By Christopher Harper
It came as a pleasant surprise when I heard about the widespread support for Donald Trump in Egypt.
“No one wanted Hillary,” said one Egyptian acquaintance. “She and Obama were a disaster.”
I heard this sentiment several times during a two-week stay in Egypt.
Back in 2009, President Obama called for a “new beginning” between the Islamic world and the U.S. during a speech at Cairo University. He promised to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, to pursue Palestinian-Israeli peace, and to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.
His promises went nowhere. It’s also worth noting that the president insisted on having a delegation from the Muslim Brotherhood attend the speech, a group that eventually came to power and ushered in two deadly years at the head of Egypt’s government.
By the end of his presidency, Obama faced a great deal of bitterness from Arabs. That view came across in a variety of Arab countries in a Pew Research Center survey in June 2015. Support for Obama was incredibly low: about a third of the Lebanese, 15 percent of Palestinians, and 14 percent of Jordanians. See https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2015/06/23/1-americas-global-image/
Although Egypt was not included in the Pew survey, the country got little support from Obama after the 2009 speech.
The Hoover Institution provided an analysis of what Obama did wrong in his relationship with Egypt:
–Obama ignored Egypt’s traditional role as a bridge between Arabs and Israel.
–The president ignored Egypt when taking on Libya and removing its leader.
–The administration failed to lean on the most significant military power in the Arab world during a variety of problems in the region.
When the Egyptians finally got rid of the Muslim Brotherhood, Obama suspended military aid.
Ultimately, Obama and Egyptian President Abdel el-Sisi only met on the sidelines at the United Nations. That rebuff to a traditional Arab ally left a bad taste in the mouths of many Egyptians.
“For its part, Washington should expect to provide Egypt’s military leaders the political embrace that Obama was always reluctant to offer, but also requests from Egyptians that it would compensate them in the currency that matters most – U.S. regional leadership that would lead to a resumption of Saudi and other Gulf assistance to help Cairo weather crushing economic problems,” a Hoover Institution analysis argued at the beginning of the Trump era.
Three years later, Trump has accomplished much of what the Hoover Institution suggested. That’s why Egyptians were happy that Trump beat Hillary and remain so today.