Washington, D.C. — Today, ahead of Egypt’s presidential elections next week, the Center for American Progress released an analysis of how the country can to deal effectively with security threats without creating new ones, set out a clear and practical plan to right the Egyptian economy, respect basic human rights, and open up political space for all Egyptians.
The results of next week’s presidential balloting in Egypt are a foregone conclusion: The voting exercise will confirm months of conventional wisdom that former field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will become the country’s next leader.
Do not expect a honeymoon period for al-Sisi: He will formally assume leadership of a country facing a heightened terrorist threat, deeply polarized zero-sum politics, and looming bankruptcy. The tests to al-Sisi’s leadership will come early, and what matters most is not the upcoming vote but rather what steps he will take to address the overwhelming crises bubbling in Egypt. Al-Sisi must move quickly to tackle the challenges no recent Egyptian leader has effectively been able to address.
“The United States has a strong interest in seeing a stable and prosperous Egypt—it is a cornerstone to U.S. policy in the entire Middle East,” said Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “But much of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of Egyptians—and they need to take serious steps to address the growing security, political, and economic crises.”
How events in Egypt unfold will have major implications for the United States. Egypt is a long-standing cornerstone of U.S. strategy in the Middle East, but it has been a less reliable strategic partner in recent years. Since last year’s ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, U.S. policy has been in a state of suspended animation in which normal policy processes have slowed to a crawl without the United States formally cutting off ties with Egypt.
The Obama administration has tried to send two conflicting messages to Cairo: one of displeasure regarding the current political situation and human rights abuses and the other of common cause on emerging security challenges in the Sinai Peninsula and elsewhere. The result has been a public diplomacy muddle about what the United States stands for and what it wants to see happen in Egypt.
President Barack Obama may aspire to strike a balance between a tough and smart approach on counterterrorism while still backing democracy and human rights around the world, but Egypt is the toughest test case for this approach. As U.S. policymakers have largely sat on the fence, countries such as Saudi Arabia have invested large sums of money to shape outcomes in Egypt.