activists believe that Obama administration has never been so active in supporting political reform in Egypt. The major issue between the Egyptian government and US administration is the direct assistance to civil groups that is opposed by the Egyptian government. Many of such aid has already been issued during Bush Administration to Egyptian based NGOs. At then, the issue raised that only few of these NGOs received US financial aid and among them too many were not allowed by the government. Most the aid was spent on the government of Egypt approved government-to-government projects. US is also supporting Egypt in Science and Technology domain. The US administration has declared 2011 as the year of US-Egypt science and 2010 the US-Egypt science and technology. The joint fund was doubled for Egyptian and American scientific collaboration (Sharp, 2014).
The US administration requested $1.3 billion military support fund for Egypt in 2011. This is the same amount that Egypt received in 2010. The fund to Egypt from US is divided into three categories: a) acquisition of new equipment b) upgrading the existing equipment c) maintenance or follow-up support. This fund is especially for military purposes. About 30% of US aid to Egypt is spent on new weapons system in order to replace Egypt’s older Soviet weapons with modern and technologically advanced weapons. This fund is also expected to be cut down due to the intensive cost on maintenance and follow-up contracts as Egyptian officials have kept on asking for more fund to accommodate the follow-up costs. So it can be concluded that as costs of maintenance and things rise, US cut down the net assistance fund from the air program (Sharp, 2014).
The relationships of U.S with Egypt are under stress since the military crackdown against the Muslim brotherhood. There is a lack of consensus regarding US policy towards Egypt. Egypt has intention of unconditional support from US administration. The activists differ in their opinion regarding the relationship of US with SCAF. US was considered to have a good relationship with SCAF that gained military aid from the US. Apparently the US administration has welcomed the regime of Sisi and announced continuous military support to the Egypt. The US foreign policy towards Egypt has clear intentions including peaceful relation with Israel and access to Suez Canal. US foreign policy towards Egypt’s political system always keeps on changing which intend a passionate opposition and a strong regime simultaneously. Well time has yet to tell what policy Obama Administration follows with the Sisi government as everything seems on the page by now.
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