The Obama administration recently announced that it will be freezing hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the Egyptian military on the condition that the Arab nation display credible progress toward a return to democratic rule.
The State Department declared that the United States will “continue to support a democratic transition and oppose violence as a means of resolving differences within Egypt.”
Secretary of State John Kerry assured Egyptian leaders that the cutoff is “by no means…a withdrawal from our relationship or a severing of our serious commitment to helping the [Egyptian] government.”
This statement and resolution came as Egypt’s interim government remains deadlocked in bloody conflict with Islamist jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula and Muslim Brotherhood contingents at home.
The sudden shift of United States foreign policy could possibly spark concern and speculation among Arab and Israeli leaders.
To Israeli and Egyptian officials alike, a secession of aid brokers a path to forfeiture of the Egypt- Israeli Peace Treaty. As a provision of the landmark peace agreement, the United States has since 1979 provided annually military and economic aid to its Egyptian ally as a means towards establishing equilibrium of power in the Middle East.
Just as the “Rogers Plan” proposed by former Secretary of State Bill Rogers in 1970—a call for Israel to revert back to pre-1967 territorial lines—had earned the prospect of offending the Israelis, encouraging extreme elements among the Arabs, and prompting Soviet contempt, a hold on Egyptian aid might garner similar contempt.
President Nixon and his administration were stalwarts in efforts to establish peace in the Middle East and are duly credited with fostering the current peace that Egypt and Israel experience amongst one another. The Nixon administration recognized that the time for a concerted peace initiative in the region presented itself in the waning days of the Yom Kippur War, as Israeli forces penetrated deep into Egyptian territory.
Nixon stated clearly in his memoirs:
I also believed that American influence in the Middle East increasingly depended on our renewing diplomatic relationships with Egypt and Syria, and this decision would help promote that goal.
In 1973, the geopolitical power struggle was situated as such:
-Israel faced perpetual threats from its adversaries on all fronts, particularly from Egypt and Syria.
-The Soviet Union held an essential stake in the Middle East, supplying arms and means to its Arab allies in their campaign against Israel.
Today, the geopolitical landscape remains tense and United States influence urgent despite some character changes. Peace in the Middle East now dominantly hinges on the struggle between proponents of the Arab free world and fundamentalist Islamic nations and military organizations.
The question we must ask ourselves today is: what is the United States’ role in the Middle East in the 21st Century and to what extent will we make a concerted effort towards establishing a long-lasting peace?
If he were in the arena today, President Nixon might question the prospect of canceling military aid to Egypt, not so much because it would subdue the efforts of suppressing extreme Islamist elements, but because it would damage U.S. trustworthiness to its allies and would disrupt the Middle East equilibrium of which he sought so vehemently.
Of course, the defense of Israel remained in the President’s best interests. First and foremost, Nixon stated that “we are for Israel because Israel in our view is the only state in the Mideast which is pro-freedom and an effective opponent to Soviet expansion.” Israel today remains, assuredly so, the only free state.
However, to instigate a long-lasting peace solution, Nixon fought to establish equilibrium, “any equilibrium—even if only an equilibrium of mutual exhaustion [to] make it easier to reach an enforceable settlement.” The purpose was to send a message to the Arab world: that all should bear the fair share in the defense of mutual freedom.
Perhaps it would be in the Obama administration’s best interest to heed the words of President Nixon—that “without belligerence but with complete firmness, we have to make it crystal clear that the stake of the free world in the Middle East is great.”