US-Egypt relations: On whose terms?

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Washington is waking up to the fact that it cannot deal with Cairo the way it used to.

The US administration always conducted its relationship with Egypt on its own terms. And Egypt always accepted the US terms, no matter what. Finally, though, now it seems the US has realised the changes happening in Egypt: the new president will not accept Egypt-US relations unless they are on his own terms. Yes, this is how it is going to be.

Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Egypt’s new president — though this is still not officially announced — expressed confidence that relations with the US will improve after Egypt’s presidential elections, and that strong public support at the ballot box will prove to the US once and for all that it was the Egyptians who wanted to oust Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, and that what happened on 3 July last year, the day Morsi was in fact ousted, was indeed a revolution, not a military coup.

However, Americans believe that US-Egypt relations will travel a bumpy road — a very bumpy road. Why? First, while Al-Sisi’s priority will be restoring stability to Egypt, some US bodies will dedicate their time and effort to criticising the Egyptian administration over freedoms and civil rights. Second, Al-Sisi stated there will be no reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, a goal Washington has been advocating.

But, since international relations are primarily based on interests, Washington has decided against calling our revolution a coup. For the US, this is a chance to make amends with the Egyptian administration and make room for political reconciliation. Still, the Egyptian media and people are furious over the American administration’s backing of the Brotherhood and working with Islamists to divide Egypt.

Washington is short on understanding the situation in Egypt. Before the US takes any steps regarding bilateral relations, it has to fully comprehend the situation on the ground. It has to understand what really happened on 30 June when millions of Egyptians took to the streets in a nationwide revolt against Morsi. The presidential elections served to make it clear to the US and the world that the Egyptian people stand on Al-Sisi’s side.

Al-Sisi also made it clear that once the West realises that the Egyptian people are on his side, international relations may become much warmer. He added that the international community must also cooperate to eradicate terrorism.

After the Egyptian foreign minister and US secretary of state met to ease bilateral tensions, John Kerry came out to speak of disturbing problems. We know that the US administration is always slow in getting the facts straight and understanding the situation on the ground. The question now, however, is whether we should really care.