America's alliance with Egypt, forged over more than four decades, is "standing on the verge of collapse" because of the Obama administration's inability to understand the revolution that ousted President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, says Middle East expert and journalist Youssef Ibrahim.
Writing in Thursday's New York Sun
, Irbrahim referred to this week's Obama-sanctioned trip to Cairo by Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, as pretty much a disaster that makes things worse between Cairo and Washington.
"In a cascade of mutual recriminations over the past three days, [acting] President [Adly] Mansour and his prime minister, Hazem Biblawi, described [the] two senior American senators, sent as emissaries of President Barack Obama, as 'delusional' and 'liars.'
During their meetings with the new Egyptian leadership, McCain and Graham said
they urged the government to release ousted President Morsi and his supporters and negotiate with the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Spokesmen for both the presidency and the prime minister immediately took umbrage, joined by an array of press commentators, who accused the two Americans of 'manufacturing facts' and 'of unwelcome interference in Egypt's internal affairs," wrote Ibrahim.
"Following a press conference in which Mr. McCain threatened sanctions, the leader of the Egyptian Popular Current Party, Hamdeen Sabahi, who is a co-leader of the ruling National Salvation Front, described Mr. McCain as a 'senile old man.'"
McCain also angered Egyptian leaders by suggesting the removal of Morsi
amounted to a coup by referring to it as "a transition of power not by the ballot box."
According to Ibrahim, public sentiment in Egypt echoes that of its acting leadership. He noted, for example, that a new "Rebel Movement" is calling for a public campaign to "Say No to US Aid," which totals $1.5 billion a year. He also referred to a Reuters report Wednesday in which military sources suggested Egypt might call off joint military maneuvers codenamed Bright Star.
The exercises have been led by the U.S. and Egypt, with the participation of Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and at times Turkey, since 1981.
"The confrontation emerging between the Obama administration and Egypt represents a startling collapse for a president who. . . made his first presidential demarche a speech at Cairo reaching out to the Muslim world," said Ibrahim. "Now the confrontation threatens to destroy the foundation of regional, military, intelligence and anti-terror alliances built over decades."
While the cost to Egypt of losing American trade and investment would be steep, Ibrahim argued that the cost to the U.S., "if the confrontation gets out of hand," would be larger.
"It could plunge America into an era like that which [was] obtained between 1952 and 1970, when Gamal Abden Nasser used Egypt's clout to fan Arab Nationalism and anti-Americanism across Africa and the Arab world," he said.
Ibrahim warned that there are also implications for Israel, saying, "With the second most powerful army after Israel, Egypt is a major factor in the search for peace."
He summed up Egypt's view of the situation by pointing to remarks made Wednesday by Amr Moussa, who served as both foreign minister under former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and as secretary general of the League of Arab States.
Addressing McCain and Graham via a television interview, Moussa said, "Neither of you are delegated to open the dictionary on our behalf to designate a coup from a revolution. Or course we did choose Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood companions via the ballot box, but that does not exempt them from consequences of criminal behavior."
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