U.S. Policy on Egypt Is a Vestige of a Bygone Era, but Will It Ever Change?

U.S. Policy on Egypt Is a Vestige of a Bygone Era, but Will It Ever Change?
President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, April 3, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

“Over whatever number of years we have put about $80 billion into Egypt. Most of the time, this is the kind of government they had—almost all of the time. And the reality is, no matter how much I wish it was different, it ain’t going to be different tomorrow.”

These words, spoken by former Secretary of State John Kerry to The New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick, are unfortunately all too accurate. Egypt is in the depths of a resurgent authoritarianism that has thoroughly crushed any possibility for political opening or reform, no matter how incremental. Kerry was correct in his invocation of the billions of dollars of U.S. aid over the years, getting the number just about right, even though that assistance has had no bearing on the country’s political trajectory.

But Kerry was also trying to justify U.S. policy in Egypt, specifically its continued support for the government following the 2013 military ouster of Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, and the subsequent and far-reaching crackdown on all manner of political expression. Here his claims demand some scrutiny.

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