Analysts have been warning for months that the Obama administration’s posture toward Egypt’s army-backed interim government – Washington has among other things frozen the delivery of some kinds of military assistance, including Apache helicopters of the type used by Egypt’s military in ongoing anti-terror campaigns – was risking a pivot by Cairo toward the U.S.’s geopolitical rivals.
Tom Nichols and John R. Schindler, foreign policy scholars who emphasize that they rarely agree on foreign policy prescriptions, had already in September co-published an article blasting Washington for undermining “nearly seven decades” of bipartisan American efforts aimed at “limiting Moscow’s influence” in the Middle East.
Egyptian moves in recent days and weeks are likely to deepen fears that Washington is losing Egypt:
Last Thursday an Egyptian public diplomacy delegation visited Moscow to express its gratitude to Russia, Al Arabiya reported. “The reason behind this visit is to show our gratitude for the cautious and objective positioning of Russia,” said Mohamed Salmawy, head of the Writers’ Union of Egypt… On the Egyptian group’s return, the media reported that Egypt intended to buy MiG-29 planes and other Russian military equipment. Some reports said Saudi Arabia will finance the main part of the $ 15 billion dollar deal.
On Monday this week a high-ranking delegation of Egyptian Intelligence officials visited Moscow, apparently to advance the deal. A day later the Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported that the head of Russia’s military intelligence agency had arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials. Also, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi were reportedly planning a summit meeting in the next few days.
Meanwhile traditional U.S. allies in the Gulf, who have consistently expressed anger at Washington for cutting back on aid to Egypt, moved to bolster Cairo financially. The United Arab Emirates this week pledged to give the North African country an extra $3.9 billion in aid.
Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit Egypt this weekend, marking the first time he will have gone to the country since the army, responding to mass anti-government protests calling for the resignation of Egypt’s then-Muslim Brotherhood linked government, deposed then-president Mohammed Morsi and paved the way for an interim government. Voice of America reported today that Kerry’s trip to Cairo “would only last several hours.”
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