by Geoffrey Churchman
With Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, former US President Obama spearheaded the disastrous interventions in Syria and Libya in 2011 which led to the rise of ISIS and the international migrant crisis.
Obama also suspended aid to Egypt after popular protests ousted the short-lived Islamist President Muhammad Morsi in 2013.
Since Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sisi took power in 2013 he has made clear that Political Islam is the major cause of instability in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood was quickly designated as a terrorist organisation and relations with the three regimes that are allied to it — Hamas (in the Gaza strip), Turkey and Qatar (the base of Al Jazeera) have been sour. During this time Egypt has constantly sided with Israel over Gaza, and Israel has helped Egypt combat Islamists in Sinai.
Zero tolerance of Islamists in Egypt since 2013 has seen the closure of all mosques under 80 sq. metres in floor area — 27,000 of them — and the requirement that all sermons in mosques be written/approved by the country’s religious ministry to ensure there is no trace of jihad in them.
Extracts from this article in the Arab Weekly:
Over four years, Trump has been seen by Cairo as a powerful supporter in the White House.
The US president, in fact, boosted direct aid to Cairo, including seeking $1.4 billion for “bilateral assistance” in 2021, much of it for military and security assistance.
This came in contrast to the policy of his predecessor Barack Obama, according to which US suspended direct military aid in the wake of the Egyptian popular protests that ousted Islamist President Muhammad Morsi in 2013, including blocking the delivery of Apache attack helicopters, F-16 fighter jets and more than $250 million.
Egyptians are likely to be concerned about a revival of Obama’s democracy agenda which meant actively encouraging political participation of Islamists. In his Foreign Affairs piece, Biden sounded very much like Obama. “The United States will prioritise results by galvanising significant new country commitments in three areas: fighting corruption, defending against authoritarianism, and advancing human rights in their own nations and abroad.” Washington, he said, will host a global Summit for Democracy during his first year in office.
The Tunisians will be pinning their hopes on seeing Biden’s pro-democracy agenda translate into more economic support for their country amid its precarious democratic transition. But politically speaking, any conspicuous US role will be controversial in the North African country, with the exception of helping find a settlement for the Libya conflict.
If Trump loses the presidency, Egypt could also lose an important ally in its dispute with Ethiopia over the massive dam project on a tributary of the Nile.
In fact, Trump has largely neglected Africa, with one glaring exception: the tussle between Ethiopia and Egypt over the dam project.
Ethiopians were shocked earlier this year when Trump issued guidance to suspend millions of dollars in aid to the country, a major security ally in the Horn of Africa, and again last month when he told reporters that Egypt will “blow up that dam.”
Israel and Iran
Israeli Settlements Minister Tzachi Hanegbi warns that a Biden presidency could ignite war in the Middle East, while Egypt fears Biden would aid the resurgence of Islamists in the region.
Hanegbi pointed out that Biden has indicated he will resurrect America’s nuclear agreement with Iran which was cancelled by the Trump administration.
For Israel, this would represent an existential threat to national security and drastically increase the chances of war with Tehran.
“If Biden stays with that policy, there will, in the end, be a violent confrontation between Israel and Iran,” said Hanegbi.