The resurrection of the U.S.-Egyptian partnership

By Adel El-Adawy, Founder & Executive Director of CCAS


The Trump White House is steering U.S. Mideast policy into a new direction. For example, there are serious contemplations to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, a clear shift away from President Barack Obama’s controversial and naïve Presidential Directive 13 in support of the Brotherhood as a force of moderate Islam and stability in the region. The Trump administration has demonstrated its realist worldview with the primary focus on dismantling the sophisticated global terrorism infrastructure. Yet, the ultimate success of President Donald Trump’s global war against radical Islamic terrorism will depend on his ability to create effective alliances with regional powers. The Trump administration has already taken steps to revive damaged relationships with longtime U.S. allies in the Arab world and invite few key leaders to Washington.

In the context of Trump’s regional outreach to Arab friends, the upcoming visit by President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi to Washington stands as a testament for the administration’s intention to resurrect the U.S.-Egyptian partnership. Although the last few years have seen U.S.-Egyptian cooperation diverge apart, the Egyptian political leadership remained a reliable U.S. ally and always upheld its part of the bargain in the relationship.

Among other things, Egypt continued priority passage of U.S. ships through the Suez Canal, approved vital over-flight rights for U.S. planes, and maintained the U.S.-brokered peace deal with Israel. Now with the strong bond between President Trump and President El-Sisi, there is political room for further growth in the strategic U.S.-Egyptian partnership, especially when it comes to the fight against radical Islamic terrorism.

Egypt has successfully weathered the post-2010 regional political turmoil, but still is entrenched in an existential fight against the violent activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and its various terrorist affiliates. Unfortunately, the fight against terrorism has led to the loss of many innocent lives with a tremendous financial toll to state infrastructure estimated to be over $5 billion dollars. Yet, President El-Sisi remains steadfast in his determination to defeat the evil forces and enemies of human civilization by audaciously calling for religious reforms to eradicate the man-made inhuman understandings of Islam. Thus far the Egyptian campaign has been relatively successful, allowing Egypt to start looking beyond its borders and play a more assertive regional role.

In Libya, Egyptians have been busy building political consensus to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Libyan state by hosting serious diplomatic talks with various Libyan political factions. On the Palestinian-Israeli issue, Egypt remains a key player in the back channel negotiations between both parties to resolve the conflict based on a two-state solution. The Egyptian navy presence in Bab El-Mandeb and other areas has also helped secure the strategic waterways from any potential threats to global commerce. The advanced military and intelligence capabilities of the Egyptian state, coupled with the moderate Islamic regional influence of Al-Azhar has allowed Egypt to make small but positive strides towards a more peaceful and stable Middle East.

Nevertheless, there are few things President Trump can do to further help Egypt’s stabilizing role in the region: First, he can increase military assistance to the Egyptian Armed Forces and allow them to purchase the most advanced American military equipment. Second, he can reinstate the Egyptian cash-flow-financing privilege to allow large-scale military purchases from American defense contractors. Third, he can spearhead a new round of bilateral “strategic dialogue” talks to increase U.S. cooperation with Egypt in all fields. Fourth, he can encourage U.S. allies to invest in Egypt and boost its recovering economy. Fifth, he can initiate a large-scale debt relief program similar to the 1991 package for Egypt’s strong commitment in fighting terrorism. Sixth, he can expedite the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a terrorist organization and dismantle its international support ecosystem.

President El-Sisi’s trip to Washington will mark the return of Egypt to the global stage, as a key player in the new Middle East. The bilateral discussions between the two leaders will provide an ideal platform for upgrading U.S.-Egyptian ties and building a new strategic twenty-first century alliance. It is expected that the liberal U.S. political establishment will resist President Trump’s growing cooperation with Egypt and might even attempt to derail it. But, these shortsighted efforts by the opposition should not affect the Trump administration’s strategy of resurrecting the U.S.-Egyptian partnership. The universal goal of achieving international peace and prosperity depends on a stable political order in the Middle East, not attainable without a strong Egypt supported by Washington and the broader international community.

This article was published by The Hill.