The phrase “war on terror” and “Russia” are synonymous with the current thaw in Egyptian-U.S. ties under the leaderships of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and U.S. President Donald Trump.
President Sisi started his first official visit to Washington earlier in April at the invitation of his U.S. counterpart signifying an end to years of shaky relations between the two countries. The two exchanged remarks of praise and expressed willingness to engage in partnership in the global fight against terrorism.”It was an honor to welcome President Sisi of Egypt to the White House as we renew the historic partnership between the U.S. and Egypt,” Trump tweeted. Ties between US and Egypt worsened when the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama suspended the annual 1.3-billion-dollar military aid to Egypt following the military removal of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and later a heavy crackdown on his loyalists and now-blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood group.
Over the past few years, crackdown on Morsi’s supporters has killed hundreds and imprisoned thousands, while growing anti-government terrorist attacks killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, with most of the attacks claimed by a Sinai-based group loyal to the regional Islamic State (IS) militia. Sahar Abdel-Rahman, deputy editor-in-chief of Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram daily newspaper, said that the vision of Obama’s administration regarding some regional issues including Egypt’s fight against terrorism was “blurry,” which caused tension between the two countries.”Unlike Obama, Trump showed understanding of special cases in Egypt like the country’s anti-terror war and several issues in the Middle East including the crises of Syria, Libya and Yemen,” Abdel-Rahman told Xinhua, adding that both sides share similar visions on regional issues.
As Trump’s administration promises the resumption of annual military aid to Egypt, it also announced to resume the massive joint Bright Star military exercise with Egypt, which was cancelled by Obama in protest against the crushing crackdown on Morsi’s loyalists. “There will be huge military cooperation according to Egyptian and U.S. statements, which will be employed in Egypt’s domestic war against terrorism in Sinai as well as the U.S.-led global war on terror in the region,” said Al-Ahram deputy editor-in-chief.
RUSSIA IN REGION
Despite the end of Cold War that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Russia has remained a source of concern for the United States although Trump seems to be more friendly than all his predecessors towards the country,if his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin is anything to go by.
Since Sisi is an ally of Putin, who has been sending Russian forces to Syria to assist the army of President Bashar al-Assad, Trump is believed to be seeking closeness with Egypt to ensure U.S. regional influence amid Russian expansion.”I believe that the U.S. administration will try to win Egypt as a regional partner in an attempt to curb the regional expansion of Russia that also enjoys good relations with Egypt,” said Mokhtar Ghobashy, deputy chairman of the Arab Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
Despite the IS-claimed Russian plane crash in Egypt’s Sinai that killed over 200 Russians in October 2015, strategic relations between Moscow and Cairo have not been affected.Egypt hosted in October 2016 its first joint paratroopers’ military exercise with Russia dubbed “Friendship Protectors 2016.” Russia also plans to build Egypt’s first nuclear plant as per an agreement signed in late 2015.”In my opinion, Trump will attempt to convince Sisi to turn to the U.S. instead of Russia that elevated its partnership with the Middle East country during the rift of Egyptian-American relations,” Ghobashy told Xinhua.
EGYPT ECONOMIC PUSH
Suffering economic slowdown over the past few years of political turmoil and relevant security challenges, Egypt also pins hope on promising relations with the world’s biggest power and number one economy to boost its economic conditions.
Once he laid foot in Washington, and ahead of his talks with Trump, Sisi met with American congressmen, businessmen, investors, the chief of the World Bank and others to further mutual economic cooperation.”The visit also seeks to coordinate mutual economic, development and investment cooperation that have been halted for years,” said Ikram Badr-Eddin, political science professor at Cairo University, expecting Sisi-Trump meeting to have a future effect on Egypt’s economy due to Trump’s business background.
Badr-Eddin eyes promising Cairo-Washington economic partnership but he hopes their approach will help bridge their political gap on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, amid Israeli settlement expansion that is highly rejected by Egypt and carelessly disregarded by the United States.”I believe there will be economic, investment and cultural cooperation between Cairo and Washington very soon and we will see further American investments in Egypt in the near future,” the professor told Xinhua.