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Egyptian historic breakthrough with Russia, not a strategic shift yet

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For Egypt to look now for Russian armament and economic help means that the Egyptian -- US strategic cooperation since 1979 has failed to cater for its defense needs and development aspirations.

Thirty five years on, during which a regional rival like Iran stands now on the brink of becoming a nuclear power with an ever expanding industrial military complex while the other Israeli rival is already a nuclear power and a major world exporter of arms, Egypt's military stands weaker, seems stagnant, underdeveloped and pushed out of competition while its population have become much poorer.

Nothing much has changed since the US Middle East Policy Council in its winter edition of 1996 published Denis   J. Sullivan's piece, " American Aid to Egypt, 1975-96: Peace without Development," wherein he pointed out that " the reality is that Egypt is far from a "model" of effective use of (US) foreign assistance."

The country, despite the fact that "the US aid program in Egypt is the largest such program in the world" and that "in 21 years, Egypt has received some $21 billion in economic aid from the United States plus over $25 billion in military aid," Egypt "remains poor, overpopulated, polluted and undemocratic " In short, Egypt in 1996 continues to exhibit virtually all the characteristics the United States has claimed to want to change since it began its massive economic aid program in 1975," Sullivan wrote.

Seventeen years later David Rieff, writing in The New Republic on this February 4, described what Sullivan said was a "failure" as an "abject failure" of "the US development aid to Egypt."

Militarily, Carnegie's Yezid Sayigh's paper of August 2012 quoted an assessment of US embassy officials in a 2008 cable leaked by WikiLeaks as saying that "tactical and operational readiness of the Egyptian Armed Forces has degraded." He wrote that "US officers and officials familiar with the military assistance programs to Egypt describe the Egyptian Armed Forces as no longer capable of combat." He also quoted "leading experts on Egypt Clement Henry and Robert Springborg" as saying that the Egyptian army's "training is desultory, maintenance of its equipment is profoundly inadequate, and it is dependent on the United States for funding and logistical support " despite three decades of US training and joint US-Egyptian exercises."

US Back Turned to Egypt

The Tower.org on February 13 reported that the "White House two weeks ago   pointedly declined   to invite Egypt to a summit of African leaders."

That was not the first indication that the US foreign policy has been alienating Egypt since Field Marshal al-Sisi assumed power early last July in response to a massive popular protest on last June 30 against the former president Mohamed Morsi.

Since US Secretary of State John Kerry' visit to Egypt last November, who in this capacity toured the region more than eleven times and seems to spend more time in the Middle East than in US, Kerry has been dropping Egypt out of his itinerary. His president Obama, who is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia next March, receive Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early in the month and had received King Abdullah II of Jordan on this February 14, had no reported plans either to receive al-Sisi or to visit his country, which was previously a regular stop for US top visiting officials.

Is it a surprise then that al-Sisi's first visit abroad was to Moscow and not to WashingtonD.C., to meet with the Russian president and not with his US counterpart ?

Al-Sisi in an interview with the Washington Post early last August accused the US of "turning its back" to Egyptians. "You left the Egyptians, you turned your back on the Egyptians and they won't forget that," he said.

However, al- Sisi does by no means dream of disturbing the existing political order in the Middle East, or coming to loggerheads with Israel or the US, but it seems obvious that he' is fed up with the preconditions attached to US aid that have rendered his country's military and economy backward in comparison to regional highly upgraded rivals. The US did not help Egypt become a "success story in economic development" as the USAID claims on its website.

Pavel Felgenhauer wrote on February 13 that, " It is clear Egypt is ready to accept Russian aid and weaponry as it did during the Cold War in the 1950s--1970s to show the US it has an alternative source of support."

Indeed, al- Sisi thanked his Russian counterpart for "giving the Egyptian people economic and defense aid." Putin said that he was "sure we can increase trade to $5 billion in the future." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "We agreed to speed up the preparations of documents that will give an additional impulse to the development of military and military-technical cooperation." It is noteworthy that all is without preconditions, political or otherwise.

The Associated Press on February 13 quoted Abdullah el-Sinawi, whom the AP identified as "a prominent Cairo-based analyst known to be close to the military," as saying that al-Sisi "wanted to send a signal to Washington." "Egypt needs an international entrusted ally that would balance relations with America. Egypt will be open to other centers of power without breaking the relations with the US," he said.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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Fantastic news! Piece by piece israhell is being ... by Bill Johnson on Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 7:56:27 AM