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An Ambivalent Alliance: The Future of U.S.-Egyptian Relations

Abdel Monem Said Aly, the director of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo was a Visiting Fellow at the Saban Center during 2004. In this paper he argues that the U.S.-Egyptian relationship is going through a period of crisis and uncertainty. The two countries have long shared common strategic goals and interests. From the Egyptian perspective, the difficulties stem from the recent shift in U.S. policy, in particular since September 11. The problems in the relationship, while serious, have not made sustaining the alliance between Egypt and the United States irretrievable. However, action does need to be taken to restore both political and public confidence in this critical alliance.

Abdel Monem writes that there are five values that must underpin the renewed U.S.-Egyptian alliance. First, the alliance needs to be founded upon transparency, because without more awareness of the benefits of the relationship public opinion in Egypt and the United States will remain skeptical about the two countries’ strategic cooperation. Second, there must be realism. The differences between Egypt and the United States relate not to ethnic nor religious characteristics, but concern policies. Third, legitimacy is important. The legitimacy of the alliance between a super power and a regional power, an inherently imbalanced relationship, is often questioned in Egypt. However, the achievements of Egypt and the United States working in concert need to be promoted to overcome this criticism of the relationship. Fourth, the two countries need to assert the centrality of Middle East peace as a strategic goal for the region. Fifth, a Concert of Powers must be a core value. Egypt and the United States must believe in the necessity of building a wide-ranging regional coalition for moderation and modernization.

The United States and Egypt should establish three new bodies and initiatives. First, there needs to be a U.S.-Egyptian political council. Second, there must be a U.S.-Egyptian cultural initiative and third, an economic initiative could help to stimulate U.S. investment in Egypt, which to date has been relatively meager.

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