On January 22, 2017, the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs held a roundtable discussion on the “New US Administration Policy in the Middle East and the Prospects of Egyptian-American Relations” following the winning the Republican candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election.
The ECFA seminar highlighted features of the American foreign policy, in light of several indicators including Trump’s statements and promises during his election campaign, his selection of his administration and advisers, and his inauguration speech on 20 January, with special emphasis on Middle East issues, terrorism and the peace process in the region, his promises to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem, and cancel the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Experts in American affairs, including diplomats and a number of specialized academics, participated in the discussion. Ambassador/Dr. Mounir Zahran, ECFA Chair opening the seminar, and Ambassador / Dr. Hussein Hassouna, Coordinator of ECFA American Affairs Committee moderated it.
In general, the views of the 11 ECFA members were varied in the three-hour roundtable discussion. Each presented his or her own vision, which was complementary to what others had presented in an integrated analysis of the subject of the discussion, as evident in the following interventions:
Ambassador / Dr. Mounir Zahran noted that, Trump did not focus on the fundamental issues related to the Iranian nuclear deal, the relationship with China and the future relation with Russia, adding that the first 100 days are very specific to the parameters of the new American policy after the completion of the new administration and its institutions and after it starts its functions.
For his part, Ambassador Hussein Hassouna the Coordinator of Permanent Committee of American Affairs at the Council, said that the Egyptian position revolves round aspiring to re-establish relations with the United States, especially on issues of common concern, more specifically, combating terrorism and reaching a peaceful settlement to the regional crises.
ECFA member, Atef al-Ghamri stressed that the pro-Trump movement, which brought him to power, is not the result of a present moment in time. It is the result of a state of unrest that began 30 years ago and developed into a rebellion in 2016, or an influence on decision-making, and that interest groups and lobbyists have the final say.
With regard to thinking about relocating the American Embassy to Jerusalem, it would mean that the United States would be losing its constant claim that it is anhonest mediator – on which it has long insisted and which requires that it commits itself to leaving the status of Jerusalem to be determined only in the final status negotiations.
While Dr. Mohamed Kamal Member of ECFA , said Trump believes that the reason for his victory is the difference of his vision from traditional American policy, he said, he will maintain this difference, but there are real questions about the American institutions’ ability to change their vision.
Dr. Mona Makram Ebeid Member of ECFA, stressed Egypt’s need to cooperate with the Trump administration with a new formulating a new vision and policy to combat terrorism,which reflects the Egyptian position that refuses to deal with armed groups.
In this regard, Ambassador Ezzat Saad Director of ECFA, said that evidences indicate to the possibility of significant improvement in US-Russian relations , in a way that may positively impactthe settlement of some of the problems of the region, but we must not ignore the role of other institutions within the United States, which are not keen on a normalization of relations and cooperation with Russia, such as the Congress and the Defence Department.
Ambassador Ihab Wahba pointed out that Trump adopts a confrontational approach in all his declared positions, in collision with large segments of American society, as well as a foreign collision approach, like what happened with Mexico and China.
Ambassador Mohamed Tawfiq said that, the good relationship between the presidents of the two countries, “Sisi and Trump”, would give a strong impetus in the direction of rebuilding the bilateral relations on a more solid basis to serve the interests of the two parties.He also stressed the importance of balanced relations.
While Ambassador / Dr. ELSayed Amin Shalaby stressed that Trump’s positions and views towards the world will play an important role in shaping the world order, which will reflect on Egypt and the region.
In conclusion, Ambassador Hajar Al-Islambouli said that in light of the chaos sweeping the region, Egypt needs to formulate a more functional role in order to be able to present it according to its vision and perception of these crises.