America’s intricate alliance with Egypt, woven over four decades, is standing on the verge of collapse over the failure of the Obama administration to comprehend the revolution that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Cairo.
In a cascade of mutual recriminations over the past three days, President Mansour and his prime minister, Hazem Biblawi, described two senior American senators, sent as emissaries of President Barak Obama, as “delusional” and “liars.”
The two senators arrived with demands to release all Muslim Brotherhood leaders being held under arrest and to integrate the party into the new revolutionary government. Otherwise, they warned, the Obama administration will cutoff all financial and military aid to Egypt.
Spokesmen for both the presidency and the prime minister immediately took umbrage, joined by an array of press commentators, who accused the two Americans, Senators McCain and Graham, of “manufacturing facts” and of “unwelcome interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.” The flagship Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram, said the senators engaged in “foolish statements that are unacceptable.”
Following a press conference in which Mr. McCain threatened sanctions, the leader of the Egyptian Popular Current party, Hamdeen Sabahi, who is a co-leader of the ruling National Salvation Front, described Mr. McCain as “a senile old man.”
On the streets, nationalist sentiment was not far behind. The ‘’Rebel Movement’’ is pitching a new drive titled ‘’Say No to US Aid’’, which runs at $ 1.5 billion a year. So grave is the situation that military sources told Reuters on Wednesday that Egypt may call off critical joint military maneuvers code-named Bright Star.
Bright Star, which has been taking place since 1981, comprises the largest such exercises in the region. The exercises have been jointly led by America and Egypt, with participation of Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and sometimes Turkey.
The confrontation emerging between the Obama administration and Egypt represents a startling collapse for a president who, in Mr. Obama, made his first presidential demarche a speech at Cairo reaching out to the Muslim world. Now the confrontation threatens to destroy the foundation of regional, military, intelligence and anti-terror alliances built over decades.
To Egypt the cost is steep. It would lose American investments in education, medical research, and industrial training, as well as access to trade and political-organizational mentoring for a generation of civilian and military professionals. President Putin beckons, but Russia today is not in a position to replace all, or even much, of that.
To America the loss, if the confrontation gets out of hand, would be larger than Egypt’s. It could plunge America into an era like that which obtained between 1952 and 1970, when Gamal Abdel Nasser used Egypt’s clout to fan Arab Nationalism and anti-Americanism across Africa and the Arab world.
Egypt, with 86 million people and a vast system of schools, institutes, and universities hosting not only Egyptians but other Arabs and Africans, is almost imperial, its reach magnified by the fact that all 350 million Arabs speak the same language. Some 8 million Egyptian expatriates work in other Arab countries.
This is why the Arab world swung to support Egypt in this nascent confrontation. Last month alone, in the face of warnings about a cutoff of American aid to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates rushed to proffer $ 12 billion in various grants, Central Bank deposits, foodstuffs, grain, petroleum products, and construction materials.
All this has implications not only for the United States but also for Israel. With the second most powerful army after Israel, Egypt is a major factor in the search for peace, as is being demonstrated by the second revolutionary government, which, recognizing the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist Islamic factions, is moving to isolate Hamas in the Gaza district.
A sense of how Egypt sees things came yesterday from a scion of the fallen Hosni Mubarak old guard, Amr Moussa, who served a decade as Egyptian foreign minister and another as secretary general of the League of Arab States. Addressing via a television interview Senators McCain and Graham he said: “Neither of you are delegated to open the dictionary on our behalf to designate a coup from a revolution. Of course we did choose Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood companions via the ballot box, but that does not exempt them from consequences of criminal behavior.”
Recalling the Richard Nixon episode, Mr. Moussa noted that ‘’The United States was the first to remove its elected president when he faced lesser charges that those now weighing over the leadership the Muslim Brotherhood.”