Isobel Coleman writes that while it is widely recognized that food and fuel subsidies in Egypt are expensive and inefficient, Egyptian leaders do not want to touch the political third rail of subsidy reform. But they also realize that the country's fiscal situation is untenable without it. Sooner or later, serious subsidy reform is inevitable, and a well-planned process is preferable to the alternative.
Meghan L. O'Sullivan says, "No single proposal is going to smooth over the acute political division in Egypt. Yet a deal over a constitutional review holds the prospect of at least breaking the impasse."
Outside of a humanitarian crisis—such as a famine or a natural disaster—it is hard to make the case that any country deserves another's economic support. To paraphrase Britain's Lord Palmerston, countries do not have permanent friends, only permanent interests.
The Egyptian uprising presents a rare opportunity for the United States to resolve the tension between its strategic priorities in the Middle East and its desire to support democratic change in the region. Washington's past approach to aiding Egypt was based on relations with authoritarian leaders who could be counted on to advance the United States' interests. With the fall of Hosni Mubarak and Egyptian efforts to build a more open political system, a policy based on "authoritarian stability" is no longer possible, and the United States is now forced to alter the way it appropriates and distributes bilateral assistance.
Steven A. Cook leads a conversation on the current situation in Egypt, including Sisi's influence and the sweeping convictions handed down to Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers, as part of CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series.
Speakers: Michele Dunne and Michael Wahid Hanna Presider: Isobel Coleman
Michele Dunne, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Michael Wahid Hanna, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, discuss Egypt's turbulent transition, the prospects for stabilization and economic progress in the country, and possible U.S. foreign policy responses toward the ongoing political crisis.