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Getting 
Over Egypt

Time to Rethink Relations

A protester shows his collection of tear gas canisters thrown by police forces during clashes between police and protesters near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, February 3, 2012. Asmaa Waguih / Reuters

For decades, the partnership between Egypt and the United States was a linchpin of the American role in the Middle East. Today, it is a mere vestige of a bygone era. There are no longer any compelling reasons for Washington to sustain especially close ties with Cairo. What was once a powerfully symbolic alliance with clear advantages for both sides has become a nakedly transactional relationship—and one that benefits the Egyptians more than the Americans. The time has come for both sides to recognize that reality and for the United States to fundamentally alter its approach to Egypt: downgrading the priority it places on the relationship, reducing the level of economic and military support it offers Cairo, and more closely tying the aid it does deliver to political, military, and economic reforms that would make Egypt a more credible partner. 

The contemporary U.S.-Egyptian relationship began in the

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