No doubt, still reeling from Obama’s public support for ousted and now jailed Egyptian Pesident Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s decline of Obama’s invitation to attend a summit in Washington D.C. is the most recent skirmish in U.S.-Egypt relations.
Al-Arabiya (h/t MZ) Sisi will not be attending the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next week, al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday.
After the military’s takeover following mass protests in 2013, Egyptian authorities cracked-down on members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the United States saw as a set-back in the democratization of the country. In response, the Obama administration suspended military aid to Egypt last year; a sign of deteriorating relations.
By halting aid, the U.S. is prioritizing its democratic ambitions for the Middle East over its long-term strategic relations, Dr. Eric Trager Wagner Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy explained. While the Obama administration sought a more democratic Egypt, it failed to recognize “the dominance of undemocratic forces”, Trager told Al Arabiya News.
The United States’ support of Morsi’s government ignored how quickly he was losing support and alienating the Egyptian public, he added.
James Toth, Professor of anthropology at Zayed University, explains that the “uneasiness” is only temporary, and relations will soon go back to normal. Toth, who has written extensively on Egypt, owes Sisi’s decline of the invitation to the “anti-American climate” post the 2013 change in power. “He doesn’t want to be seen too close to the U.S” he added. He explains that this is an effort to appear “bold and honorable” to the Egyptian public.
Trager says Egypt’s new president is simply responding to an “[the U.S.’s] ambiguous foreign policy” and “hasn’t acted out,” citing American ships’ continued privileged passage through the Suez Canal as an example. Although Obama’s invitation was a positive sign, Trager says relations “will only improve once the U.S. clarifies its policy towards Egypt.” (Not as long as Obama continues to support the Muslim Brotherhood, it won’t)