Egypt Is No Longer the Lodestar for the Arab World. But It Still Matters

March 20 2017

In the middle of the last century, Cairo was the cultural and intellectual capital of the Arab world, the Egyptian government its diplomatic and military leader, and the country a model of Arab nationalism. While this is no longer true, writes Samuel Tadros, that is no reason for the U.S. to abandon its longstanding alliance with Egypt:

Egypt’s control of the Arab League is no longer as strong as in the past and in any case the Arab League is irrelevant. Maintaining the peace treaty with Israel is in Egypt’s own interests and not dependent on U.S. support. Al-Azhar [University, once an important center of Islamic learning], holds no sway over the world’s Muslim population, and Egypt’s cultural decline leaves it with limited soft-power capabilities [to influence] Arabic-speaking peoples. From Syria to Yemen and even in neighboring Libya, Egypt has lost its ability to impact its surroundings. Even regional allies are growing frustrated with Egypt and its president. Those in the Gulf dreaming of Egypt becoming a counterweight to Iran are realizing the futility of their investments. [Above all], Egypt is increasingly deteriorating under the weight of its own troubles. . . .

Egypt . . . may no longer be a contestant for regional hegemony, but it is today the primary contested prize in a struggle over the region’s future. . . . The collapse of Egypt—with its population of 92-million—would lead to a refugee crisis of historic proportions. No one wants a Somalia on the Nile, a Libya on Israel’s borders, or a Syria in control of the Suez Canal, the United States least of all.

But if this scenario is to be averted, the U.S. needs to adjust its policies accordingly. The United States should no longer base its policy on an Egypt that no longer exists. U.S. interests in Egypt are no longer maintaining the peace treaty [with Israel] or passage in the Suez Canal, but rather strengthening state institutions to make sure a regime collapse does not lead to a state collapse. Instead of focusing on military cooperation, the United States needs to develop a new partnership with Egypt that addresses the growing terrorist threat in the country, the collapse of the rule of law, failed economic policies, the educational vacuum, and the growing sectarian hatreds that threaten the fate of the Middle East’s largest Christian community.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Arab World, Camp David Accords, Egypt, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

 

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy