The events of the past week in Egypt, all happened in rapid succession. Members of Egypt’s outlawed Moslem Brotherhood were granted audience by U.S. officials at the highest levels. Only a day later, the Brotherhood’s social and regular media called for an armed escalation against members of the Egyptian and police forces.  Hours later, several simultaneous attacks on Egyptian forces in Northern Sinai killed 30 and wounded over 50.

In U.S.-Egyptian relations, the most seriously overlooked aspect in the post June 30 reality is the relationship of Egyptians with their army and police force.  For millennia as now, these soldiers and conscripts have hailed from all walks of life. They come mostly from the provinces, from families at the grassroots levels. Egyptians see in the army their sons protecting the borders and fighting terror. 


Over a thousand members of the police force have been killed since June 30 in terror attacks that focused primarily on security forces. Their families and neighbors are angered much more by these killings than any disregard for human rights in a fight that they see as a fair response to terror.

The latest attacks cannot be what U.S. officials had in mind when they received Brotherhood members, flanked by Egyptian and U.S. flags.  The meetings were feebly explained away as an effort to engage with all factions of Egyptian politics. Nevertheless, US officials should have been aware of the powerful signal such a meeting would send to the organization. When red carpet treatment is proffered, at the very least it spells out an absence of condemnation - if not outright support.

President Obama came to power at a time when the U.S. was perceived as Egypt’s strong and staunch ally. His speech at Cairo University in 2009 received several standing ovations.  He had come to reach out to the Islamic world and Islam. However, few noted at the time, that the front row was filled almost exclusively by members of the Moslem Brotherhood, at the request of the American organizers.  

In the few years that followed, Egypt was prodded into a discreditable Moslem Brotherhood rule that demonstrably failed on every count. Post June 30 and the ousting of Mohamed Morsi the Administration tirelessly called for the inclusion of the Brotherhood in despite the terror that gripped Egypt in the wake of the Morsi’s removal.   In retrospect, Egyptians must be forgiven for wondering  whether it was just one unrepresentative, violent brand of Islam President Obama was reaching out to.

Once upon a time, America’s soft power was legendary. The U.S. could do no wrong in Egyptian eyes.  Teenagers donned jeans and t-shirts printed with the ubiquitous Stars and Stripes, watched American movies smoked American cigarettes, and dreamed of the day they  could actually visit the country of their dreams.

Today the picture is different. While Egyptians continue to differentiate between Americans and their government’s policies, the once-unfaultable US is now viewed with deep distrust and skepticism.  

It need not be so. Both countries share common interests in the region.  There is still work to do and shared goals to pursue. Only a stable Egypt with a strong and popularly mandated leadership can work with the US in its quest for a just and comprehensive regional peace and fight against terror.

It is up to President Obama to decide whether the administration’s current policies serve the U.S.’s strategic goals. The Brotherhood’s values are not U.S. values and never were. Sooner or later these values are bound to clash. In the end, the best foreign policy in the long is run is one that stays true to universal values.

Khayat is founder and chairman of an asset management company based in Egypt. She has authored numerous opeds on U.S.-Egypt relations.