Joel Mowbray

Egyptian border security soon improved. Though not miraculously better, things were trending in the right direction. Hamas' political and economic fortunes - which typically go hand in hand - plunged, with the terrorist group becoming deeply unpopular in Gaza, according to several respected polls in early 2010.

After the botched Israeli raid on the flotilla a year ago, however, Egypt eased up on its border enforcement in a show of "solidarity" with its Arab brethren.

Now it's an open question whether or not Egypt will make serious efforts to prevent smuggling into Gaza.

Any aid package that Congress passes will almost certainly require that Egypt complete the underground wall to close off the myriad tunnels as well as continue cooperating with the United States and Israel on other anti-smuggling activities.

Both the military and economic assistance will contain other conditions to help keep Egypt in the U.S. orbit.

One idea being discussed is ensuring that Egypt cannot increase its military presence in the Sinai unilaterally without first reaching an agreement with Israel. Egyptian military access to U.S. weaponry also could be tied to fulfillment of obligations under the Camp David Accords, adhering to agreements to supply natural gas to Israel and keeping the Suez Canal open to the West - and closed to Iran.

With freer and increased trade on the table, there are other levers Congress could exercise. Debt forgiveness, loan guarantees and market access could be conditioned on Egypt adhering to existing agreements and cooperating on security efforts against not just Hamas, but also Iran and other terrorist entities.

What's clear is that Egypt cannot be trusted simply to remain a U.S. ally. Too much anti-Semitic and anti-American sentiment has been building over the years. Even in a quasi-democracy, the urge to pander will be strong.

One of the first major actions of the post-Mubarak government was brokering a truce between Fatah and Hamas, which not only helped usher a terrorist group into a power-sharing agreement, but also dealt a blow to U.S. hopes for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

That move could be seen as simultaneously playing to the Cairo street and warning America that Egypt's loyalties are up for grabs. The economic assistance that President Obama wants for Egypt could give the United States a strong hand in shaping its future, but effective leverage won't come through good will alone.

Egypt's future contains many question marks, but one certainty is that Congress won't let Egypt slip away without a fight.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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