CAIRO // Under Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was a close ally of the US. Mubarak kept the cold peace with Israel and was on first-name terms with five US presidents. “Hosni, how’s the world’s greatest diplomat?” began a call from then-US president, George H W Bush, in August 1990.
But in the aftermath of Mubarak’s resignation and the rise of Islamist political groups into power, including a new president from the Muslim Brotherhood, that relationship is undergoing a transformation. President Mohammed Morsi made it clear that Egypt was embarking on a new foreign policy, ending what he described as a one-sided relationship with the US where in exchange for aid, Egypt deferred to Washington. For post-Mubarak Egypt, the new slogan calls for foreign ties based on “mutual benefit”.
A more independent Egypt could curtail US influence in the region, leaving it more reliant on Israel and its close allies in the Arabian Gulf. The challenge for the US will be to prove to Egypt that Cairo is still an important partner, economically and diplomatically.
The US will also have to work to keep channels open with the Egyptian security and intelligence services, who have been a crucial resource in American operations to fight extremism across the region.