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Ed Webb

Two New Books Spotlight the History and Consequences of the Suez Crisis - The New York ... - 0 views

  • The Eisenhower administration relied on the advice of officials who admired Nasser as a nationalist and anti-Communist: a secular modernizer, the long hoped-for “Arab Ataturk.” The most important and forceful of the Nasser admirers was Kermit Roosevelt, the C.I.A. officer who had done so much in 1953 to restore to power in Iran that other secular modernizer, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
  • To befriend Nasser, the Eisenhower administration suggested a big increase in economic and military aid; pressed Israel to surrender much of the Negev to Egypt and Jordan; supported Nasser’s demand that the British military vacate the canal zone; and clandestinely provided Nasser with much of the equipment — and many of the technical experts — who built his radio station Voice of the Arabs into the most influential propaganda network in the Arab-speaking world.
  • Offers of aid were leveraged by Nasser to extract better terms from the Soviet Union, his preferred military partner. Pressure on Israel did not impress Nasser, who wanted a permanent crisis he could exploit to mobilize Arab opinion behind him. Forcing Britain out of the canal zone in the mid-50s enabled Nasser to grab the canal itself in 1956. Rather than use his radio network to warn Arabs against Communism, Nasser employed it to inflame Arab opinion against the West’s most reliable regional allies, the Hashemite monarchies, helping to topple Iraq’s regime in 1958 and very nearly finishing off Jordan’s.
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  • Eisenhower’s humiliation of Britain and France in the Suez crisis of November 1956 weakened two allies — without gaining an iota of good will from Arab nationalists. Rather than cooperate with the United States against the Soviet Union, the Arab world’s new nationalist strongmen were transfixed by their rivalries with one another
  • the deepest drivers of the Arab and Muslim states, namely their rivalries with each other for power and authority
  • “The Middle East is in the throes of an historical crisis, a prolonged period of instability. American policy can exacerbate or ameliorate the major conflicts, but . . . in the Middle East, it is prudent to assume that the solution to every problem will inevitably generate new problems. Like Sisyphus, the United States has no choice but to push the boulder up a hill whose pinnacle remains forever out of reach.”
  • The grand conspiracy was doomed to fail. The canal was blocked for months, causing a crippling oil shortage in Europe. The Arab-Israeli conflict worsened, and the Muslim world was inflamed against its old overlords in the West with lasting consequences. The botched invasion occurred just as the Soviet Union was crushing a rebellion in Hungary, its Eastern bloc satellite. When the Kremlin, seeing the opportunity to divert international attention from its own outrages, issued a letter widely interpreted as a threat to attack London and Paris with nuclear weapons, the great powers seemed for an instant to be lurching toward World War III.

    The turmoil and danger created by the Suez crisis and the Hungarian rebellion have largely faded from popular memory.

  • he was not well. “His flashes of temper and fragile nerves led some to wonder about his genetic inheritance,” von Tunzelmann writes. “His baronet father had been such an extreme eccentric — complete with episodes of ‘uncontrolled rages,’ falling to the floor, biting carpets and hurling flowerpots through plate-glass windows — that even the Wodehousian society of early-20th-century upper-class England had noticed something was up.”

    As prime minister, Sir Anthony took to calling ministers in the middle of the night to ask if they had read a particular newspaper article. “My nerves are already at breaking point,” he told his civil servants. In October 1956, he collapsed physically for a few days. According to one of his closest aides, he used amphetamines as well as heavy painkillers, and a Whitehall official said he was “practically living on Benzedrine.”

  • About two-thirds of Europe’s oil was transported through the canal; Nasser had his “thumb on our windpipe,” Eden fumed. Eden made Nasser “a scapegoat for all his problems: the sinking empire, the sluggish economy, the collapse of his reputation within his party and his dwindling popularity in the country at large,”
  • Eisenhower was not always well served by the rhetoric of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles or the machinations of his brother, Allen Dulles, the director of central intelligence. And Eisenhower had a temper. “Bombs, by God,” he shouted when the British began striking Egyptian air fields. “What does Anthony think he’s doing? Why is he doing this to me?” But Eisenhower was shrewd and he could be coldly calculating. Understanding that the British would need to buy American oil, he quietly put Britain into a financial squeeze, forcing Eden to back off the invasion.
  • the take-away from von Tunzelmann’s book is obvious: When it comes to national leadership in chaotic times, temperament matters.
Ed Webb

Saudi-Egypt crisis leaves Israel concerned - 0 views

  • a series of arms deals signed by Egypt that raised quite a few eyebrows in Israel. “They bought four German submarines and two French helicopter carriers for a small fortune,” another Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “This comes in addition to huge deals with the Russians and the Chinese to purchase numerous fighter jets.”
  • “We hope that Sisi knows what he's doing,” the latter source said, “because we don’t really understand it.”
  • The Egyptians are hoping to receive “aerial coverage” from Israel, i.e., lobbying assistance on Egypt’s behalf, which has in the recent past come to Cairo’s aid in Washington on more than one occasion.
Ed Webb

Veteran US diplomat tackles Middle East 'mess' - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • Al-Monitor:  In the old days, the Iranians and the Saudis used to talk to each other and resolve issues. Now, this is a missing piece.

    Patterson:  It goes back 20 years [to Lebanon]. This is a missing piece. And so the proxy war has gotten a lot worse and you see it all over now in frankly scary dimensions. But it wasn’t that long ago when they had some kind of relationship. … They never liked each other, but they weren’t at this level of animosity.

  • Al-Monitor:  There have been some incredibly anti-American statements lately in Egypt. [Former parliament member and current Al-Osboa editor] Mustafa Bakri openly called last week for attacks against Americans. What are we doing to counter this?

    Patterson:  We complain to the government. Mr. Bakri did sort of back off that statement. But now there has been a rash of hugely anti-American stuff in the press. This ebbs and flows, … [but] it’s really a quite dangerous game, because you fan up public opinion and then you’re hostage to public opinion.

  • Al-Monitor:  Let’s turn to Egypt. General, now Field Marshal [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi seems on his way to becoming Egypt’s next president. How would you characterize our relationship with him and the Egyptian government at this point?

    Patterson:  Personal relationships with him have been good — certainly with ambassadors, including me and with [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel and with Secretary Kerry and a lot of people on the Hill. But it’s certainly no secret that we’re concerned about freedom of the press, freedom of association, all the fundamentals that are being thrown into question right now in Egypt, not to mention the huge economic issues.

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  • It’s like 1979. The Arab Spring has changed the situation entirely in the region all at once. … It looks like a mess … but if some of this can be successful, … it will change the chessboard. … So let’s hold out hope that some of this will work.
Ed Webb

U.S. quietly allows military aid to Egypt despite rights concerns - Politics - Egypt - ... - 0 views

  • Secretary of State John Kerry quietly acted last month to give Egypt $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, deciding that this was in the national interest despite Egypt's failure to meet democracy standards.
  • "By issuing a waiver without any public discussion, it has at the very least missed a significant opportunity to ... raise its concerns about the political trajectory in Egypt," she said.
    Wittes said that last year's waiver occurred at a time when Egypt had made some progress toward greater democratic reforms, while this year "the waiver was issued in the context of a negative trajectory in Egypt's transition to democracy."
Ed Webb

Stronger Egypt-Iran rapproachement could be a message to third parties | Egypt Independent - 1 views

  • Ahmadinejad wants to convey regional leadership and to claim success in opening and warming relations with Egypt. He also benefits from having an Islamist leader, like Morsy, greet him warmly
  • “With so much trouble at home, Morsy may have wanted to look like a global statesman by welcoming Ahmadinejad. He may also want to signal his independence from Western political interests, as we’ve seen through his warming relations with the Hamas’ leadership,”
  • During a news conference, an Al-Azhar spokesperson gave the Iranian leader a public scolding, listing five demands, which included the protection of Sunni and Khuzestani minorities in Iran, ending political interference in Bahrain, ending its support of the Syrian regime, and ending Iran’s ostensible mission to spread Shia Islam across the region.
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  • “Morsy sends a clear message to the Gulf countries and especially the [United Arab Emirates] that he can easily create alternative strategic relationship,” Labbad says, adding that such “political vexing” is a response to the failure of the visit by Morsy adviser Essam al-Haddad to resolve the issue of 11 Egyptian detainees in the UAE. The latter are said to have strong connections to the Brotherhood’s international organization, in the midst of growing enmity between Egypt and the UAE..

    Labbad argues that Morsy thus does not aim at real and deep rapprochement with Iran, but rather a cosmetic patch up to send signals to the Gulf. “The context here is very dangerous, because the revived relationship with Iran should be an addition to Egypt’s foreign policy, not a replacement of its relationship with the Gulf countries,” he adds.

    Momani doubts such an inclination by Morsy, as Egypt cannot afford the cost of such a policy. “This strategy can backfire and upset Gulf donors and benefactors. Iran can never supply the kinds of funds that are provided by the Gulf,” she says.

  • “I think neither Morsy nor Ahmadinejad enjoy the authority to have complete control or knowledge of their respective government’s grand strategies for Syria. What seems certain is that a realist agenda determines foreign policy on both sides. Both seek a Syrian government they can control or at least influence,”
Ed Webb

Fahmy: Relations with US bound to change under Obama or Romney | Caravan - 0 views

  • whether it's Obama or Romney the relationship will change, because for the first time they will have to take into account the public opinion, as well as the government's and they are not used to that.
  • you should not underestimate the complexity of managing a relationship with completely different players today, and a different paradigm in the region than what we have been used to for the past 50 years.
  • a lot of moving parts
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  • the US has been traditionally used to dealing with a centralized point of authority, in other words governments, and ignoring the Arab street. Well, Arab governments, now, will not be able to ignore their street, and therefore foreign governments will not be able to ignore the street
Ed Webb

F.A.Q. on U.S. Aid to Egypt: Where Does the Money Go-And Who Decides How It's Spent? - ... - 0 views

  • article has been updated to reflect new developments. It was first published on Jan. 31, 2011
  • How much does the U.S. spend on Egypt?

    Egypt gets the most U.S. foreign aid of any country except for Israel. (This doesn't include the money [3] spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.) The exact amount varies from year to year and there are many different funding streams, but U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt has averaged about $2 billion a year since 1979

  • military funding also enables Egypt to purchase U.S.-manufactured military goods and services
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  • Congress threatened to block the aid when Egypt began a crackdown on a number of American pro-democracy groups this winter. A senior Obama administration official said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had no way to certify [10] the bill's conditions were being met.

    But in March Clinton waived the certification requirement (yes, she can do that) and approved the aid, despite concerns remaining about Egypt's human rights record. The reason? "A delay or cut in $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt risked breaking existing contracts with American arms manufacturers that could have shut down production lines in the middle of President Obama's re-election campaign," the New York Times reported [11]. Breaking the contracts could have left the Pentagon on the hook for $2 billion.

  • U.S. economic aid to Egypt has slumped from $815 million in 1998 to about $250 million in 2011
  • When the Obama administration announced last month [18] that it was sending the Egyptian government $450 million to help forestall a budget crisis, Representative Kay Granger, a Texas Republican and the chairwoman of a subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said she would block the money because of concerns about Egypt's direction under the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ed Webb

Egyptian Leader Mohamed Morsi Spells Out Terms for U.S.-Arab Ties - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability.
  • If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.
  • the United States should not expect Egypt to live by its rules
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  • “Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region,” he said, by backing dictatorial governments over popular opposition and supporting Israel over the Palestinians.
  • When he grew animated, he slipped from Arabic into crisp English
  • “The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces, full stop. Egypt now is a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern.”
  • But he also argued that Americans “have a special responsibility” for the Palestinians because the United States had signed the 1978 Camp David accord. The agreement called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza to make way for full Palestinian self-rule.

    “As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled,” he said.

  • But he also displayed some ambivalence. He effused about his admiration for American work habits, punctuality and time management. But when an interpreter said that Mr. Morsi had “learned a lot” in the United States, he quickly interjected a qualifier in English: “Scientifically!”

    He was troubled by the gangs and street of violence of Los Angeles, he said, and dismayed by the West’s looser sexual mores, mentioning couples living together out of wedlock and what he called “naked restaurants,” like Hooters.

    “I don’t admire that,” he said. “But that is the society. They are living their way.”

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