The late President Anwar Sadat managed to restore relations with the U.S. through a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and then used these relations to secure economic and military aid to Egypt amounting to over $2 billion a year. But it was not destined for Sadat himself to reap the fruits of this relationship.
Under the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak — according to the testimony of Ahmad Abu el-Gheit, the last foreign minister of the Mubarak administration — Egypt witnessed a stable relationship of cooperation and a balance of interests with the U.S. However, Egypt-U.S. relations were shaken somewhat during the crisis involving the Italian cruise ship MS Achille Lauro that was hijacked off the coast of Egypt in 1985. The crisis led to a complex relationship between Mubarak and U.S. president at the time, Ronald Reagan.
Nonetheless, the relationship moved forward vigorously, first under President Bush and then President Clinton, until the shocking events of 2001, that is: the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, followed by Bush, Jr.’s decision to enter into a confrontation with terrorism from the Middle East. He invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq and intensified pressure on Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Sudan. Meanwhile, Egypt shared an abundance of these pressures, which squandered the period of stability between the two countries, starting with the U.S.’ demanding that Egypt participate in the invasion of Afghanistan. Under increasing U.S. pressure, Egypt agreed to deploy a field hospital to treat the Afghan people.
With the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. renewed pressure on Egypt to send troops there as well. When Cairo reiterated its rejection of the U.S.’ demand, it was asked instead to undertake the training of cadres from the Afghan army and Egyptian police, as well as the sale of light weapons to Afghanistan. Commenting on this, Abu el-Gheit, who experienced this period, having taken office on July 14, 2004, stated: “We have no objection to America’s request, as long as it does not include troops, but it is clear that the aim is to try to drag Egypt into the current events and relationships.”
Thus, Abu el-Gheit gave great importance to his visit to the U.S. on Feb. 12, 2005, after Condoleezza Rice had taken office as U.S. secretary of state, succeeding Gen. Colin Powell. But upon his arrival in Washington, Abu el-Gheit found himself ambushed. He encountered what he described as the worst situation ever faced by a foreign minister!
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