Washington – Alex Shalaby, honourary president of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), said the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)’s relationship with the US State Department will witness irreversible decline if the current CIA Director Mike Pompeo replaces outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Pompeo was openly hostile to the MB during his time in the US Congress, as he previously presented a draft law to label the group as a terrorist organisation.
In an interview with the press delegation accompanying the annual door-knock mission organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, Shalaby noted that Egypt-US relations still fall short of expectations, however, they may improve after the confirmation of Pompeo. He added that the secretary of state-designate lacks the required political experience and has no connection with United States allies, therefore ending Tillerson’s manoeuvres with Arab countries.
US President Donald Trump fired Tillerson on Tuesday via Twitter, naming Pompeo as his replacement.
Egypt-US relations seem better currently compared to the Obama era, shown clearly through the comparative decline of the Trump administration’s criticisms of Egypt, as well as maintaining the $1.3bn military aid to Egypt despite the United States’ tendency to cut off external aid, Amr Kotb, head of the TIMEP, said.
At the same time, he added that reducing US allocations for economic and development support in Egypt and disagreements over some issues, such as a law regulating civil society, reflect a lack of consistency in Trump’s policy towards Egypt which makes it difficult to understand the nature of relations between the two countries under Trump. “We believe that the main reason for this fluctuation in Trump’s attitude towards Egypt is Egypt’s position on the North Korea issue, especially since the Trump administration does not give priority to human rights issues,” Kotb said.
Kotb ruled out the possibility that the US reduces its military aid to Egypt in 2019, with the same prediciton for the economic aid, estimated at $75m.
Allison McManus, research director at the TIMEP, said the decline in bilateral relations between Egypt and the US resulted from Egypt’s weak regional role which appeared clearly in the deterioration of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as Egypt-America relations partly rely on Egypt’s role in the Arab region. Under Obama, the US administration viewed Egypt as the key player in the region. Therefore, it was the first Arab country to receive Obama, but this belief has now faded, so Trump visited Saudi Arabia instead of Egypt. The US decision to transfer its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem also reflected Trump’s negligence of the Egyptian position on this issue, she added.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia’s visit to the United States showed the growing strength of Saudi-American relations at the expense of Egypt, according to members of the TIMEP. They pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s recent social openness aims to increase rapprochement between the two sides.
Despite this “fluctuating” relationship between Egypt and the US, members of the TIMEP believe that “military ties between the two sides are always the best,” noting that America frequently praises Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts.
McManus said that the American business community applauded Egypt’s legislative and economic reforms, such as the floatation of the pound and the issuance of the unified investment and bankruptcy laws, which would improve the business environment. She noted that such reforms may have a good impact on general bilateral relations due to the business community’s impact on decision-makers in America.