On September 9, 2023, Hurricane Daniel swept the coast of Greece before heading with its powerful storms to the African coast, starting from the Libyan city of Benghazi and reaching the Jabal Akhdar region. There was the greatest disaster, the most devastating and the most devastating in the city tuberAfter the enormous water pressure caused the collapse of the two water dams surrounding the city, which have a storage capacity of 25 million cubic meters of water. As if that was not enough, that water came loaded with mud, doubling its destructive capacity, sweeping away everything that met it in its path, and Derna turned into a city submerged in water, after a quarter of its area had disappeared, and thousands of its residents were missing.
At about the same time, it was announced Ethiopia It has reached the fourth filling of the Renaissance Dam, which Egypt believes faces technical defects in its structure, in addition to its location in an earthquake zone. Despite its dangers, it is considered the largest hydroelectric project in Africa, at a cost of about 4.8 billion US dollars, and with a storage capacity estimated at about 74 billion cubic meters of water, or nearly three thousand times the capacity of the two Derna dams, a capacity close to the total amount obtained. Egypt and Sudan from the annual share of Nile water. Experts say that the dam could block the passage of the Blue Nile to the two downstream countries for a continuous period of a year and a half on normal flow days, but what exacerbated Egyptian doubts is the Ethiopian efforts to build three new dams behind the Renaissance Dam, with a storage capacity of 200 million cubic meters of water, and it was The change in the American position was the first obstacle that Cairo encountered in the midst of its efforts to prevent the fate of its water security from being in the hands of Ethiopia, and to prevent a potential natural disaster resulting from the dam (1).
Cairo and Addis Ababa.. Transitions between Trump and Biden
On December 15, 2022, the media published a video clip showing President Joe Biden, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and a number of African leaders, during the match between Morocco and France in the World Cup semi-final held in Qatar, in an atmosphere in which diplomatic norms were absent. and strict formal traditions (2). The picture was more indicative than others of the change in relations between the two countries, after they had been marred by several tensions since the outbreak of war in the Tigray region in 2020, but the waters returned to their normal course with Washington stipulating the withdrawal of the Eritrean army and the signing of a final peace agreement, and then Ethiopia distanced itself from falling. Prey to continued Western economic sanctions (3)(4).
The changes in relations between Washington and Addis Ababa reflect a clear revolution in the relationship of the American mediator with Cairo on the dam issue, especially since the United States’ position witnessed several fluctuations that harmed Egypt’s position on the issue as a whole. This evidence appears to be present, beginning with the era of former US President Donald Trump, who personally intervened on behalf of the Egyptian president. During his reign, Washington hosted a number of negotiating rounds between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, and he was even accused of giving him Green light Cairo was asked to blow up the dam in a call with the former Sudanese Prime Minister in the transitional government, Abdullah Hamdok, as part of pressures that were not devoid of threatening language exerted by Washington to force Addis Ababa to submit to a binding legal agreement that includes in its terms the disclosure of the rules for the safety of the dam, its filling in times of drought, and the operating system. , and dispute resolution mechanism.
Despite the insufficiency of American assurances, Cairo was reassured by Sudan’s position and the division of civilians and military personnel over the dam issue, in addition to the fact that Egypt itself did not take escalatory steps even towards the announced stations for filling the dam. But overnight, the balance of power changed, and Trump lost the presidential elections, and Democratic President Joe Biden emerged as his replacement, whose rise Egypt lost some American pressure cards that exhausted the Ethiopian side (5).
Former President Trump did not give much importance to the political situation in Egypt, but on the contrary, he imposed sanctions on Ethiopia in 2020, and withheld about $272 million in aid, in a public move following Ethiopia’s move to begin filling the Renaissance Dam before reaching an agreement with Egypt and Sudan. This is a position that the Ethiopians considered blatant bias. But that did not last long with the arrival of Joe Biden, who began a policy different from the path followed by Trump (6)(7)(8).
Washington and Addis Ababa… the imperatives of rapprochement
In the months leading up to the fourth filling of the dam, she celebrated Ethiopia With 90% of the construction work completed, US State Department spokesmen intended to export an image of Washington’s support for Egypt’s water security, and to confirm that the US administration supports a quick diplomatic solution to the Renaissance Dam issue, ensuring the protection of the interests of all parties. But a number of facts and movements indicated Washington's move to win over Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and restore the lost point of contact with him since November 2020, after his war in the Tigray region caused tension in the relations of the two countries.
Washington has long viewed the way Abiy Ahmed fought as a threat to its interests in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. While Ahmed believed that relying on the Eritrean army would ensure the resolution of his battle, given the historical hostility between the region and the rulers of Eritrea, the United States did not view these moves with satisfaction. The Americans saw that the escalation of the war would lead to catastrophic consequences, perhaps the most dangerous of which was the transfer of confrontations to other regions experiencing tensions with the central authority, which represented a threat to stability in the Greater Horn of Africa (9).
As the violence of the war increased, and Abiy Ahmed failed to subjugate the Tigray region, it seemed that the United States had fallen into a crisis, risking losing its influence with the continuation of sanctions on Addis Ababa, which forced the administration of US President Joe Biden to change its punitive policy approach, and prevent the attrition of its ally through the sanctions portal. Considering that this trend harms the American strategy in light of Abiy Ahmed’s orientation towards China, whose influence is growing in Africa, especially Ethiopia, due to its geopolitical location. According to this equation, the Americans sought to contain Addis Ababa, dismantle the Ethiopian-Eritrean alliance, and then finally prevent Abiy Ahmed through soft policy from moving forward in a direction that harms American interests (10).
In order to achieve this, the United States turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian army against the residents of the Tigray region (11), which, according to some testimonies, amounted to the ethnic elimination of half a million people, and the displacement of more than two million people. Therefore, the American tone towards Ethiopia changed between the years 2020-2022, and its president began to court Abiy Ahmed, starting with phone calls, then several meetings with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken that included promises to help lift economic sanctions, while not supporting any move for a judicial investigation into crimes. The war, and the subsequent isolation of the Ethiopian regime internationally.
With Addis Ababa's response to the American conditions, a new chapter of rapprochement began, to accelerate the peace agreement with the Front Tigray In late 2023, with the sticking points passed. Cairo was harmed by that rapprochement with Washington abandoning its old position on the dam, but it was not only Washington that changed its position in support of Cairo.
What allies do Egypt have left?
In late 2021, as the features of the American position unfolded in conjunction with the rise of President Joe Biden, Cairo sought to employ its tools in order to obtain White House support for its policy at home and abroad. Biden sought to reduce annual US aid amounting to $1.3 billion due to issues related to human rights violations, and he also pursued regional policies in which he ignored Cairo’s Arab and African interests in exchange for gaining the trust of new allies. When Egypt tested its confidence in its American ally, it decided to escalate its tone Her diplomatic speech Against Ethiopia, and submitting an official complaint to the Security Council, most of its bets failed. Even France, which was presiding over the Security Council at the time, openly declared its inability to resolve the dispute between the three countries, which led to Ethiopian relief that signing a binding agreement guaranteeing the fulfillment of Egyptian demands was no longer on the horizon.
Ironically, the United States, which Cairo relied on to solve the biggest water threat facing it, is contributing to the dam construction process through several American companies, most notably Spire Corp, which provided the turbines and generators. According to what was published by Bloomberg, these companies were responsible for supplying all electrical equipment worth 250 million euros, and the dam gates are all American made. However, it seems that the Egyptian tendency to China It cannot be an alternative option.
Egypt has already tried to approach China after realizing the nature of the influence that the Ethiopian side enjoys in the corridors of the Security Council, especially with what it possesses. China It has huge influence in Ethiopia due to its technical participation in the dam structure. Despite the stable relations between Cairo and Beijing, China's economic and political interests in Ethiopia go far beyond its investment projects in Egypt and Sudan, and this may explain China's refusal to intervene in the current crisis and its declaration of negative neutrality on all sides (11).
China contented itself with offering cooperation with Egypt in water desalination projects. Likewise, France announced through its ambassador to the United Nations that it will not stand in the face of Addis Ababa, and the same applies to Russia, which adheres to one line, alongside the European Union, which is to urge the parties to negotiate without siding with one of them, a position from which Addis Ababa benefits to a great extent. The first.
It seems that Egypt does not have many pressure cards left, as it was unable to obtain explicit support from some of the Gulf countries that it relied on to play a mediation or pressure role with its relations or investments in Ethiopia. With Sudan preoccupied with the internal war, Egypt finds itself almost alone in facing the greatest risks to its national security, and without real cards to exert pressure in the end.
- Abbas Sharaqi: The destructive power of the Renaissance Dam is equivalent to 1,000 nuclear bombs.
- Joe Biden watches Morocco vs. France game with Moroccan PM & other African leaders, praises keep pouring in for the Atlas Lions.
- U.S. Weighs Offering Economic Lifeline to Ethiopia Despite War Atrocities.
- Washington withholds military aid from Egypt due to human rights “violations.”
- U.S. to withhold $130 mln of military aid to Egypt over human rights -official.
- US stops Trump’s aid freeze to Ethiopia over dam dispute.
- US Restoration of Foreign Aid to Ethiopia Signals New Course.
- Trump and Africa: How Ethiopia was ‘betrayed’ over Nile dam.
- The US risks losing its influence in the Horn of Africa. Here’s how to get it back.
- How Ethiopia’s Civil War Exacerbates Strategic Competition Between The U.S. and China.
- Ethiopian Military-Run Company Seeks More Foreign Partners.