The US has tried very hard to ensure that it remains on good terms with Egypt’s various leaders over the past several years, continuing military support even in the face of extreme human rights abuses, but has failed to garner influence among the nation’s people or its current leader. The US had strong ties to ex-President Mubarak and his regime. Despite Mubarak’s undemocratic dictatorship and inclination towards silencing unruly political opponents, the US’s military interests in the region coincided well with his. Under Mubarak Egypt was a strong secular nation with direct ties to the Muslim and Arab world. The US was very invested in ensuring that a strong secular authority remained present in the Middle East to counter radical elements and act as a gateway for US discussions and agreements with those countries. In the US’s view it was much better to have a secular dictator than a Muslim democracy. There were concerns that if the strong Muslim elements in the country gained power they would force religious government practices on liberals and minority religions (which would later prove to be a very legitimate concern). Egypt is by far the largest country in the Arab world having it remain both secular and a US ally was crucial for US interests.
When Mubarak was deposed the US found it hard to work with the military council temporarily put in charge of the Country. When President Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a strong proponent of unsecular policies, got elected in Egypt’s first democratic election the US had its fears realized. Morsi quickly installed Muslim Brotherhood members in highly influential positions and began steamrolling over liberals and minorities. Even with this situation the US continued to provide massive military and NGO funding in the hopes of swaying the government towards more secular policies. Morsi refused to change his policies but was plenty happy to take the tanks and jet fighters he was being given. The US began withdrawing small amounts of funding as it became clear that Morsi was set on the idea of a Muslim state. The funding, though moderately decreased, remained substantial however.
With al-Sissi’s military coup over Morsi the US was faced with a major dilemma. The US has an official legalized policy that it must immediately halt all military aid to a country in which a military coup occurs. The US managed to get around this policy by not officially calling it a coup. Publicly the US said little about aid, but continued to provide it. With escalating human rights violations the US finally began to truly cut back on funding, scaling it back to very little and then cutting it off. President Obama recently restored it however, citing concerns over the Islamic State.
The US has bought little goodwill or influence despite its massive spending. This is because they have supported essentially every leader in a country where very few of its people have approved of the presidents. Many Egyptian citizens were victimized by the very tanks and riot gear the US was providing the various regimes with. While the US may have been able to buy influence with Mubarak, Morsi was too ideologically different to have any hope of swaying, and al-Sissi has proven to be a very dangerous leader. If the US wants to regain influence in the country it must invest in showing the people of Egypt that Democratic, fair elections are possible with US support.