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Inside Story Americas
Egypt: The decline of American influence?
We ask what leverage the US will have in post-Mubarak Egypt, a country that has been its staunch ally for decades.
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2012 10:22

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, made her first visit to Egypt since the first democratically elected president was inaugurated.

"Secretary Clinton decided to go ... and she very publicly gives the message of what she told the military to do and ... what she told the president to do .... This just further aggravated the notion that the United States will continue its 30-year plus policy of not being able to deal with a strong, independent Egypt and not really accepting its democratisation and its inevitable rise. And unfortunately this comes at a time of declining US influence ... which makes us appear even more tragic."

- Hillary Mann Leverett, a professor at American University

Clinton has met with the two central players in the power struggle playing out in Egypt.

On Saturday, she held her first meeting with President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist who emerged from the country's long-oppressed Muslim Brotherhood movement.

On Sunday, she met with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who as the head of the Military Council has ruled Egypt for the last 16 months.

But the transition to civilian rule has not been smooth. The military has retained overwhelming powers for itself, including legislative power and control of the writing of a new constitution.

The US faces many difficulties when it comes to dealing with a post-Mubarak Egypt - not least its attempt to wield its influence amid the competing political power struggles. And making sure that Egypt respects its international agreements, especially its treaty with Israel.

Eager to be seen as a champion of democracy and human rights, the US has criticised Egypt's military as it grabs more power. And it has offered words of support for the Muslim Brotherhood, making those uncomfortable who are sceptical of the Brotherhood's intentions.

The discomfort manifested itself in protests at the weekend. On Sunday, some threw tomatoes, water bottles and shoes at Clinton's motorcade as she left a ceremony marking the opening of a new US consulate in Alexandria.

" ... had she not visited and had there not been a high-level American visit to Egypt anytime soon, there also would have been criticism of being ignored .... The secretary of state and the president, genuinely want to see a full implementation of democracy in Egypt even as it is true that most within the American bureaucracies and Congress see the military as an instrument of influence in Egypt."

- Shibley Telhami, a professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland

At a news conference in Cairo, Clinton was asked if she regretted America's past support for Hosni Mubarak.

She answered: "We worked with the government of the country at the time. We work with governments around the world, we agree with some of them, we disagree with others of them. We were consistent in promoting human rights and speaking out for an end to the emergency war, an end to political prisoners being detained so I think you have to put this in context."

Clinton also made clear that she wants the Egyptian army to withdraw from politics.

"The United States supports the full transition to civilian rule with all that entails and we have commended the SCAF for representing the Egyptian
people in the revolution, as compared to what we are seeing in Syria, which is the military murdering their own people. The SCAF here protected the Egyptian nation and we commend them for overseeing a free, fair election process. But there is more work ahead," said the US secretary of state.

So, what influence does the US have in a post-Mubarak Egypt?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Anand Naidoo, is joined by guests: Hillary Mann Leverett, a professor at American University, and former White House and state department official; Shibley Telhami, a professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland; and Abdullah al-Arian, a professor of Middle East History at Wayne State University.

"Unfortunately, the United States' administration, for the past 60 years, has been supporting dictatorship(s) in the Arab and Muslim world. From what they saw happening in the Arab Spring, I think the people in the Arab world have spoken and the United States' administration has to listen to the voices of the people and they have no other option but to support democracy in Egypt as well as in the Arab world."

Abdulmawgoud Dardery, an MP who represents Luxor for the Freedom and Justice Party

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HILLARY CLINTON'S VISIT TO EGYPT:

  • Clinton discussed the transition to civilian rule with military
  • Clinton met newly elected president Mohamed Morsi on Saturday
  • Morsi is a former member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
  • The Muslim Brotherhood was kept at arm’s length for years by US officials
  • The Muslim Brotherhood group was outlawed in Egypt for decades
  • Clinton said the US wants to push the military and the Brotherhood for dialogue
  • Clinton urged Egypt’s top leaders to mend the political rift
  • Clinton urged Morsi to "assert the full authority of the presidency"
  • Clinton made it clear the US will stand up for universal human rights
  • Clinton laid out US ideas for supporting Egypt’s fragile economy
  • US is promising a one billion dollar financial aid package
  • State department officials said the meeting was cordial and constructive
  • Morsi stressed his commitment to dialogue with all stakeholders
  • Several protests were held against Hillary Clinton’s visit to Egypt

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