Lynch & Cook: US Policy on Egypt Needs a Big Shift

U.S. Policy on Egypt Needs a Big Shift - NYTimes.com:

The Obama administration’s response should begin with a clear, public presidential statement specifying what transferring power to a civilian government means. This would not involve micromanaging Egyptian politics in a manner that risks a nationalist backlash in Egypt, but Washington should put the Egyptian military, which receives $1.3 billion annually from the United States, on notice that the officer’s efforts to carve out a post-transition political role for themselves is unacceptable.

In addition, Washington should now throw its weight behind early presidential elections, a demand shared by virtually all Egyptian political forces and recently agreed to under S.C.A.F. pressure. It should also insist on a rapid response to the long-standing demand to end the military trials for civilians and the application of emergency law, which makes those trials and other means of repression possible. It should speak out against recent moves to censor the media and to incite citizens against protesters and foreign journalists. And, crucially, the administration should demand real accountability for those responsible for violence against civilians.

In other words, Obama administration needs to have stronger response to events of Tahrir and be clearer on its policy. I wonder how that's going to be welcomed in the US though on the day Islamists appear to have won a majority in the parliamentary elections. As I see it, these are the elements that go into shaping US policy towards Egypt, and only the first may have the same priorities in mind:

  1. Obama himself, the White House and the NSC who think about the president's vision and legacy, as well as the way these play in American domestic politics;
  2. The State Department, which is probably mostly focused on bilateral mechanics and regional diplomacy;
  3. The Pentagon and Central Command in particular, who care about maintaining the strategic status-quo;
  4. Congress, which will be motivated by the Israel lobby, the defense lobby, the Christian lobby, and a few members longstanding interest in Egypt.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.