Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

Publication Date: September 2009

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Government

Type: Report

Coverage: Egypt


This report provides an overview of Egyptian politics and current issues in U.S.Egyptian relations. It briefly provides a political history of modern Egypt, an overview of its political institutions, and a discussion of the prospects for democratization in Egypt. U.S.-Egyptian relations are complex and multi-faceted, and this report addresses the following current topics: the Arab-Israeli peace process, Iraq, terrorism, democratization and reform, human rights, trade, and military cooperation. This report will be updated regularly. For more information on Egypt, see CRS Report RS22274, Egypt: 2005 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.

U.S. policy on Egypt is aimed at maintaining regional stability, improving bilateral relations, continuing military cooperation, and sustaining the March 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Successive Administrations have long viewed Egypt as a leader and moderating influence in the Middle East, though in recent years, there have been increasing calls for Egypt to democratize.

Congressional views of U.S.-Egyptian relations vary. Some lawmakers view Egypt as stabilizing the region and helping to extend U.S. influence in the most populous Arab country. Others would like the United States to pressure Egypt to implement political reforms, improve its human rights record, and take a more active role in reducing Arab-Israeli tensions.

Among the current issues in U.S.-Egyptian relations are a shared concern about international terrorism. Egypt can claim some experience with the subject, having defeated domestic Islamist terrorists intent on overthrowing the government. As the war on terror continues, the United States relies on Egypt for intelligence cooperation. Egypt provided valuable support during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Egypt and the United States agree on the importance of the EgyptianIsraeli peace treaty and the need to continue current Arab-Israel peace talks. In support of this process, Egypt trained some Palestinian police and sent 750 Egyptian soldiers to the Egypt-Gaza border in order to prevent weapons smuggling following Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The United States and Egypt disagree over the speed and depth of, but not the need for, some of Egypt's economic reforms. The two governments differ on Egypt's need to introduce democratic reforms, and many U.S. officials argue that Egypt is not moving quickly enough toward full democracy or in improving the human rights situation. Others caution that movement toward democracy carries a risk of establishment of an Islamist government.

The United States has provided Egypt with an annual average of over $2 billion in economic and military foreign assistance since 1979. The United States is to reduce Economic Support Funds (ESF) to about $400 million per year by 2008 in keeping with a plan to reduce aid to both Israel and Egypt. The Administration requested $415 million in economic grants and $1.3 billion in military grants for FY2008 for Egypt.