Al-Ahram Weekly Online   30 October - 5 November 2008
Issue No. 920
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

TIMELINE Cairo-Washington: The bumpy road

1848: The first US-born Consul assumes his post in Egypt.

1910: President Theodore Roosevelt, just out of office, gives a lecture in Cairo saying that Egyptian demands for a constitution and self-rule were premature, and that Egyptians needed decades to qualify for constitutional rule. Mohamed Farid, leader of the nationalist movement at the time, sent a protest cable to Roosevelt and organised a rally for his National Party at a theatre in Emadeddin. Demonstrators walked to the Shephard Hotel, where Roosevelt was staying, and heaped insults on the US dignitary. A few days later, Roosevelt had his revenge. Speaking in London, he congratulated British officials for giving Egypt the "best" government it had in history. He advised the British colonialists to treat the Egyptians firmly, saying that it was in the interests of "civilisation" to treat "uncivilised" nations thus.

1917: The Balfour Declaration, issued by the British government, in control of Palestine, details British support for "a Jewish homeland" in the country. The US and Egypt adopt contradicting stances.

1918: In January 1918, Woodrow Wilson announces support for the right of former Ottoman subjects for political autonomy and territorial integrity. Hopes of the Egyptian national movement for Wilson's support are dashed when the US president declares his support of British presence in Egypt. Wilson declines to receive Saad Zaghloul when the latter travelled to Paris to put the demands of the Egyptian nation before the Versailles Peace Conference.

1945: In February 1945, King Farouk calls on US President Franklin Roosevelt to help bring about a withdrawal of British forces from Egypt. In Egypt, at Great Bitter Lake, Roosevelt meets Saudi Arabia's King Abdul-Aziz aboard American cruiser USS Quincy sealing an enduring alliance with America, which the Saudi monarch had hoped would enlist America's support for Arab rights in Palestine.

1947: With the support of the US, UN General Assembly Resolution 181 proposes dividing Palestine into Arab/Jewish states. Egypt and the independent Arab states reject partition plans.

1948: Israel is established after war against Arab armies, including Egyptian army, and Palestinian inhabitants expelled. The US is the first country to recognise Israel in the UN.

1952: The July Revolution overthrows King Farouk in Egypt. King Farouk sought the intervention of the United States, but to no avail. The US appears to perceive the Free Officers' movement as potential ally against the rising tide of communism.

1954: The US, under Dwight Eisenhower, pressures Britain to sign a treaty with Egypt on 19 October for the evacuation of British troops from the Suez Canal Zone, to be completed over the following 20 months. Nasser is elected Egyptian president.

1956: Nasser's dream to build the Aswan High Dam on the Nile is thwarted by the US. Through the World Bank, the US and Britain deny Egypt a loan to finance the project. Washington also shrugs Egyptian demands for arms supplies. Nasser announces the nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company. Israel, France and Britain attack Egypt but the US opposes the war. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles apply great pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula captured by Israeli troops during the attack. Nasser's popularity soars in Egypt and across the Arab world as he comes to embody Arab nationalism in the post-colonial era.

1959-1964: Nasser supports Arab liberation movements across the Arab world. The US views Nasser's influence as threat to its strategic interests. In Yemen, Nasser supports the republican regime of Abdullah Al-Sallal against Saudi Arabia. The US intervenes to confront Nasser. The Arab world is divided into two camps: the radicals and the pro-American.

1967: Israel attacks Egypt, Jordan and Syria and occupies massive Arab territories including the Egyptian controlled Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel wins the war with Western weaponry and the war launches the "special relationship" with the US. Israel becomes the uncontested recipient of generous military and economic aid as well as political support from Washington. Egypt formally breaks diplomatic relations with the US. In August, Nasser attends the Khartoum Arab summit stipulating the policy of "No peace, No recognition and No negotiations" with Israel. Passed in November, UN Security Council Resolution 242 demands Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories occupied during 1967.

1968-1970: Gunnar Jarring, Sweden's ambassador to the Soviet Union, which had broken off ties with Israel, is appointed by the UN to work with Israel and Arab countries on the implementation of UNSC Resolution 242. In early 1968, Jarring arrives to the Middle East to meet with the concerned parties. On 9 December 1969, US Secretary of State William Rogers announces a peace plan based on Israeli withdrawal in exchange for a binding peace treaty with the Arabs. Three days later Israel rejects Rogers plan. In June 1970, Rogers discloses a US initiative to end the Egyptian-led war of attrition along Suez Canal for 90 days allowing the resumption of the stalled Jarring mission. In July, Nasser accepts the US initiative. In August, Israel accepts the intiative as it is assured of continued US military and economic aid. In September, Nasser dies to the grief of millions of Egyptians and Arabs. The US welcomes the ascendancy of Anwar Al-Sadat to power and watches closely his relations with the Soviet Union.

1971: Egypt ends the presence of Soviet military experts on its land, a decision welcomed by the US.

1973: Sadat, under public pressure, ends the no peace and no war state. Egyptian forces launch a successful surprise attack across the Suez Canal. Syria joins the war. Arab oil producers announce a programme of reprisals against Western countries supporting Israel. A five per cent cutback in output is stipulated, followed by further such reductions every month until Israel withdraws from all occupied Arab territories. US President Richard Nixon formally asks Congress for $2.2 billion in emergency funds to finance the massive airlift of arms to Israel already underway. The airlift reverses Israel's initial major losses. In retaliation, King Faissal of Saudi Arabia decrees an immediate 10 per cent cutback in Saudi oil and in five days he announces the complete suspension of all shipments to the US. UN Security Council Resolution 338 calls for a ceasefire all round. Excluding Syria, Egypt accepts a ceasefire but Israel, with continued US support, declines. The Soviet Union threatens to unilaterally send forces to the region to impose the ceasefire. The US takes the threat seriously and orders a grade-three nuclear alert, the first of its kind since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. In November 1973, Egypt and the US restore diplomatic relations. In December, the two countries participate in the Geneva Peace Conference. Negotiations towards a permanent ceasefire start.

1974: US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger -- later dubbed by President Sadat as "My friend Henry" -- begins his shuttle diplomacy between Egypt and Israel and successfully gets Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to separately sign the first disengagement agreement on 18 January. President Nixon arrives to Egypt in "a historic visit" for which the state gears a reception by enormous crowds. Along with Sadat, Nixon visits the pyramids and promises to bring Egypt into the nuclear age. The US pledges to give Egypt nuclear reactors and fuel. Nixon also visits Saudi Arabia.

1975: The US welcomes Sadat's reopening of the Suez Canal.

1977: Sadat embarks on a high-drama visit to Jerusalem in November. The US, under Jimmy Carter, endorses the "courageous trip".

1978: Carter assists in Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations at Camp David in September. The Camp David Accords stipulate the demilitarisation of the Sinai Peninsula.

1979: With the assistance of Carter, Egypt and Israel sign the Egyptian Peace Treaty in March. The US organises the peacekeeping mechanism along the Egyptian-Israeli border, the Multi-National Force and Observers (MFO). The US provides Egypt with an average annual economic and military assistance of over $2 billion, reduced as of 2008 upon an agreement concluded by the two countries in 1998.

1980-1981: Egypt denies rumours that the US used Egyptian airfields in April 1980 during an attempt to rescue hostages in Iran. In 1981 Egypt agrees to allow the US a conditional use of Ras Banas airfield. Egypt declines to accommodate Congressional demand for a "formal agreement". The US laments the assassination of President Sadat by Islamists opposed to his unilateral peace agreement with Israel. It immediately lends support to his successor, President Hosni Mubarak.

1991-2002: Egypt and the US pursue close political and economic cooperation to promote Middle East peace, regional stability and Egyptian economic growth. Egypt and the US take part in, and coordinate closely during, the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, 1993 Oslo Accords and 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement. Egypt, with other Arabs, join the US-led war to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. The US writes off $7 billion in debt owed by Egypt and encourages rich-oil Gulf Arab states to write off a similar amount. With the support of the US, Egypt signs an accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after three years of tough negotiations to ease a $40 billion foreign debt. Egypt embarks on an IMF-inspired "structural re-adjustment" of its national economy.

2003-present: Egypt-US relations are tense over a wide range of issues. The 2003 US war on Iraq is openly criticised by Egypt, even as US military troops pass through the Suez Canal. The 2004 letter from US President George W Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which adopts Israel's version for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli struggle, offends visiting President Mubarak and suspends, until now, his routine annual visits to Washington. US criticism of the Egyptian government over its human right and political reform record accentuates tensions.

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