How did the U.S. get in bed with Mubarak? Q&A with Joel Beinin

Historians in the News

Much of the media coverage of the protests in Egypt has noted that President Obama is in a tough position because the regime of Hosni Mubarak is an important ally of the United States.

So it's natural to ask: How and why did the United States become allies with Egypt in the first place? And how has the alliance, which includes an annual military aid package worth $1.3 billion, been sustained over the years?

To get some answers, I spoke with Joel Beinin, a Middle East history professor at Stanford who studies Egypt and who spent several years at the American University in Cairo in the 2000s.

What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited slightly for length and clarity:

How far back can the roots of the current alliance be traced?

It goes back to the aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war when, following the near-victory of Syria and Egypt, Henry Kissinger engaged in many rounds of shuttle diplomacy, which resulted in a separation of forces agreement between Israel and Egypt. Those were the first steps which led ultimately to the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty, which was signed in 1979. That was not at first what the Carter administration wanted to have happen. They wanted at first for something to be included on the Palestinian issue, but it wasn't, so they just said, "OK, this is what we can get."...

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