The Obama administration today told Congress it will waive conditional democracy criteria to give up to $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt’s military despite the regime’s crackdown on pro-democracy NGOs and backsliding on democratic governance.
U.S officials and lawmakers said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has determined that it was in the U.S. national interest to allow $1.3 billion in military assistance to flow, Associated Press reports. She also certified that Egypt is meeting its obligations to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which frees up an additional $200 million in economic aid.
The decisions “reflect our overarching goal: to maintain our strategic partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy,” said a senior State Department official.
The decision was made public by the office of Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate subcommittee on foreign aid, who expressed his unease about the move.
The State Department should “release no more taxpayer funds than is demonstrably necessary, withholding the rest in the (U.S.) Treasury pending further progress in the transition to democracy” in Egypt, Leahy said.
He has previously insisted on “no blank checks” for Egypt’s military.
Invoking the waiver will “damage U.S. credibility at a critical moment,” Egypt analyst Michelle Dunne warned in a policy brief published today.
“The Egyptian military should be defending fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, not harassing and arresting those who are working for democracy,” Leahy said. “They should end trials of civilians in military courts and fully repeal the Emergency Law, and our policy should not equivocate on these key reforms.”
“The decision to waive the conditions, partially or in full, on military aid sends the wrong message to the Egyptian government — that U.S. taxpayers will subsidize the Egyptian military while it continues to oversee the crackdown on civil society and to commit human rights abuses,” said David Kramer, president of Freedom House. “A resumption of military aid at this point also sends the wrong message to the Egyptian people — that we care only about American NGO workers, not about the aspirations of the Egyptian people to build democracy.”
“We’ve got to have a measure of accountability. But I think the idea of cutting off aid doesn’t make sense,” Senate Foreign Relations Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) told The Cable. “We just have to figure out a better way to make the aid conditional based on those measures of accountability, and I think we can achieve that. I think, in this case, it’s a mistake to take an either/or approach.”
Egypt’s Transition: Military Rule, Human Rights Challenges, and U.S. Policy Choices
The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East are pleased to co-host a panel discussion about Egypt’s ongoing transition and U.S. policy options. Under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), thousands of civilians have been tried in military courts, bloggers and activists have been imprisoned for criticizing state policies, detainees have been tortured, tensions between Muslim and Christian communities have risen, and non-governmental organizations have been harassed and prosecuted. Tensions between Egypt’s military and the U.S. have also been exacerbated recently by attacks on international and Egyptian civil society organizations. There will be a new Egyptian president elected in May and the military will formally relinquish control, but the U.S. must decide now whether to continue aid to the military.
What are the military interests that have shaped the first year of Egypt’s transition from authoritarianism? How will they change once Egypt has an elected president and new cabinet and the military formally returns to the barracks? What are the U.S. interests that guide the longstanding relationship with the Egyptian military? And how should the U.S. look at the relationship with Egypt once there is a new civilian government?
We are particularly excited to welcome Egyptian blogger and activist Maikel Nabil to the panel. Maikel has been outspoken about human rights violations committed under the SCAF’s rule and about corruption inside the military, and he founded the ‘No Compulsory Military Service’ movement in 2009. After being arrested in March 2011 and undergoing a form of hunger strike for over 5 months, Maikel was finally pardoned and released in January 2012.
Please join a panel discussion with: Maikel Nabil, Egyptian Activist and Blogger: Shana Marshall, Research Fellow, Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University; Michele Dunne, Director, Hariri Middle East Center, Atlantic Council. Moderator: Stephen McInerney, Executive Director, POMED.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Stimson Center, 1111 19th St NW, #1200, Washington, DC. 12:30-2:00pm A light lunch will be available at noon.
Click here to RSVP for the event. POMED has also published a new policy brief on the future of the U.S.-Egypt relationship, which is available here. Please contact Anna Newby at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, or call (202) 828-9660, ext 23.
Dunne, a former Middle East specialist in the White House and Department of State, is a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. POMED is a NED grantee.