Egypt is a key partner for the United States to be able to maintain its commitment to the security of Israel and the stability of that part of the Middle East.
President Obama’s decision to cancel joint military exercises between the U.S. and Egypt reflects America’s powerlessness in the face of events. It was a reaction to the killings of more than 500 people as a result of military repression against the supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who was democratically elected.
From the beginning, since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the Obama administration has been in over its head. It supported an election where the Muslim Brotherhood, which was much better organized than other opposition groups, emerged victorious. Morsi’s authoritarian tendencies led to new demonstrations, which the military took advantage of in order to overthrow the president.
Because of its pragmatism, the White House disregarded the obvious: a military coup d’état that overthrew an elected president and the destabilizing impact this had on an electorate that saw the president toppled.
Worst of all, the coup, as well as the bloody repression, are just one chapter in the long battle that the Egyptian military has waged for decades against the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a conflict that worsened as the number of deaths increased, because the Brotherhood is more experienced with opposition from below.
A main axis of U.S. foreign policy is for Egypt to stay at peace with Israel. That is why we have been giving Egypt millions of dollars per year, $1.3 billion of it in military aid. This encourages the military government to continue this commitment. The toughest part is maintaining domestic stability in a nation whose major initial differences have now deepened with the killings of demonstrators from the opposition.