The recent talk on strategy affairs between Egypt and the United States raised questions about the nature and future of the relations between the two states amidst a condition of “push and pull” that the country witnesses since Revolution of June 30. When some considered that the talk would bring the relations back on track, others saw that it did not bring any change to the American attitude, i.e. the state of tension and space between the two states has continued.
The fact is that both views initially come from simplifying the Egyptian-American relations which are characterized by extreme privacy based on common interests and different entanglements that link between them, whereby a clear frame of work for the relations and a limit for the diversities and differences in the attitudes between the two states are set so that it wouldn’t reach the stage of confrontation and estrangement. As well, the views come from the idea of achieving coexistence between common strategic interests, and discrepancy in attitudes and policies between them, which can lead to tensions and a state of estrangement.
After the revolutions of January 25 and June 30, the Egyptian-American relations witnessed significant changes, i.e. from a traditional style (where the United States was always the only independent figure and Egypt was the dependent follower) to a new style based on equal dealing due to the independence of the Egyptian foreign policy and the multiplicity of its departments, where Egypt is no longer limited to the US and Europe; for, it also included big states in the international system like Russia and China; and Egypt diversified its sources of weaponry – that is not limited any more to the United States. This is especially featured in the French Rafale deal. The American administration is in a position of “making a reaction”, which is imposed on the US, after the big and quick changes that Egypt has gone through in recent years; and the United States no longer have the effect of directing the internal interactions as it was in the past.
So, the American policy, tried hard to achieve the balance between the considerations of strategic interests with Egypt (maintaining the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and the military traffic in the Suez Canal, and have the Egyptian support in the war against terrorism); and the considerations of idealism associated with democracy and human rights, which the United States is used to have as a card to produce weight on the Egyptian regime to realize strategic interests as it would be during Mubarak’s reign.
Thus, the American confusion towards Egypt after the Revolution led to floundering in it's policies just like it happened after the Revolution of June 30 when the US imposed economic and military sanctions on Egypt; it insisted on having Muslim Brotherhood merged into the political life/ operation which resulted in estrangement in the relations between the two states. But at the same time the reality of the American policy and its interests with Egypt; Egypt’s significant role in fighting terrorism in Sinai and “ISIL” in the region; Egypt’s key role in settling the crisis in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya; in addition to Egypt’s important role in accomplishing the steps of the “Road Map” like constitution and presidential elections (and it is about to run parliamentary elections)… all this led the US administration to revise its attitudes towards Egypt, lift the sanctions, provide Egypt with weapon as agreed – as it is exemplified in receiving Apache helicopters, F-16 warplanes, the resumption of maneuvers/ exercises of “Bright Star”, and the talks resumed after they had been halted for 6 years. All this contributed to the restoration of the relations between the two states.
However, there are some gaps amidst the continuation of differences in attitudes about some suspended issues such as the position of Muslim Brotherhood in the country; since Egypt put Muslim Brotherhood on the list of terrorist groups, as a terrorist group that practiced violence against society and country. Yet, Washington insists on having the group join politics. So is the case when it comes to the American role in the peace process that is completely retreated – this contributed to the escalation/ increasing of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people; the Palestinian Cause is retreated from its position in the international agenda; in addition to the perfect strategy of war against terrorism. Since the American strategy of fighting terrorism was proved ineffective, political solution is inevitable and total facing terrorism in necessary.
Likewise, the American attitude towards Iran has changed after Iran Nuclear Agreement was signed with the West; Egyptian and Gulf fear of the expansion of Iran’s power and of the increase of its negative role in the region and complicating crises, and amidst the convergence between Teheran and America at the expense of the Arabic interests. Consequently, the Egyptian-American relations based on two sides: first, maintaining common strategic interests that are not influenced by the change of the US-administration; then continue the cooperation in terms of military and economic fields, fighting terrorism and coordination of concerns and causes of the region. Second, a change related to the American policy with regard to democracy, political reform, freedoms and human rights in Egypt.
Despite the US being careful about separating between both of the sides and coexisting between them, a complete normalization of the relations, or tightening them, basically depends on Washington’s change in its attitudes and giving up on political conditionality, linking aid to democracy and imposing a certain direction of political interactions of Egypt as it was during the reign of Mubarak. As well, it depends more on the change of the current administration from which we do not expect a big change in its stances towards Egyptian internal affairs; and emergence of a new administration that would realize the changes in Egypt and the nature of the Egyptian foreign politics after the two revolutions, which led to changing the rules of the game and traditional form of relations between the two states that lasted for decades. However, in any case, the Egyptian-American relations will remain between the state of non-normalization of relations and non-estrangement alongside of coexistence of common interests.