Friday, 3 August 2012

A beneficial friendship: Egyptian-US relations

Hilary Clinton’s visit to Cairo in mid July re-affirmed the United States’ support for a democratic Egypt. Clinton and President Morsi discussed, what she described as the “broad and enduring relationship” between the United States and Egypt, which has been mutually beneficial for both nations over the years. Egypt has, in recent history, been an ally of the US and has played an important role in protecting the US’ interests in the region. Clinton’s meeting with President Morsi covered a number of topics that are pivotal to the relationship between the two countries, including, democracy, stability and most importantly Israel. The uncertainty that arose from the toppling of Mubarak certainly would have worried US foreign policy makers. The aspects of the relationship have changed, the US is no longer dealing with an autocrat that can be controlled easily, but now they must deal with a democratically elected President who is charged with upholding the interests of the people he represents.

Many might take it for granted that maintaining a good relationship with the US is necessary, but in Egypt there are a number of reasons why the US might not be seen as a friend. The US has an image of being a meddler in Middle Eastern affairs, a view shared by many across the region. The strong and unwavering support for Israel serves to alienate much of the region’s population further, not to mention the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to this the strong relationships with the corrupt and authoritarian regimes in the region puts the trust of the US at quite a low level in the Middle East. Why then, should Egypt maintain a relationship with the US if all they seem to do is cause trouble in the region? Why shouldn’t the Arab world return to fighting for the Palestinian homeland?

Money is the answer. Egypt is one of the largest beneficiaries of US spending, and much of this is reliant on the peace with Israel. Even if Egypt wanted to go to war with Israel they wouldn’t be able to afford it. Egypt’s domestic issues are desperately critical. Poverty is rampant throughout and the economy is in tatters. With many tourists being put off by the scenes of a violent revolution, one of Egypt’s biggest industries has been hit hard. It is clear that now, more than ever, that Egypt could benefit from some extra money in order to stabilise itself.  This was part of Clinton’s support package and it seems that Morsi has taken it and has since give assurance to his Israeli counterpart that he will work for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The US believe that with Egypt secured as an ally, the region is stable as far as Israel is concerned, apart from the game of nuclear cat and mouse with Iran. At this point the interdependency between Egypt and the US is just as it always has been: necessary. If Egyptians were hoping for change then it will not occur in foreign affairs. It seems that some things cannot be changed by a revolution.

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