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 says will continue to consider Nusra security threat

French PM mulls temporary ban on foreign-funded mosques

Turkey widens post-coup purge to businessmen

Egypt education system under spotlight

Study says lack of exercise cost world $67.5 billion

Syria rebels prevent civilians from leaving Aleppo

Egypt former anti-graft head gets jail term for exaggeration

Rebels form 'supreme council' to run war-torn Yemen

France, Britain call for end to Aleppo siege

Al-Qaeda OKs breaking ties with Syria affiliate

Croatia arrests Kurdish man wanted by Turkey

Tunisian army kills two 'terrorists'

Turkey sees over 40% drop in visitors

Assad offers amnesty to Syria rebels if they surrender

Second France church attacker formally identified

Egypt Christians hope for end to discrimination with new law

HRW accuses Syria, Russia of using banned cluster munitions

Post-coup Turkey continues military shake-up

Clinton camp accuses Trump of inviting foreign spying

Morocco arrests 52 suspects planning to set up ISIS branch

Coalition opens formal investigation into Syria civilian deaths

Pope to journalists: 'World at war', but not a religious war

Turkey warns post-coup crackdown ‘not completed yet’

Egypt top Muslim cleric denounces murder of French priest

Russia denies meddling in US election campaign

Syria regime kills 16 civilians in Aleppo assault

Killer of France priest was 'Syria obsessed time-bomb'

Netanyahu defends war record after protest by parents of dead soldiers

44 dead in double bomb blast in Syria Kurdish city

Marketplace bomb in Yemen kills 7

Kuwait jails Shiite MP for insulting Arab Gulf states

Iran presidential election set for May 2017

ISIS claims deadly bombing in Syria Kurdish city

Bahrain tries prominent Shiite cleric

Turkey planning anti-Gulen army purge before coup

Turkey issues more arrest warrants for journalists

Israeli raid kills Hamas member said to be behind attack

Saudi condemns "in the strongest terms" deadly attack on France church

Egypt has asked IMF for financial support

Shabaab says suicide bomber was ex-Somali MP

Bahrain refers 138 ‘terror’ suspects to court

Brutal attacks reignite political friction in Germany

Weakened army still faces twin challenges in Turkey

Turkey detains top generals, prominent journalists in widening purge

Hamas 'summer camp' trains dozens of young people for war