Egypt’s iconic and towering leaders in the past have stood out from other Arab countries. President Nasser revived Arab pride and nationalism, and Anwar Sadat was the first leader of a muslim Arab country(followed by Jordan) to make peace with Israel and bring an end to military conflict between the two states.
Egypt has a unique importance not only to the United States, but also to Europe and China. The country controls the Suez Canal which is a major trade passage for Europe, therefore it is vital to the global economy that stability is guaranteed in this country of almost 95 million.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s reelection as President of Egypt on 28th of May was hardly surprising. This was an outcome widely expected mostly because all other major candidates were either intimidated or imprisoned. Needless to say nobody took the candidacy of Mustafa Moussa seriously as he was a loyal Sisi supporter.
Ever since defense minister Sisi proclaimed himself president after a coup against previous president Morsi in 2013, Egypt has become an Orwellian dictatorship and departed further away from the utopia that the 2011 Arab Spring revolution had envisioned. Not only does Sisi’s regime represent the exact opposite of the democratic society Egyptians protested (and died) for on Tahrir square, but he has also failed to end poverty, and provide security.
Egypt’s economic recovery and a road to prosperity has not cleared up so far, and the emergence of an upper middle class is not in sight. It certainly doesn’t seem as though Sisi’s government has any kind of serious idea to make it happen.
While BMI Research predicts Egypt will outperform other Middle Eastern countries in 2018, poverty has never been as widespread as now. According to Egypt’s own state statistics agency, almost 30% of Egyptians have to survive on 54 usd per month. Prices for basic necessities like bread have increased significantly in the past years, (this is what actually triggered the Arab spring revolutions). People went onto the street protesting the high price of bread.
The terrorist attacks against Coptic Christians continue and the Egyptian army is entangled in a fight against ISIS and other terror groups on the Sinai peninsula in Al Arish, around 200miles north from the tourist beaches and five star hotels of Sharm el Sheikh.
“This is the man who admitted on Portuguese state TV that he supports war criminal Assad”
Most European foreign ministry websites have rightly flagged travel to the country as unsafe with security warning level 2 and 3, and top luxury hotels on booking.com are unbelievably cheap and drastically reduced to attract more tourists. However, Russian foreign ministry interestingly has no such risk warning and in fact Russian media encourages travel to Egypt.
This is part of a broader arrangement between the two countries which includes military, tourism and agriculture exports. Egypt receives Russian tourists and in return buys all its grain from Russia, while also pledging to purchase more and more weaponry and military equipment from Russia every year. This brings me to a question which has perplexed me for a while now; why is the United States congress approving 1.5 billion USD of aid to Egypt every year?
Egypt is the worlds biggest grain importer, and they buy most of it from our enemy Russia, while receiving billions of US dollars in aid from us. Next time congress insists on extending this generous aid why dont we make it mandatory for Egypt to purchase at least 80% of their grain from the United States. Enacting this will encourage more grain production in America and create many new jobs in America’s agriculture states. These states are mostly Republican, so it should certainly make sense to the Trump administration to reinforce and bolster their support if they intent to win reelection in 2020.
This push on Egypt to buy American grain makes even more sense now as the possibility of upcoming tariffs on US grain exports to China seem likely. The visit of Secretary Mnuchin to China for trade negotiations is a sign escalation of a trade war is less imminent, however, China shouldn’t be able to blackmail the United States with restricting its grain market, alternative markets must be found and secured to thwart this Chinese threat.
We absolutely need to reevaluate US tax payers’ money going to Sisi’s regime. This is the man who admitted on Portuguese state TV that he supports war criminal Assad, the Syrian dictator whom President Trump himself recently called “a monster”.
While around 300mil military aid to Egypt has been halted, more pressure must be asserted on Sisi to; comply with international human rights and take serious action on the criticism of Amnesty International, stop the import of Russian grain and replace it with American, and align with US foreign policy in Syria and the broader region.
It is high time the United States government stops wasting tax payers money on countries that are counter productive to US foreign policy in the Middle East.