Ask Michael Hanna Anything: Obama’s Record On Egypt

Michael thinks the Obama administration’s approach to Egypt is getting worse, not better:

The Economist wonders how much influence Obama actually has:

On a two-day visit to Cairo [this week], William Burns, America’s deputy secretary of state, met members of the military-backed interim cabinet, but Tamarod and the Salafists’ Nour party, which won the second largest number of seats at the last parliamentary election, declined to see him. The Brotherhood says it did not engage in discussions with him either.

It is not clear that Mr Burns would have had much to say to them, anyway. At the moment, America lacks a clear policy toward Egypt. Barack Obama has not publicly addressed the crisis, perhaps for fear of seeming meddlesome. Away from the cameras he is said to be trying quietly to influence events, but it is hard to see how he hopes to reconcile America’s democratic values with its immediate interests in Egypt, not least to ensure that Egypt’s treaty with Israel holds firm. Meanwhile, Mr Obama’s critics at home say his public reticence is due both to a lack of interest and to a confused analysis—a critique that dates back to his supposedly tardy and wobbly reaction to the Arab spring. A more likely explanation that unsettles Americans all the more is that the American president simply lacks the leverage to influence events in Egypt.

Michael Wahid Hanna is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he works on issues of international security, international law, and US foreign policy in the broader Middle East and South Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, BBC, and al-Jazeera. Additionally, his Twitter feed is a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptian politics. Michael’s previous answers are here. Our full Ask Anything archive is here.