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.

 

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison