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12.11.2013 Author: Vladimir Odintsov

United States, Egypt and lessons learned from events in the Middle East


Source: Ron Haviv

The fact that the United States and the CIA openly supported Syria’s armed opposition by supplying it with weapons and reinforcing it through sending in foreign militants, many of whom are closely connected with Al-Qaeda and its branches, has undermined the USA’s credibility in the region. Here it is increasingly understood that, instead of the declared fight against terrorism, the policy of the White House is only leading to a growing threat of terrorism in the Middle East and the consolidation of the positions of Islamists and radical fanatics.

The other day, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Nabil Fahmy openly stated in his interview to the government newspaper Al-Ahram that the relations between his country and the USA were currently undergoing a serious crisis. He stressed that in the last 30 years, while Egypt was receiving American military and economic assistance, the USA has developed an erroneous view that the Arab Republic of Egypt should act in line with Washington’s policy. That is why the White House, which had placed its bets in the political palette of Egypt on Muslim Brothers, took very negatively the decision of the Egyptian people to break free from the Islamists’ ideology – unacceptable for this secular country – and from their desire to turn Egypt into a caliphate. Washington’s special affinities with Muslim Brothers (who at the very start of their existence declared the USA and Israel as their main enemies) were demonstrated by President Dwight Eisenhower – after World War 2, he was actively trying, jointly with the CIA, to use the anti-communist character of this movement to fight against Russia for influence in the Middle East.

Outraged by President Mohamed Morsi’s removal from power by the Egyptian military, Washington stopped providing military-technical and economic assistance to Egypt, which had stood at about 1.5 billion dollars, in early October of this year. Obama’s decision to penalise the current Egyptian authorities for “disobedience” demonstrated contempt not only for the policy of Cairo, but also for the opinion of Israel, which had tried to persuade the USA not to reduce military assistance to Egypt because Tel Aviv would much prefer having the current authorities of the country rather than Muslim Brothers.

This measure on the part of the United States was taken by Cairo quite negatively because, after all the revolutionary upheavals in the country and region, Egypt is still experiencing serious problems in the financial and economic sphere, as well as in terms of the material and technical equipment of the national security and armed forces units. Moreover, Cairo believes (and not without reason) that the recent deterioration of the USA-Egypt relations can also have an impact on the situation in the region and, first of all, in terms of regional security and delaying the process of the Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which has been going with significant difficulties anyway. But in spite of this clearly unfriendly move on the part of the White House, Cairo is not inclined to compromise its revolutionary gains.

Cairo is not trying to blame those overseas for the situation in the country as it recognises that the situation that has emerged is, to a large extent, explained by the country’s political short-sightedness in the past; therefore, Cairo has decided to diversify its foreign policy by developing relations with Russia, China and other BRICS countries. In this regard, it should be noted that, particularly in the last months, the positive feelings towards Russia and the interest in it have increased not only in the governing circles of Egypt but also among the general public. Judging by the feedback from Egypt, among the photographs of the most popular national politicians, you can now very often see alongside the photograph of Egyptian President Nasser the photograph of Russian President Putin, whom the Egyptians would sincerely like to have as a guest on their soil.

As part of the diversification of foreign political relations declared by Cairo, the issue of the revitalisation of the many-decade traditional relations between Egypt and Russia in the trade-economic and military-technical sectors has entered its active phase. In particular, on 14-15 November later this year, the Russian delegation led by Minister of Defence Sergey Shoygu will be on an official visit in Egypt to discuss the specific areas of military and technical cooperation between the two countries. There is no doubt that the Egyptian military are interested in obtaining Russian combat aircraft capable to operate effectively at low altitudes, modern antitank missile complexes, and in the modernisation of the Soviet tanks which are in service in the Egyptian army. The development of military cooperation with Russia is now becoming particularly relevant for Egypt given the USA’s refusal to continue the previously concluded agreement (2010) on transferring to Cairo 20 fighter aircraft model F-16, twelve of which were meant to be supplied by the United States before the end of the current year. The conduct of the annual joint military exercises Bright Star has also been cancelled.

The above actions of Cairo to revitalise the relations with Russia were quite painfully perceived in Washington, so United States Secretary of State John Kerry has been recently delegated to Egypt to prevent this process. According to some of our sources, the head of the United States Department of State has even demanded that Minister of Defence Abdel Fattah al-Sisi should refuse to conclude the contract on purchasing weapons from Russia and promised that the relations between Cairo and Washington would be brought back to their previous level. However, the Egyptians declined the proposals made by the American diplomat.

Yes, times are changing, and the lessons of the last year have not been in vain, especially for the countries of the Middle East. Many of them are already aware of the “sincerity” of the White House’s policy and now navigate through the international space without taking notice of the shouts from Washington. But has the United States learned any lessons from these events, or is it going to fight for world dominance “to the bitter end”, without worrying too much about the interests of the people who inhabit these regions?

Vladimir Odintsov, a political observer, exclusively for the New Eastern Outlook online magazine.

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