Over the past few weeks we’ve seen what seems to be an organized clampdown by Egyptian authorities on all things American within the country. Forty four officials, half of those Americans, working in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) stand accused of breaking the law for receiving illegal foreign funds. This includes the son of US Transport Secretary Ray LaHood putting Egypt-US relations under unprecedented strain.
However, these relations reached a new low today, when the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) web administrator’s Facebook page asked whether the American University in Cairo was “a tool used by the US administration to destroy Egypt”. The message outlined what it called the University’s plot to occupy Egypt by the year 2015. The plan involved staff lecturers as well as students promoting civil disobedience using Facebook, SMS, BBM services. It also named what it called popular figures (Alaa AbdelFatah and Khaled Saeed’s sister) who participated by giving public lectures aimed at convincing students to join the general strike.
At the heart of this debacle is the Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul-Naga one of the most prominent figures of the Mubarak regime. With the threat of an Islamist government looming, Egypt’s generals want to renegotiate their regional role as guarantors of Western interests especially with regards to Israel. At the same time the regime is striking back at the US for failing to support Mubarak, a staunch US ally, during the revolution. The regime is reasserting its sovereignty over Egypt and sending the US a strong message: what happened with Mubarak will not be repeated.
If anything, the incident is quickly proving to be a political catastrophe for the US of historical proportions. This is a result of a faltering policy by the United States over the past year. The US has repeatedly shifted sides and sent mixed signals even when it was clear that regime was working against the interests of the people. Today, the US administration will not only lose face but also risks losing one of its most important allies in the region unless it cows down to the whims of Egypt’s generals.