Wise people say that in every disaster there is an opportunity. The recent episode of war between Hamas and Tel Aviv was too horrible to see any positivity through it. However, if it was not for this war, the United States Administration of President Biden would not have realized that it did a mistake by downgrading the Middle East’s priority on the U.S. foreign policy agenda.
The Biden Administration received a lot of criticism from observers, worldwide, for showing a lethargic response to the recent episode of war between Tel Aviv and Hamas. Rather than appropriately intervening to control the fight, the US intervened, not only for once but for three times, to block an Israel-binding ceasefire resolution by the United Nations Security Council. Only after Egypt successfully mediated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, after eleven days of mutual missile attacks and the death of hundreds of innocent civilians, the Biden Administration decided to intervene.
On May 26th, the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Egypt as part of a regional tour to discuss ceasefire in Gaza and peaceful solutions for the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Blinken’s conversation with El-Sisi extended beyond the situation in Gaza to include Egypt’s role in fighting terrorism, the security of Libya, and the conflict between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia over the building and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile.
According to a press statement by the US State Department, Blinken reiterated US commitment to Egypt’s water security, and praised Egypt for its efforts on the ceasefire in Gaza and for Egypt’s help in evacuating American citizens to safety. In a brief statement at the US Embassy in Cairo, Blinken noted that “Egypt was a real and effective partner in dealing with the latest violence between Israel and the Palestinians. Egypt and the US are working together to let Israelis and Palestinians live in safety and security.”
Blinken’s visit to Egypt came after two phone calls from Biden to El-Sisi. After about five months of intentional ignorance to Egypt, President Biden called President El-Sisi twice in only one week. The first call between the two presidents took place immediately after the successful application of ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, on May 21st. Biden applauded Egypt’s efforts on brokering the ceasefire and the two leaders agreed to remain in close contact on co-managing strategic regional issues, in the future. The second call between El-Sisi and Biden took place, three days later, wherein the two presidents discussed other regional issues, including Libya and the GERD.
The Biden Administration’s renewed interest in playing a role in solving the many plights of the Middle East is beneficial to all parties. But the Biden Administration needs to redesign its new foreign policy in the Middle East based on the new realities and the new alliances that are currently governing the region; rather than resorting to the easy way of copying the foreign policy agenda of the Obama Administration, wherein Biden served, for eight years, as a Vice President.
However, one thing we know for sure about Biden’s readjustment of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. That is the fact that Egypt shall be the most reliable and the most important regional partner for the United States; not only in the Middle East, but also in Africa and the Mediterranean, at least for the next four years.