It seems that in a democratic election last year, Egypt may have accidentally elected a dictator. Or at least something very close to it.
The nickname "Egypt's new pharaoh" was given to him late in November when the post-revolution president issued a decree preventing any court from overturning his decisions, granting him unchecked power. In December he repealed part of the decree, though that in no way quelled any of the protests that have been creating both chaos and violence in the streets of Egypt essentially since Morsi was elected.
Even now, months later, the civil unrest in Egypt continues with hundreds of thousands of protesters taking the streets daily – some in opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood leader and others in support of — leading to severe violence and ultimately, to Morsi announcing a state of emergency in three cities near Egypt's Suez Canal.
As the chaos in Egypt continues, what exactly does it mean for the U.S.' influence in the Middle East?
Egypt has long been a strong ally of America, playing a crucial role in its cooperation with U.S. officials towards stabilizing peace in the Middle East over the years. It was the first Arab country to join a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, and since then has been "at the center of U.S. strategy to maintain stable relations between Israel and its neighbors," according to Mustafa Asakal, an American University professor.
Morsi had shown that he would be following his predecessor's lead in that sense when he had brokered peace between Israel and Hamas in November, leading to a cease-fire that ended the conflagration that resulted in the deaths of at least 140 Palestinians and 5 Israelis. His peace-making efforts won him praise from Hamas, the U.S. and Israel, though it did little to stifle his opposition at home.
But going forward, as the violence and chaos in Egypt continues with no clear end in sight, should the U.S. rely on the Arab nation so heavily for assisting in future conflicts in the region? Are they still capable of being a reliable ally for America? Or is their power and influence slipping as the nation's state of turmoil continues?
Although Morsi has shown more sympathy to Hamas than his predecessor Mubarak did, it's important to note that Egypt is still one of the most Israeli-friendly nations in the Middle East, and that just may be an important enough reason for the U.S. to continue good relations with Egypt.
With Israel and Palestine never too far from the brink of war, any peace-brokering capabilities Egypt has to offer are of utmost importance to Israel and consequently, the U.S., regardless of how weak.
It is for this reason precisely that the U.S.' aid of $1.55 billion will not be delayed or even in question; Israel's need for an economically and politically stable Egypt is essentially America's need for an economically and politically stable Egypt, and it will continue to supply funds to Egypt as long as necessary to procure that regardless of the chaos. In fact, the chaos may just be the reason why, considering that Egypt could be looking at a collapsing economy – something that will only worsen the nation's current state.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) made this crystal clear last week when he said, "the Israelis are in favor of continuing the aid to Egypt. I think that's important. We listen a lot to the Israelis."