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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kurtzer on Egypt

At Middle East Strategy at Harvard, there's a short post today about President Bush's brief meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday.
Both the brevity of Bush’s stop and the content of his statement reflect the malaise that has afflicted U.S.-Egyptian relations for nearly a decade now, going back to the end of the Clinton administration, when Egypt received its share of the blame for the failed peace process. Mubarak has increasingly disliked the U.S. approach to the region since then, and U.S. leaders—in the Congress as well as the White House—have come to see Mubarak as an aging leader who is only minimally helpful on regional issues and a laggard when it comes to reform in his own country. The 30-year old U.S.-Egyptian partnership has always had two legs: strategic and diplomatic cooperation in the region, and U.S. support for liberalization (first economic, later political) inside Egypt. While the two countries’ regional goals are still reasonably in sync, the partnership will continue to suffer until there is better mutual agreement on where Egypt’s reform process is going and how the United States can support it.
There's a comment on the post from Dan Kurtzer, former US ambassador to Egypt (and to Israel) and until recently commissioner of the Israel Baseball League:
More substantively, President Bush’s words about the strength of U.S.-Egyptian relations will do little to calm the bilateral waters unless he accompanied those words with a private commitment to try to restore the full amount of military aid which Congress wants to reduce. Is Egypt still “worth the money?” This requires a more thoughtful discussion than a few lines of comment, but the short answer for now is “yes.” With such angst in the region about U.S. policy over the past few years, this is the wrong time to dump an old friend overboard.
No one has taken any aid away from Egypt - yet. What has happened is that Congress has attached to the foreign aid bill a very watered down provision that would withhold $100 million in aid if the Egyptians don't do something to stop Hamas' weapons smuggling. I don't think that asking countries to do something that's in America's interest in return for their foreign aid money is unreasonable. In this case, it would be progress if the Egyptians would stop helping the smugglers.

Update Friday 12:45 PM

I note that my response to Dan Kurtzer (essentially what you see above) was not posted in the blog's comment section. Maybe they didn't like that I sent it in as "Carl in Jerusalem" (no last name) and that I'm not a professor or a (former) diplomat.


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