Esam Al-Amin describes US policy towards Egypt:
In this high stakes of international power play the U.S. strategy in the region is to prefer a managed transition to civilian rule and democratic governance as long as the American major strategic objectives are not challenged. In short, the strategy is to give the Islamic rising powers a chance to govern as long as they agree to: keep the Americans in, the Chinese and Russians out, the Iranians down, and the Israelis safe.
In other words, US policy hasn’t changed. There is simply an additional element they have to deal with, namely the renewal of some measure of democracy. Note the caveat though: Washington prefers “a managed transition” to democratic rule “as long as” the leadership obeys us and defers to US power on these central issues. This raises the obvious question, what if the master isn’t obeyed? What measures can we expect the Obama administration to take?
You can expect US support for the democratic victors to turn on a dime if these demands are not respected. And the US is hedging, just in case that becomes a reality. The administration is keeping in close contact with both centers of power in Egypt, the political and the military, which are decidedly separate.
On Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s latest visit to Egypt, she not only met with newly elected Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Morsi, but she also met with Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Obama decided late last year to start up a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood. And then, as Al-Amin explains:
In June, President Obama met with a large group of major American Jewish leaders in the White House. According to DEBKA, an Israeli website close to Israeli intelligence agencies, the president assured the group that “President Morsi would be required to devote a section of his earliest speech on foreign affairs to the specific affirmation of his profound commitment to the peace pact with Israel.” Within hours of being declared president, Morsi gave his assurance that Egypt would honor all its international treaty obligations in a not-so-disguised reference to its treaty with Israel.
So Morsi seems to be doing what he’s told. But the SCAF has continued to receive US support (including weapons and riot gear) “seized legislative powers by dissolving the five-month old parliament and issued a constitutional decree that transferred much of the presidential powers to itself, began to re-assert its power and influence by using much of the Mubarak era state media, bureaucracy, and courts to frustrate the new president.” And when Clinton met with Tantawi just recently, “she promised to maintain the $1.3 billion annual military subsidy and offered another $1 billion aid package that Obama promised last year.”
Washington is playing both sides. What matters to them is their interests. It won’t take much for the US to take up their traditional posture and support military dictatorship all over again. It will all depend on how obedient and deferential the democratic leadership is.