Washington's Limited Influence in Egypt

(Weekly Standard) David Schenker - After thirty years of joint exercises, stateside training for the officer corps, and over $35 billion in U.S. military assistance, just how much influence Washington has with the Egyptian military remains unclear. While Egyptian officers clearly appreciate the benefits of military-to-military ties with Washington, the leverage derived from this relationship has been overstated. Simply put, the $1.3 billion a year U.S. grant isn't what it used to be. When U.S. assistance started flowing back in 1981, the annual military grant equated to more than 5% of the state's GDP. In 2010, it stood at less than 1/4 of a percent. Thus, it is unlikely that U.S. attempts to condition this aid to politically difficult decisions would be successful. And Washington's influence in Cairo will become even more tenuous when (and if) the military eventually returns to the barracks after elections. In the populist politics of post-revolution Egypt, close ties with the U.S. are considered a liability. In late July, the state-owned October magazine ran a cover story about the new U.S. envoy to Cairo titled, "Ambassador from Hell." Just a month earlier, Cairo turned down a $3 billion low-interest IMF loan with virtually no conditions attached, a decision seemingly predicated on a popular aversion to the U.S.: According to a Gallup Poll taken earlier this year, 75% of Egyptians oppose accepting U.S. economic assistance. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2011-09-16 00:00:00

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