Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
9 - 15 December 1999
Issue No. 459
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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The price of friendship

Egyptian and US officials often praise the "solid", "mature" friendship between their countries. More of this praise is expected today, as US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's winds up her visit to the region in Cairo.

It seems, however, that for some time now, the US's definition of "friendship" has meant that Egypt must follow US policies blindly, whatever their implications on Egyptian national interests or those of the region.

This interpretation of Egypt-US relations is not necessarily prevalent within the US administration. Still, influential circles in Congress do tend to see bilateral relations purely in terms of American interests. This tunnel vision is even more evident in US media coverage of the crash of EgyptAir flight 990. The media used this tragedy as a springboard for an unfair and baseless smear campaign against Egypt -- exploiting a disaster that cost hundreds of lives to serve crass political motives.

Some in the US are angry that Egypt dared express dismay at the propensity to jump to conclusions about the cause of the crash. Indeed, they are upset about almost everything Egypt says or does. They are upset that Egypt is trying to keep Sudan united. They are displeased with Cairo for refusing to take part in toppling the Iraqi regime. They even blame Egypt for allowing Iraq to chair the last ministerial meeting of the Arab League, ignoring the fact that Egypt was not called upon to approve or veto the move, which is determined by rotation.

Nor is Egypt's insistence on a fair settlement for the Arab-Israeli conflict something these detractors can appreciate, or even tolerate.

Egypt has done much to demonstrate its keenness on maintaining good ties with the US. The US administration has often showed the same interest. Still, these ties -- which are sometimes called strategic -- should not and cannot be maintained at Egypt's expense. This country has every right to disagree with the US when it sees fit. Those who try to use these disagreements to fuel tension in bilateral relations, however, must realise that strained Egyptian-US relations can harm the US's interests just as much as Egypt's.

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