News / Middle East

Egypt Upheaval Poses Dilemma for Washington

Egypt Upheaval Poses Dilemma for Washingtoni
August 09, 2013 5:49 PM
[America's relations with Egypt have been largely defined by the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and the financial rewards to Egypt for maintaining it. But current upheavals in the region may have changed that dynamic. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.
Egypt Upheaval Poses Dilemma for Washington
Elizabeth Arrott
America's relations with Egypt have been defined in large part by the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and the financial rewards to Egypt for maintaining it. But current upheavals in the region may have changed that dynamic.

Foreign policy is not often the stuff of music videos. But an Egyptian belly-dancer's take on international relations offers a glimpse into current thinking.

Selma elMasry's sings that U.S. President Barack Obama is a “stupid, bad man” for wanting ousted President Mohamed Morsi released from detention.

The pro-military belly-dancer's song is proving a minor sensation, not least for reviving a perennial Arab complaint about U.S. support for Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Israel has been the cornerstone of U.S - Egyptian relations for decades.  In exchange for recognizing the Jewish state in 1979, Egypt has received more than a billion dollars a year in aid - mainly to the military.

But the U.S. faces a dilemma.

Normally Washington calls a military ouster of a freely elected president a coup. By U.S. law, aid must be cut off. But aid to Egypt has been great leverage for the U.S. and has helped keep Cairo a trusted ally.
This has made for awkward moments. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki spars with a reporter over the U.S. stance.
REPORTER: “You have a position on what happened in Egypt was a coup?
PSAKI: “We have determined that we do not need to make a determination.”

Despite efforts not to offend, ties are strained. Armed Forces chief Abdel Fatah el-Sissi, like many other top generals, studied at the U.S. War College, but lately has been dismissive of Washington.

And the recent influx of $12 billion from Gulf countries has made U.S. aid less important than it once was.
Morsi's supporters think the U.S. made a mistake by accepting the ouster. They point to the ex-president's key role in resolving Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Mohamed Soudan is foreign secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing.
"When Israel attacked Gaza, he finished this problem in 24, 48 hours," Soudan said. "And then we have very good relations with people in Gaza. And we can do also the reconciliation with Fatah.”

But some argue the U.S. needn't worry too much about who's in charge in Egypt.

Despite the rhetoric, neither the military nor Morsi's government showed interest in fundamentally altering the peace treaty with Israel.
And the upheavals throughout the Arab world may have overshadowed Arab-Israeli antagonisms. Political sociologist Said Sadek of the American University in Cairo says the current troubles put the Israeli question into perspective and argues it's time for peace.

"We cannot have the Arab-Israeli conflict from time immemorial until doomsday," he said. "We have to finish. We need to see an end.”
Which would be welcome news for Israel's ally, the United States.

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Comment Sorting
by: hytvb from: DC
August 09, 2013 2:40 PM
Clearly, the leaders of the military takeover have something to conceal from the eyes of the world. That explains why I was recently refused entry into Egypt. I now feel I have a responsibility to warn the world that a despotic regime is seeking to reinforce its foundations in the country. The 25th January revolution guaranteed freedom of expression, of assembly and organisation. All these have been crushed.

It is unrealistic and unfair to believe Morsy was responsible for the failure to achieve economic prosperity within a year. The man inherited a huge legacy of failure and institutional collapse from the previous regime. Furthermore, it has now become obvious that most of the state institutions, including the judiciary, the army, the security apparatus and most of the government departments, stood against him.

But the success of heads of state is measured more by their respect for civil and political rights than by economic prosperity. Morsy passed this test by guaranteeing these rights when, in fact, his opponents enjoyed more freedom than his own supporters. Compare this to what has been happening to his supporters since the coup: hundreds have been detained, killed or wounded as they peacefully protested.
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 10, 2013 6:55 AM
hytvb from: DC, you rightly noted that the military, the judiciary, the security apparatus, the civil society and most of the government departments in Egypt have risen against Morsi. How else do you measure success or failure? You talk about freedoms, why then did the people, including the judiciary rise against Morsi if not for the denial of same to the people? Do you still not understand that Morsi set aside the constitution and ruled by decrees? Talk about making peace with Israel, whether between Egypt and Israel, Israel and Palestine, or Israel and the rest of the islamic world especially of the Arab League leaning, are you not aware that during his one year in office Morsi placed relations with Israel in cooler and never made even a single contact? Are you not aware that since the Morsi presidency lawlessness and violence have increased in the Sinai Peninsula which is capable of undermining peace and security in Israel? Haba hytvb from: DC, can you be realistic just to put the records and history in the right perspective for posterity!

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