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Presidential Succession Scenarios in Egypt and Their Impact on U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Relations

Presidential Succession Scenarios in Egypt and Their Impact on U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Relations - Cover

Authored by Gregory Aftandilian.

September 2011

62 Pages


Although this monograph was written before the pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt in January 2011, it examines the important question as to who might succeed President Hosni Mubarak by analyzing several possible scenarios and what they would mean for U.S. strategic relations with Egypt. The monograph first describes the importance of Egypt in the Middle East region and gives an overview of the U.S.-Egyptian strategic relationship. It then examines the power structure in Egypt to include the presidency, the military, and the ruling party. The monograph next explores various succession scenarios. Although some of these scenarios have been overtaken by events because President Mubarak has been driven from office and his son, Gamal Mubarak, is no longer a viable candidate given the popular anger against the Mubarak family, the other scenarios are still plausible. Scenarios envisioning a short-term take-over by Omar Soliman, Ahmed Shafiq, or other members of the current or former military establishment would likely preserve U.S strategic interests, provided such take-overs are of short duration and result in a transition to democratic civilian rule. However, if the military does not return to the barracks, then U.S.-Egyptian strategic relations would be adversely affected because it is unlikely that the U.S. Congress and the U.S. administration would continue to provide aid to what would be a military dictatorship. An immediate transition to a civilian president, such as opposition leader Mohammad El-Baradei or former foreign minister Amre Moussa would not adversely affect the substance of the overall U.S.-Egyptian relationship because both are establishment figures, though the United States should expect some distancing by either one of them in the bilateral relationship over some U.S. policies in the region. The worst-case scenario for the United States would be a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, but for this to occur, both the Brotherhood and the Egyptian military would each have to split, with radical elements collaborating to form a new government; this is not a very likely scenario. During a presidential succession period, U.S. policymakers should understand that the transition will happen based on events and processes inside of Egypt, not those in Washington. U.S. officials should avoid backing a particular Egyptian presidential candidate and instead speak about adherence to the rule of law and the Egyptian Constitution. In the case of a military take-over, even one of short duration, U.S. officials should emphasize the need to return to civilian rule as soon as possible.

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