If you have been watching the news at all over the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed that things aren’t going too well in Egypt. President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist with close connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, was ousted by the military just one year into his term after massive protests accusing him of authoritarian tactics and a failure to address many of the biggest problems facing the country. That has led to a counter reaction in which Morsi’s supporters are taking to the streets as well, demanding a return to “legitimacy” and the restoration of the country’s first freely elected president. It is difficult to predict whether the interim government introduced by the military – which is strikingly free of Islamists – will be able to bring some kind of stability before new elections. As all of this is happening, the country is also teetering on the brink of complete economic collapse.
Keeping track of all the different factions vying for power in Egypt can be difficult enough for those who study the Middle East, let alone the average observer. However, there is no question that this is an issue of great importance for the United States. Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid, with a particularly large amount going to the same military that just pulled off what some are calling a “coup” (though others insist that it does not share the same characteristics as a typical military takeover). It is also the most populous country in the Arab world and a historic leader in the region. Equally important for many Americans is the fact that Egypt has the longest standing peace treaty with Israel of any Arab country, and its border with both Israel and the Gaza Strip mean that it will always be an important player in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Continue reading