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.

 

US denies everything agreed on Iran nuclear deal

Iraqi forces liberate Tikrit after month-long battle

Arab coalition bombards rebels in Yemen's Aden

Gazans hope ICC will get justice for Israel’s 'war crimes'

Ancient Libyan treasures now in ISIS' sights

Egypt president urges Huthi rebels to 'back off'

After a month-long battle, Tikrit 'liberated'

Armed group takes prosecutor hostage in Istanbul

Palestine must wait for its day in court

UN rights chief expresses alarm on Yemen situation

Suicide blast in Iraq on bus carrying Iranian pilgrims

Arab coalition pounds Yemeni capital

Iraq forces ‘retake’ government HQ in Tikrit

Massive power cut causes chaos across Turkey

Kuwait emir pledges $500 million at Syria donors conference

Iran nuclear talks enter their final day

Assad does not see Russia, Iran interests in Syria

Confidence in Tunisia ability to rebound as museum reopens to public

Iran claims US drone killed two military advisers in Iraq

Court finds ex-Israel Premier Olmert guilty in corruption retrial

Deadly air strike hits camp for displaced people in northwest Yemen

Erdogan insists on visit to Iran despite war-of-words

UN chief in Iraq for talks with top officials

UN warns of horrifying Syria 'catastrophe'

Iran asks for explanation on Erdogan comments

One day to Iran nuclear talks deadline

Yemen ex-president's son sacked as ambassador to UAE

At time of war, cigar business launched in Syria

Yemen Huthi rebels bombed for fifth night

Saudi police officers wounded in Riyadh drive-by shooting

World leaders show solidarity with Tunisia in march against extremism

Guarded optimism as Iran nuclear talks close in on deal

Dialogue remains distant as Arabs vow to defeat Iran 'puppet' in Yemen

Egypt renews calls for creation of joint military force at Arab summit

Saudi ambassador to return to Sweden after diplomatic spat

Libya forces ‘withdraw’ from frontline bases near oil ports

Qaeda seizes 'majority' of Syria northwestern city of Idlib

Torturous Iran talks move into top gear in battle of wills

UN Security Council keeps Libya arms embargo in place

Saudi-led airstrikes target arms depots in Yemen capital

Death toll from hotel attack rises as fighting continues in Somalia

Oil prices fall after Yemen-inspired gains

Turkish parliament passes security bill after long debate

Turkey army chief of staff visits historic tomb inside Syria

Saudi-led coalition keeps up raids against Yemen rebels