Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are due to arrive in Cairo on Monday to join the ongoing negotiations over Egypt's governmental problems, because if there's anyone who knows how to solve a tricky political stalemate, it's two American Senators. Graham and McCain plan to meet the country's interim president and foreign minister, as well as with General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man people say is really calling the shots in Egypt right now. Meanwhile, opponents of the military and their interim government continue their mass sit-ins and protest camps.
The gathering of diplomats are trying to find a solution to the crisis that doesn't involve more protests or shooting in the streets. Over the weekend, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with the deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as foreign minister from Qatar, the U.A.E., and the European Union. The ultimate goal is to get power out of the hands of the military rulers and back into the hands of politicians, but its hard to see how that happens when those same military leaders are running the show.
Among the topics on the table will be the holding of new elections, but it will be tough to get Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters to participate, after they won the last election only to be overthrown by the military.
The U.S. does have one piece of leverage over Egypt's military that it has so far been reluctant to use. The roughly $1 billion a year in foreign aid that America gives to Egypt rivals only Israel in terms of monetary assistance. If American officials were willing to admit that what happened last month was actually a military coup — a word they have strenuously avoided using to this point — the U.S. would have to cut off that aid.
Unfortunately, that appears to be the only form of leverage the U.S. has, which is why they are reluctant to use it unless absolutely necessary. And more U.S. influence may be the one thing Egypt doesn't need right now. People on both sides of the divide have accused the U.S. of meddling in the past, some believing they endorsed or outright orchestrated the coup and the others claiming it was Morsi who was in league with the Americans. Any settlement negotiated with the help of American diplomats is bound to be met with suspicion.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.