Updated on April 3 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Donald Trump hosts Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Monday at the White House. I predict this will be the high-water mark of U.S.-Egyptian relations in the Trump years, because there is no way either party will meet the high expectations of the other going forward.
On the one hand, this warming of relations between the United States and Egypt is overdue. The bipartisan think tank consensus in Washington on Egypt is that America has, for far too long, coddled Egypt and needs to cut ties with the Sisi regime. I just don’t see how that serves U.S. interests, though: The United States needs good relations with Egypt so long as Egypt remains the Arab world’s most populous country, sitting astride the key waterways and air routes necessary for the flow of commerce and military power into the region and remaining a counterparty to the peace deal with Israel. Relations between Egypt and the United States, moreover, had already begun to thaw in the last year of the Obama administration—but were never going to fully recover from the events of 2013, when Sisi and the rest of the military leadership seized power from the democratically elected, Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Mohamed Morsi.
Egypt’s generals will forever claim they did not overthrow the government but instead responded to the will of the people in the streets, who had grown disenchanted with the Morsi government. There is a lot of truth in this narrative, as self-interested as it may be: The Muslim Brotherhood was a disaster in power, and the Egyptian people—having discovered the power of mass popular protest two years earlier—were indeed demanding a change.