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U.S.-Egyptian Relations

The United States and Egypt enjoy a strong and friendly relationship based on shared mutual interest in Middle East peace and stability, revitalizing the Egyptian economy and strengthening trade relations, and promoting regional security. Over the years, Egypt and the United States have worked together assiduously to expand Middle East peace negotiations, hosting talks, negotiations, and the Middle East and North Africa Economic (MENA) Conference. Multinational exercises, U.S. assistance to Egypt's military modernization program, and Egypt's role as a contributor to various UN peacekeeping operations continually reinforce the U.S.-Egyptian military relationship.

An important pillar of the bilateral relationship remains U.S. security and economic assistance to Egypt, which expanded significantly in the wake of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty in 1979. U.S. military aid to Egypt totals over $1.3 billion annually. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided over $25 billion in economic and development assistance to Egypt between 1975 and 2002. A shift in assistance from infrastructure, health, food supply, and agriculture toward market-based economic development, good governance, and training programs is reflected in the motto, "From Aid to Trade." The Commodity Import Program, through which USAID provides hundreds of millions of dollars in financing to enable the Egyptian private sector to import U.S. goods, remains one of the largest and most popular USAID programs. Since 2003, U.S. assistance is also focusing more on economic reform, education, civil society, and other programs supported by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

U.S. military cooperation has helped Egypt modernize its armed forces and strengthen regional security and stability. Under Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs, the U.S. has provided F-4 jet aircraft, F-16 jet fighters, M-60A3 and M1A1 tanks, armored personnel carriers, Apache helicopters, antiaircraft missile batteries, aerial surveillance aircraft, and other equipment. The U.S. and Egypt also participate in combined military exercises, including deployments of U.S. troops to Egypt. Every other year, Egypt hosts Operation Bright Star, a multilateral military exercise with the U.S., and the largest military exercise in the region. Units of the U.S. 6th Fleet are regular visitors to Egyptian ports.

The US continues to promote democratic reform in Egypt, including the expansion of political freedom and pluralism, and respect for human rights. While Egypt has made some limited gains over the last several years, such as on freedom of the press, progress overall has been slow. The US continued to press the GOE to replace the State of Emergency, in place almost continuously since 1967, with counterterrorism legislation that protects civil liberties. Designed to target violent Islamist extremist groups, the GOE has also used the Emergency Law to target political activity by the Muslim Brotherhood, bloggers and labor demonstrators. The Interior Ministry suppresses political opposition through arrests, harassment and intimidation. The GoE remains skeptical of the US role in democracy promotion, arguing that any efforts to open up will result in empowering the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mubarak viewed President Bush (43) as naive, controlled by subordinates, and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran's regional influence. On several occasions Mubarak has lamented the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the downfall of Saddam. He routinely notes that Egypt did not like Saddam and does not mourn him, but at least he held the country together and countered Iran. Mubarak continues to state that in his view Iraq needs a "tough, strong military officer who is fair" as leader. This telling observation describes Mubarak's own view of himself as someone who is tough but fair, who ensures the basic needs of his people. No issue demonstrated Mubarak's worldview more than his reaction to demands that he open Egypt to genuine political competition and loosen the pervasive control of the security services. Certainly the public "name and shame" approach in recent years strengthened his determination not to accommodate American views. However, even though he was more willing to consider ideas and steps he might take pursuant to a less public dialogue, his basic understanding of his country and the region predisposed him toward extreme caution. He lamented the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world. He harkened back to the Shah of Iran: the U.S. encouraged him to accept reforms, only to watch the country fall into the hands of revolutionary religious extremists. Wherever he had seen these U.S. efforts, he pointed to the chaos and loss of stability that ensued. In addition to Iraq, he also reminded US diplomats that he warned against Palestinian elections in 2006 that brought Hamas (Iran) to his doorstep. By 2009 he feared that Pakistan was on the brink of falling into the hands of the Taliban, and he put some of the blame on U.S. insistence on steps that ultimately weakened Musharraf. While he knows that Bashir in Sudan has made multiple major mistakes, he cannot work to support his removal from power.

President Obama's speech in Cairo in June 2009 helped immensely to broaden the conversation, making it clear that the US intends to work in partnership with Egypt and regional allies to meet the challenges the people and governments of the region face. However, the US also been clear that the U.S. considers democracy and development two sides of the same coin, and that US policy toward assistance will reflect that principle.

In 2008, the U.S. Congress placed language in the Appropriations Spending bill that put conditions on the expenditure of assistance to Egypt in three areas. It also gave the President through the Secretary of State the right to waive and to say "no, we would not do that." The Bush Administration never supported the conditions and, in fact, tried to persuade the Congress not to do it. And as soon as the law was passed with the conditions, Secretary of State Rice told Congress she was exercising her right to waive those conditions. In 2009, the law that just passed a couple of weeks ago, there are no conditions. That conditionality language doesn't exist today and it was never actually imposed because it was waived by the Secretary of State for 2008.

As Economic Support Fund (ESF) funds have declined, and democracy and civil society have been emphasized, the assistance relationship has become at times as much a source of tension as a symbol of partnership. Tensions over the U.S. approach to democratic reform and human rights led to an impasse when the previous multi-year ESF agreement expired. Without consultation with Egypt, the U.S. cut the ESF program by over 50 percent from $415 million in FY2008 to $200 million in FY2009 but promised to sustain this level for five years. The GOE never accepted this unilateral decision and effectively suspended negotiations on FY2009 program implementation.

Almost a year after a Muslim Brotherhood candidate was elected president of Egypt, the United States was still trying to recalibrate its relations with a country that for decades has been one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi won the presidency last June promising voters they would have more civil rights than under former president Hosni Mubarak, who was forced from office during the Arab Spring uprisings that shook the Middle East and North Africa. But Morsi has not yet delivered on many of his promises and President Barack Obama’s administration is finding it increasingly difficult to stand by him while holding firm in its demands for freedom and human rights in Egypt. The result, say Middle East analysts, is an increasingly complicated relationship between Washington and Cairo.

US Aid to EgyptThe Obama administration did not label President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster on July 3, 2013 an actual military coup which, which under US law, would trigger a cut-off of assistance to Egypt. As a signal of its concern following the military ouster of Morsi, the Obama administration announced it was delaying the planned delivery of four F-16 fighter jets earmarked for Egypt. U.S. aid to Egypt was no longer as influential in Cairo as it used to be because Arab Gulf nations had already pledged $12 billion to the country's new government. The broader question of continuing Washington's $1.3 billion in annual military assistance was not addressed. The lack of an overall position on the Egyptian situation led each side in Egypt to conclude that Washington was backing the other. A sign of this distrust came in July 2013, when U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visited Cairo, and both anti-Islamist and pro-Muslim Brotherhood leaders refused to meet with him. Burns was able to meet only with the country's military leaders and the civilians they appointed.

The State Department said 09 October 2013 the US would freeze hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Cairo's army-backed government, most of it in military assistance. US Secretary of State John Kerry said the decision to reduce aid to Egypt did not mean Washington is severing ties with the country. Kerry said 10 October 2013 the Obama administration remained committed to restoring democracy in Egypt and will stay engaged with its interim leaders -- who, he said, "understand very well our commitment to the success of this government, which we want to see achieve."

The State Department said the halt in what it called "certain large-scale military systems" would continue until Egypt shows "credible progress" toward free elections and a democratic civilian government. Early reports quote US officials saying the move includes stopping delivery of Apache helicopters, anti-ship missiles and tank parts. Washington will continue to provide health and education assistance, as well as help aimed at securing Egypt's borders. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty called the decision "wrong" and said his country was committed to carrying out a political roadmap, which included plans for elections in 2014.

Conspiracy theories prevalent in Egypt’s media created another problem for the future of US–Egyptian relations. Egypt’s media accused the US conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine Egyptian sovereignty in the Sinai, for example.

US Secretary of State John Kerry stopped 20 April 2016 in Cairo for an hours-long visit en route to Saudi Arabia, his rhetoric was softer, mostly expressing solidarity with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on issues of security and economic cooperation. “We also talked about ways in which we can hopefully resolve some of the differences and questions that have arisen about the internal politics and choices for the people of Egypt,” Kerry said, without saying exactly what the “differences” entail.

The United States and Egypt sought ways May 18, 2016 to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said this week he would "make every effort" toward a solution. Secretary of State Kerry met with the Egyptian leader in Cairo, with a State Department spokesman later saying the top American diplomat "expressed his appreciation" for Sissi's "strong support for advancing Arab-Israeli peace."

US President Barack Obama froze aid to Cairo after Egypt's military, led by then General Sissi, overthrew Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013. Sissi was elected to the presidency a year later. Obama did not invite Sissi to the White House and was critical of the military regime's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsi represented as president. Sissi regards the Brotherhood as a terrorist group.

Cristiano Lima reported 09/22/16 [Trump praises Egypt's al-Sisi: 'He's a fantastic guy'] "A day after autocratic Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he had “no doubt” Donald Trump would make a strong leader, the Republican nominee returned the favor, praising Sisi as a “fantastic guy.” Trump touted the “chemistry” the two politicians shared during a special meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly... “I thought it was very productive. He’s a fantastic guy,” Trump said of Sisi. “I thought it was a great meeting. We met for a long time, actually. There was a good chemistry there. You know when you have good chemistry with people. There was a good feeling between us.” Trump also praised the foreign leader’s handling of the Egyptian coup d’etat of 2013 that removed former President Mohamed Morsi from power, a bloody transition that saw thousands of dissidents and protesters killed. “He took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it,” Trump said. Days prior, Trump lavished Sisi with praise, expressing support for the leader’s “strong support for Egypt’s war on terrorism, and how under a Trump administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.""

Donald Trump met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi 03 April 2017 at the White House. It was the Egyptian leader's first official visit to the White House. The Oval Office meeting was being keenly watched in Cairo where there is intense curiosity about Trump's intentions toward Egypt and the greater Muslim world following Trump's ban on citizens from six Muslim majority countries.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2017 18:45:11 ZULU