First Published: 2008-01-15

 
US, Egypt grow farther apart
 

Washington no longer relies on Mubarak in Mideast policy as ties with Cairo have declined considerably.

 

Middle East Online

By Will Rasmussen - CAIRO

Real value of the US aid package has been falling yearly too

The brevity of US President George W. Bush's touchdown in Egypt this week, at the tail end of his Middle East tour, reflects the diminishing importance of the relationship to both Cairo and Washington.

Bush is scheduled to spend about four hours on Wednesday in Egypt, once the cornerstone of Washington's Arab policy and a major recipient of US aid money for the past 30 years.

But the real value of the US aid package has been falling yearly, reducing US leverage over the Cairo government.

Egypt's economy is booming, petrodollars are pouring in from the Gulf and some Egyptians are questioning whether the aid is worth any concessions to the United States.

"You have a juncture where the benefits that have accrued to Egypt because of the relationship have diminished considerably over time," said Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor at the University of Maryland.

Egypt, in turn, is no longer as important to the United States as a mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict and as a logistical gateway for US forces to the Gulf.

The United States provided about $2 billion (1.02 billion pounds) a year to Egypt for years after it signed the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

The US aid represented about 1.4 percent of Egypt's gross domestic product in 2006, compared to about 10 percent in 1980.

Investors from the Gulf are using record oil revenues to snap up Egyptian banks and real estate. Oil and gas firms are investing billions for exploration and production in Egypt.

"In all, Egypt has many other ways to mobilise foreign exchange," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "US aid is no longer essential for that purpose."

Military component

The military component of the aid does make a difference, however, by helping to ensure the stability of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government.

Egypt protested last year when US lawmakers threatened to withhold $200 million in military funds, which help Cairo buy military hardware and finance US military training.

"The Mubaraks do not give a damn about the civilian part which has steadily declined," said prominent Egyptian dissident and sociologist Saadeddin Ibrahim.

"But they went bananas when Congress put some mild conditional ties (on the military aid)... The regime is totally dependent on the army's support."

In its regional policy the United States no longer relies so heavily on Mubarak, who in the 1990s used his relationship with former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to help negotiate agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Egypt permitted thousands of overflights by US warplanes for operations against Iraq and gives US warships preferential treatment in the Suez Canal but the country is no longer as important as it was in accessing the Gulf.

While most analysts foresee no big change in foreign policy under Mubarak, some signs of tension have emerged recently.

Egypt defied US ally Israel earlier this month, allowing Palestinian pilgrims to return to the Gaza Strip without Israeli screening - a boost for the Hamas government.

"Egypt, which rightly sees itself as a central player in the Arab world, is at a juncture where we are likely to see some big reassessment of the relationship, although it's not likely to happen while Mubarak is in office," Telhami said.

 

Yemen warring parties 'closer' to agreement

Major assaults target IS jihadists in Iraq, Syria

Netanyahu forms ultra-nationalist Israel government

New Afghan Taliban leader named

Female Emirati pilot issues rallying cry to young women

Pope prays to 'convert hearts' of ISIS extremists

Egypt expels French journalist amid crackdown on media

Israeli rights group gives up on army complaints system

Hamas-led council backs executions without Abbas approval

Syrian base used by Russia damaged in IS attack

Kurdish, Arab forces announce anti-IS offensive north of Syria's Raqa

Palestinian PM dismisses Netanyahu proposal

Israel PM's travel expenses under scrutiny

EgyptAir victims' relatives give samples for DNA tests

Iran sends new delegation to Saudi for hajj talks

Hardline cleric elected head of Iran's Assembly of Experts

Civilians trapped as Fallujah siege tightens

Iraq's Fallujah offensive draws attention from embattled PM

Turkey incoming PM unveils cabinet

US, Russia scramble to save Syria truce

Libyan coastguards intercept 550 bound for Europe

Campus bomb kills two in Yemen's Sanaa

Saudi soldier killed in landmine blast on Yemen border

Over 148 killed in IS bombings in Syria regime heartland

Iraq forces battle IS jihadists to retake Fallujah

Erdogan advisor says Turkey could suspend EU deals

Iraq launches military operation to retake Fallujah

Oil prices dip as Iran says no to output freeze

Skepticism ahead of Istanbul humanitarian summit

Sudan steps up pressure for exit of Darfur peacekeepers

UN Palestinian agency says half its schools hit by conflict

Bombs kill more than 120 in Syria regime strongholds

Netanyahu rejects French peace initiative

Gunmen kill 8 worshipers in Darfur

India in deal to turn Iran port into trade hub

Turkey's incoming PM working on new cabinet

Israel lifts ban on Gaza cement deliveries

Yemen warring parties meet after long pause

Egypt enlists submersible to search for EgyptAir crash clues

Tunisia's Ennahda reelects Ghannouchi as party chief

At least 20 dead in Yemen suicide bombing

Syria rebels give truce brokers 48 hours to end regime offensive

Deadly bombings rock northeast Syria as US commander visits

Ex- government minister dies in Libya ISIS clashes

Green Zone breach may set stage for more violence in Iraq