More Egyptians view US relations unfavorably following NGOs row

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By Heather Moore

CAIRO: In the wake of strained Egyptian-American relations over the NGOs’ case last month, a new Gallup poll survey shows most Egyptians do not want closer relations to the US.

According to a poll of 1,000 Egyptians, 56 percent believed closer relations with the US was a “bad thing” while only 28 percent believed it was a “good thing”. American popularity was down since last December, where an earlier Gallup poll revealed that only 40 percent of Egyptians believed closer relations with the US was bad.

The Gallup survey was conducted late January through early February. At this time, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had just named 19 American citizens as defendants in the investigation of NGOs accused of working without licenses and receiving illegal foreign funding.

The judges investigating the case implied that the foreign NGOs had a malicious agenda. Other officials and media outlets put it more bluntly, directly accusing the NGOs of planning to destabilize the country. One civil rights lawyer wanted the charges in the trial to be changed into treason.

Egyptian-American relations became more strained a couple of months ago, as American lawmakers threatened to discontinue the $1.3 billion in Egyptian military aid they give Egypt because of the crackdown. On the weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for waiving democracy requirements for releasing the aid package, which also includes about $200 million of economic aid.

Gallup reported that this flare-up resulted in the plummet of pro-American sentiment among Egyptians. Nabil Fahmy, the former Egyptian Ambassador to the US, “chastised the US and Egyptian governments for their actions in the crisis,” the report said. “Fahmy pointed the finger at the US for illegally operating NGOs after a 2005 agreement that called for licenses and at the Egyptian government for doing business with these same NGOs since 2005.”

The 1,000 surveyed were also asked about their views regarding Iran and Turkey.

They were quite divided on relations with Iran; 41 percent said it was a “good thing” and 38 percent considered increased ties with Iran to be a “bad thing”.

Sixty percent of Egyptians saw closer relations to Turkey to be a “good thing” while only 19 percent said it was bad for Egypt. Even though Turkey was the most favored of the three, 44 percent of Egyptians disapproved of Turkey’s leadership. On the other hand, Egyptian approval of the Turkish government’s leadership was at 37 percent, charting a 22-precent increase since last April.

Iranian leadership also fared poorly on the Egyptian approval rating. Fifty-eight percent of Egyptians disapproved and 21 percent saw the Persian leadership’s job performance in favorable light.

The United States’ leadership got the worst rating of the three. With an approval rating of only 19 percent, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Egyptians disapproved of American leadership.

Egyptians maintained a consistent opinion, since the beginning of the revolution last year, concerning the peace treaty with Israel. Despite the unpopularity of increased relations with the United States, nearly half of Egyptians (48 percent) surveyed said the current peace treaty with Israel was a “good thing” for the country.

Gallup noted that members of Islamist parties answered the question of the Israeli peace treaty no differently than any other Egyptian who was not an Islamist party supporter.

The rise of Islamists on the political scene in Egypt following the 2011 uprising left many worried about the future of the peace between Egypt and Israel, despite continuous statements by Islamist political parties and the country’s military rulers that all international treaties would be respected.

Egyptians are confident that post-Mubarak Egypt will be more important on the world’s political stage. In another Gallup survey, a hopeful 79 percent of Egyptians said they believe the countries global influence will improve as a result of the stepping down of Hosni Mubarak.

As Egyptians re-evaluate the county’s allies and strive for a bigger role on the global scene, “support from other nations in bringing that belief to fruition is one approach to engaging Egypt’s first elected post-revolution president and parliament,” the report said.

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