US backing of el-Sissi reminiscent of Mubarak era

(By Deutsche Welle) With ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi sworn in as Egypt’s president, Washington has promised that it will cooperate with his government. Are US-Egyptian ties returning to the Mubarak-era status quo of military rule?

More than three years ago, US President Barack Obama withdrew Washington’s long-standing support for Hosni Mubarak, accelerating the former air force marshal’s overthrow by mass demonstrations. Today, the White House is cooperating with Egypt’s latest military-commander-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in what some analysts say is a return to the old status quo of US support for military rule.

“The United States looks forward to working with [Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi], the winner of Egypt’s presidential election, to advance our strategic partnership and the many interests shared by the United States and Egypt,” the White House said in a news release.

The Obama administration also expressed concern about the restrictive political environment in which the elections took place, calling on el-Sissi to adopt political reforms that would fulfill the “democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

But in his May 28 foreign policy speech, President Obama made clear that US-Egyptian relations are primarily rooted in national security interests, not democracy promotion.

“In countries like Egypt, we acknowledged that our relationship is anchored in security interests, from peace treaties with Israel to shared efforts against violent extremism,” Obama told the West Point Military Academy’s graduating class.

“So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government, but we can and will persistently push for reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded,” the president continued.

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US turns blind eye as army ousts Islamists

(By Deutsche Welle) The US has called for a quick return to democratic rule in Egypt. But with billions in aid at stake, Washington has stopped short of calling President Morsi’s overthrow by the military a coup d’état.

More than two years after US President Barack Obama backed the overthrow of strongman Hosni Mubarak, Washington has stepped aside while the Egyptian military has ousted the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi.

On Wednesday, President Obama issued a carefully worded statement, calling on Egypt’s generals to quickly restore democratic rule. But Obama seemed to express tacit support for the hundreds of thousands of protesters who had taken to the streets of Egypt in recent days, demanding that the Islamist dominated government resign.

“No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people,” the US president said in his press release. “An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians want and deserve.”

While State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that the US “was not taking sides” in Egypt’s latest political crisis, she also faulted President Morsi for not proposing steps to address the opposition’s concerns.

“You’re seeing a clash between values and interest here,” Tarek Radwan, an Egypt expert with the Atlantic Council, told DW. “Naturally, [US] values say a stable democracy is good in the long term. Our interests, however, say a military coup is in fact a good thing here.” 

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Egypt opposition wary of US financial overtures

(Deutsche Welle) As Egypt heads toward economic crisis, Washington has begun releasing long-stalled financial aid. But members of the secular opposition are concerned that the US may be getting too cozy with the Islamist incumbents.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced last weekend that Washington would disburse some $190 million (145 million euros) to help Egypt close its gaping budget deficit, raising concern among secular and liberal opposition groups that the Obama administration is cultivating closer ties with Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Kerry also pledged another $60 million to help set up a joint Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund to support small businesses. The total $250 million in aid money would be the first installment of a one-billion-dollar package pledged by US President Barack Obama to Egypt in May 2011.

Up until now, the disbursement of that money has been delayed due to concerns in Washington about Egypt’s volatile transition to a more democratic system. Members of Congress in particular have been worried about Morsi’s commitment to peace with Israel, Egyptian security forces raiding NGOs, and anti-American protests at the US embassy in Cairo last September.

“[The US] wanted to make sure power is transferred meaningfully from the military to an elected president,” Yasser El-Shimy, an analyst with the International Crisis Group in Cairo, told DW. “Now that Egypt has a president, a constitution and parliamentary elections, the US feels much more comfortable giving that money.”

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