U.S Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to visit Egypt and Israel on Tuesday; but, his trip was postponed until next month.
In fact, Pence’s visit follows the footsteps of countless American officials who have stopped in Cairo to laud the “strategic partnership” between the United States and Egypt, but many American analysts perceive now that the American relations with Egypt should be downgraded.
Richard Sokolsky and Andrew Miller wrote in their article at the New York Times for reducing military assistance to Egypt and recognizing that the relationship with Cairo is not as useful as it once was.
“American and Egyptian interests are increasingly divergent and the relationship now has a far less common purpose than it once did. Mr Pence should make clear to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, that the two countries need a reset, beginning with a major reduction in American military assistance,” they said in the New York Times.
They stated that there was a time when both countries derived important mutual benefits, including reliable Egyptian support for the United States’ interests in the Middle East. But over the past decade, the United States has poured more than $13 billion in security assistance into Egypt with little to show for it except more jobs for a defense industry exporting material that is ill-suited to Egypt’s defense needs and that allow the Egyptian military to sustain a patronage system that distorts the economy and fuels corruption
In addition to “saving American taxpayers’ money, this would send an important message to other recipients of American aid that our support is not unconditional. It would also help to rein in an arrangement that has distorted Egyptian-American relations, “according to the New York Times article.
Analysts believe that the time when Egypt used to be a strategic partner to the United States was eliminated especially with the recent preliminary Egyptian-Russian agreement to grant reciprocal access to each other’s air bases. A step which was considered as” the most recent example of profoundly unfriendly behaviour by a purported friend.”
Another step was Egypt’s military support to General Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army(LNA) has clashed with forces loyal to the internationally recognized and United States-backed government.
Moreover, Egypt has made common cause with Russia, “in the United Nations Security Council, to oppose the United States on issues from Syria to Israel/Palestine. And this year, revelations emerged of the Egyptian military and economic cooperation with North Korea, “said the NY Times.
In the same context, analysts also believe that even if the American and Egyptian goals remain aligned, Egypt struggles to promote their mutual objectives effectively.
NY Times said that Washington has not grasped a new reality “Because of its internal decay, Egypt is no longer a regional heavyweight that can anchor America’s Middle East policy.”
It explained,”Al- Sisi ‘s government has contributed shockingly little to the campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Cairo consistently has ignored American to train Egyptian forces in the counterinsurgency doctrine and tactics that could help defeat the insurgency in Sinai.”
In addition, NY Times reported that “the importance of American access to Egyptian airspace has declined, and American privileges at the Suez Canal are drastically exaggerated. Contrary to prevailing wisdom, the U.S. Navy does not receive head-of-the-line privileges, whereby our ships can jump ahead of other vessels.”
In the same context, the American Conservative (an American journal) wrote in its article titled: “It’s Time to Downgrade the U.S. Relationship with Egypt “that al-Sisi’s rule has been a fine example of how brutish repression does not deliver security.
It added, “There is no good reason for the U.S. to continue indulging an abusive dictatorship that does so little to advance U.S. interests. Egypt’s status as a U.S. client is a relic of another era and has less and less relevance to U.S. interests as time goes by. Like other bad clients in the region, Egypt has become a liability to the U.S. and doesn’t merit the support that Washington has provided more or less automatically for so many decades.”
In the same context, NYT also blamed Trump for promising to be a “loyal friend” to Egypt and lavishing al-Sisi with praise instead of realizing that Egypt’s importance has diminished.
“The White House also has gone silent on the Egyptian government’s abhorrent human rights abuses, which fuel radicalization, increasing the global threat from terrorism. In so closely tying the United States to the Sisi government and its repressive practices, the administration is all but ensuring that millions of marginalized Egyptian youth will view the United States with hostility,” said NYT.
It is worth to mention that Obama administration took initial steps to make military assistance less generous and limit the weapons systems Egypt could buy with American funds. The Trump administration has also withheld or reprogrammed more than $200 million in military assistance.
But according to the New York Times, “This is a start. More needs to be done.”
In light of Egypt’s declining strategic importance and its problematic behaviour, “Washington should sharply reduce its annual military assistance by $500 million to $800 million to align our resources with our priorities. A cut in Egypt’s aid would free up badly needed funds. And a move to start reducing security aid to Egypt to a level that is more in line with the actual value the United States derives from the relationship would be broadly popular in Congress, which has grown frustrated with Cairo,” said the NYT.
Analysts also believe that the risks are limited, especially that Egypt is unlikely to change its behaviour in response to less aid.
“It won’t, for example, end its peace treaty with Israel or cease its counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States. It will, of course, continue to fight local jihadists, “said the NYT.
“America is getting a bad deal in Egypt. That’s ironic for a president who prides himself as a negotiator. Mr Pence’s visit is an opportunity to turn a new page with Egypt and make the United States’ commitment to the country commensurate with what Washington receives in return,” according to the New York Times.
It added, “If the Trump administration does this, it will take a small but important step toward restoring America’s tarnished credibility and reputation in the region.”