Violent clashes in Egypt during the past week underscored how fragile the overall situation remains in the Middle East’s largest country. The deterioration in Egypt couldn’t come at a worse time of upheaval across the Middle East, as Syria’s civil war rages, threats from Al Qaeda-affiliated groups stretch from the Persian Gulf region to North Africa, and Iran moves to undermine regional stability.
The United States needs to remain engaged in efforts to influence the political and economic transition in Egypt, as well as bolster security there. Both actions will require continued support for a full range of U.S. policy tools—such as the approximately $1.5 billion per year in security and economic assistance—and a more robust diplomatic engagement with the multiple centers of power that have emerged in Egypt during the past two years. U.S. assistance and support for Egypt must be reformed in the long run to reflect new realities. As incoming Secretary of State John Kerry recently stressed, however, now is not the time to rashly cut off support to Egypt. Clearly, Egypt’s people and leaders will determine its trajectory, but the United States can play a positive role in shaping outcomes.
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