Egypt’s Awkward Reset with the U.S.

April 10 2017

A week ago, the Egyptian president was being received warmly in Washington, where Donald Trump hosted him in the Oval Office and praised him publicly. But President Sisi obtained little of substance, and the recent American attack on Syria, Eric Trager writes, is a rejection of Sisi’s advice:

Sisi returned home on Thursday empty-handed and overshadowed as President Trump heeded the views of Jordan’s King Abdullah [with whom he met on Wednesday] on Syria and ordered strikes . . . despite Sisi’s misgivings.

To be sure, Sisi’s visit was all about receiving—and showcasing—the big Beltway hug. For the past four years, Cairo sulked as the Obama administration held the autocratic Sisi at arm’s length. . . . But the goodwill tour didn’t yield any immediate goods. Sisi received no new military or economic aid, nor did the Trump administration renew the financing mechanism that allows Egypt to order expensive weapons systems on credit.

Meanwhile, ministers in Sisi’s entourage pressed the American business community for more investments, but returned home without any new contracts. And despite Cairo’s persistent lobbying for Washington to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, the Trump administration took no such action.

Cairo, by contrast, responded coolly, expressing its “great concern” and urging the U.S. and Russia to cooperate in resolving the Syrian crisis. Egypt’s hedge isn’t surprising, of course: Sisi has deepened his country’s relationship with Russia in recent years through weapons purchases and joint military exercises, and he therefore can’t endorse an American attack on the Russian-backed Syrian regime. If tensions between the U.S. and Russia worsen over Syria, Sisi’s White House visit this past week might be the high point of his “new beginning” with Washington.

Read more at New York Daily News

More about: Egypt, General Sisi, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, 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