The US-Egyptian Relationship

Flag of Egypt
Flag of Egypt. Photo: Getty/Stockbyte

Background:

Egypt is considered one of the United States' strongest allies in the Middle East and Arab World. However this was not always the case. The relationship was shaped by regional and global conflicts and calculations, causing it to fluctuate from discord during the Gamal Abdel Nasser years to cooperation during the Anwar Al-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak years.

The 1952 Revolution:

The July 23 revolution was led by a group of young nationalist Egyptian officers "The Free Officers" who were disillusioned by what they perceived as the continued legacy of British intervention (through the weakened monarchy) in Egyptian politics leading to internal politics that frequently favored foreign nationalist over Egyptians.

Additionally the revolution was seen as a response to an internal feudal system that led to a concentration of power among a limited elite.

The Nasser Years:

During the 50's and 60's, three issues colored the American view of its relationship with Egypt: the Cold War, Arab Nationalism, and Israel as a strategic ally. Initially, President Nasser favored a non-aligned approach and asked the United States for military support. When denied support, Nasser turned to the Soviets who supplied Egypt with the weapons, pushing Egypt closer to the Soviet camp. This, combined with U.S. fear of Nasser's Arab Nationalism, led the United States to worked toward undermining the Egyptian regime.

Closer Relationship:

President Nasser died in 1970. The new president, Anwar Al-Sadat, actively worked to move Egypt closer to the United States, and Egyptian-American relations gradually improved. This rapprochement was symbolized by Sadat asking the Soviet military advisors to leave Egypt and U.S. President Richard Nixon's request for Congress to authorize $250 million in aid for Egypt.

Camp David Accords:

Signed on September 17 , 1978 the Camp David Accords brought an end to the conflict between Egypt and Israel and acted as the pre-requisite to the 1979 peace treaty. The event was a milestone for U.S.-Egyptian relations because the accords signed by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and were mediated by U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

As an incentive for Egypt to sign the accords, the United States promised a substantive aid packages for Egypt including military aid that continues today. U.S.-Egyptian relationship has been steadily improving ever since.

Current Relationship:

Continuing with the Sadat Line, President Mubarak continued the close relationship with the United States. Under Mubarak, Egypt has been playing what is perceived as moderate role in the Middle East, and usually follows American policy on regional issues. Egypt joined the United States in supporting Fatah over Hamas in the recent internal Palestinian split. Additionally, both countries have enjoyed an increasing level of economic cooperation. Egypt's slowness in adapting democratic reforms and reports of human rights abuses has brought periodic criticism from American officials.