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Egypt And The Guardian Of Democracy
Published in AL HAYAT on 13 - 10 - 2013

Ever since the Arab Spring began and before it became a tragedy, the United States has been trying to contain the changes it has produced and continues to produce, especially as those who were toppled had been its allies for decades. It used to depend on them to protect its interests and confront its enemies and its rivals. President Hosni Mubarak, for example, preserved Egypt's "neutrality" in what had remained an Arab-Israeli conflict throughout his prolonged time in power. During that period, the Arab World witnessed an Israeli invasion of Lebanon, withdrawal from it in 2000, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and a war on Lebanon again in 2006, in addition to several minor wars and intifadas, and the assassination of President Yasser Arafat.
Neutralized from the conflict, Egypt has been in a coma ever since the Camp David Accords. The war it fought in 1973 was its last war, as Sadat had declared at the time. Its African dimension was no longer important, despite undergoing changes that posed a threat to its national security, starting from Somalia and up to Libya and Sudan, not to mention Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, and other countries of the Nile Basin. It practiced a policy of seclusion, without having this luxury, especially with the great river, its lifeblood, under threat. As for its Levantine dimension, international and regional forces fight over it, disrupting its geography and demographic components, waging wars in it and drawing up plans to fragment it, without Cairo having any role or say in the matter. In other words, the Land of the Pharaohs has become besieged from both its African and Levantine dimensions, while Israel makes itself heard on every issue.
This was the reality of Egypt before June 30: a country that relies on aid, which the ruling class would distribute among itself, while the majority of the people are overwhelmed by poverty and unemployment; and a country that ignores the storm while being in the eye of that very storm, allowing smaller countries to try to play its role in the Middle East and impose their policies there; all in exchange for a few donations.
After the "Spring", the United States tried to contain the changes and keep Egypt in the same position by reaching an understanding with the Muslim Brotherhood, which had risen to power. From day one, the Brotherhood tried to outbid the policies of the former regime. Thus, President Mohamed Morsi announced that the Camp David Accords would be preserved, and began to coordinate with the Israelis in the Sinai. He also drew the Hamas movement into the "moderate camp", called for Jihad in Syria and stood against Iran, without taking into consideration the political changes that were taking place. Those stances satisfied the United States, but they did not satisfy the people and the army, especially as the President sought to "Brotherhoodize" the state. The army thus took advantage of the people's resentment and deposed him.
The move made by the army upset the United States, which considers its alliance with this army to be essential to Egypt remaining a US ally in the Middle East. It thus began seeking to return Morsi to power, by means of a European effort led by Catherine Ashton. When it found this to be impossible, it resorted to punishing Cairo, cutting its aid by a few hundred million dollars, and threatening to cut it off entirely if the army persists in its stance on Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, having made the continued supply of such aid contingent on the extent to which "democracy" is being applied.
The fact of the matter is that Washington is now at a turning point in its Middle Eastern policy, having backed down on bombing Syria, and being on the verge of recognizing Iran's influence in the region. This new reality requires a new policy from Cairo, one different from that of Sadat and Mubarak and from the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood. All of them had held Egypt's position, weight and influence hostage to a few billion dollars that used to end up in the pockets of a few, and being paid to the American companies that handle the maintenance of military aid. This is in addition to the fact that such aid is not even worth much, when compared to the overall budget of the Egyptian state. It was a "symbolic" amount of aid that allowed Washington to control the policies of the former regimes. And here is the US now reducing it, in a clear process of blackmail.
It could take years before Egypt regains its standing, but it has begun to take the first steps in that direction, and may well be subjected to additional pressure from the guardian of democracy in the world.


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