News / Middle East

Heightened US-Egypt Tensions Raise Concern

Egypt's refusal to allow several American citizens to leave the country has heightened tensions between the traditional allies and has some people wondering if it heralds a more fraught, post-revolution relationship. But others in Egypt believe it may be little more than the military leaders posturing for a domestic audience.

Several Americans took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo after being barred from leaving Egypt, raising the stakes in a confrontation concerning U.S.-backed democracy organizations and prompting questions about the future of $1.3 billion in U.S. aid.

It is an unusual diplomatic step, indicating the Americans felt they were in danger, while Egyptian media speculated that those at the embassy were trying to evade possible prosecution.

Egyptian authorities raided several foreign-backed pro-democracy groups in December, accusing them of working illegally and interfering with domestic affairs. The U.S. complained and Egypt promised to relent. But last week the local director of one such group, Sam Lahood of the International Republican Institute - the son of a U.S. Cabinet member - was among several Americans turned back at the airport.

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, has been heavily criticized for its continued crackdown on pro-democracy activists, with thousands of its domestic critics being sent before military tribunals and jailed in harsh conditions.

But American University in Cairo political sociologist, Said Sadek, thinks the case of those at the embassy is not so dire.

"The matter is being dramatized, but I don't think there is any danger. We have not seen anything bad happening to Americans or foreigners in Egypt when they are in government custody. You had, a few months ago, some American students arrested and accused that they were a part of a demonstration and all that happened is that they left the country. There was no torture. There was no violence against them. There was nothing," said Sadek.

A White House spokesman said Monday that the United States is not aware of any danger. But it is exactly Egypt's continuation of a crackdown on domestic critics, including allegations of abuse in custody, that has put Washington in a bind.

The Obama administration, late in supporting the uprising last year, has since reached out to Egypt's new players, including the SCAF and ascendant Islamist groups, as it tries to remain relevant to the country's new political reality.  

That includes renewing America's annual $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt. Some U.S. lawmakers have already called for the amount to be slashed because of the raids.  The latest developments threaten to make matters worse.

AUC's Sadek thinks otherwise.

"Remember, the United States needs the military whom they invested in for many decades," he said. "They also have open relationships with the political powers in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, and they know that those two powers are very important in this relationship. I don't think this is going to be affected by the arrest of, detention or prevention of three Americans from leaving the country for a short period of time until the matter is cleared by the prosecutor."

Sadek argues that Egyptian officials are also keen on keeping relations intact as they struggle with the immediate problems of rebuilding the nation post-revolution.  A delegation of Egyptian officials is in the United States this week in an apparent bid to smooth things over.

The AUC professor says the move against U.S.-backed democracy groups is aimed more at a local audience.

"It can be used for domestic situation to show that Egypt is still strong and say 'no' to the United States, especially after the criticism that some Americans raised against the behavior of the SCAF, human rights organizations condemning the transitional period and the mismanagement from the military," said Sadek.

Sadek adds that the actions can be considered "just a game."

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs