The Obama administration seems to have made a decision long ago on how to deal with Egypt’s rocky, post-Mubarak transition; namely to keep it subtle and in the background. Washington intends to remain a player in Egypt’s strategic position, but as far as the domestic stuff goes, Obama is tight-lipped.
That is actually representative of what the U.S. approach to Egypt has been for years prior to its 2011 revolution. Prop up the regime in exchange for favoring U.S. interests and pretend like the domestic repression is unknown to us. Why? Because Egypt is too important to U.S. strategy (they claim).
Doug Bandow sums up:
Egypt is racing toward dictatorship. Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi even arrested opponents of the proposed constitution in the January referendum. However, Washington always has been more interested in maintaining influence than encouraging democracy or promoting development in Egypt. Toward that end the U.S. provided more than $75 billion in “aid” over the years. In fact, the cash bought little leverage. Hosni Mubarak spent decades oppressing Egyptian citizens and persecuting Coptic Christians despite Washington’s advice to the contrary. Israel’s military superiority, not America’s money, bought peace. Cash for fancy weapons may have won privileged access to Egyptian airspace and the Suez Canal, but today the Egyptian military needs the U.S.—for maintenance on and spare parts for those same weapons—more than the U.S. needs the Egyptian military. [emphasis added]
I’ve made the recurring argument that whenever people in Washington speak of “U.S. interests” they are really talking about the interests of the state and the corporate entities closely tied to it, not, as it were, ordinary American people. But even if we buy into the notion of strategic interests that are to the benefit of the country, it appears the U.S. has none in Egypt. Washington continues to spend billions of dollars on a regime that is brutalizing its people and dismantling what little democratic structures have been built up since 2011. The only difference now is that it doesn’t benefit the U.S. at all.
As John Mearsheimer has explained, arguments that Egypt represents a vital U.S. interest are “unpersuasive.” Indeed, Philip E. Auerswald, assistant professor at George Mason University, and a research associate at Harvard University, has argued that the Middle East, far from being the vital strategic center of the world everyone chalks it up to be, is largely “irrelevant” to U.S. interests. “The Middle East just isn’t that important,” he wrote back in 2007.
Then again, as The New York Times reported in 2012, U.S. aid to Egypt helps keep the pockets of defense corporations nice and full.