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Monday, February 06, 2012

This ought to encourage Congress to send aid to Egypt

For the last thirty years, the US government has provided more than a billion dollars per year (and in most years closer to two billion) in foreign aid to Egypt. The aid was almost entirely without conditions except that Egypt was expected to abide by the Camp David treaty with Israel. Much of it was grants for military equipment.

One of the things the US did was to set up nonprofit groups - which were set up by both Democrats and Republicans - to promote democracy in Egypt.

You may recall that not long ago I ran a story that indicated that six Americans, including Sam LaHood, the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who headed up one of those organizations, were not being allowed to leave Egypt due to an 'investigation into their activities.

Now, in a move that is likely to really anger the US Congress, Egypt has announced that it is going to put 19 democracy activists - including LaHood - on trial (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Egypt’s military-led government said Sunday that it would put 19 Americans and two dozen others on trial in a politically charged criminal investigation into the foreign financing of nonprofit groups that has shaken the 30-year alliance between the United States and Egypt.


The criminal prosecution is a rebuke to Washington in the face of increasingly stern warnings to Egypt’s ruling generals from President Obama, cabinet officials and senior Congressional leaders that it could jeopardize $1.55 billion in expected American aid this year, including $1.3 billion for the military. But for Washington, revoking the aid would risk severing the tie that for three decades has bound the United States, Egypt and Israel in an uneasy alliance that is the cornerstone of the American-backed regional order.


The prosecution could hardly have been better designed to provoke an American backlash. Although the charges against the 19 Americans are part of a broader crackdown on as many as nine nonprofit groups here, its most prominent targets are two American-financed groups with close ties to the Congressional leadership, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. Both are chartered to promote democracy abroad with nonpartisan training and election monitoring.


So far, the warnings from Washington appear to have only redoubled the determination of Egyptian authorities. At a news conference here on Sunday, Faiza Abu el-Naga, who oversees foreign aid, declared that the government “will not be pulling the plug” on the case, the state newspaper Al Ahram reported on its Web site.

“The government will not hesitate to expose foreign schemes that threaten the stability of the homeland,” she said.

Western diplomats have often observed that previous Egyptian governments facing public doubts at home have found it expedient to rally support by stoking feuds with Washington, which, despite its financial largess, is deeply resented here because of its support for Israel and its invasion of Iraq.

But many human rights advocates here say some members of the council may believe their contention that “foreign hands” are stirring up trouble. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a former general close to the military council insisted that Washington was seeking to destabilize Egypt by illegally financing youth activists.
You may also recall that three Americans have taken shelter in the American embassy in Cairo out of fear of arrest.

What this shows is how much the Obama administration misread Egypt and how wrong it was to pressure Mubarak to step down and leave the military in charge. It's not Mubarak who should have been feared but the Egyptian army. The charming democrats we heard from in Egypt a year ago are no longer on the political map.

Nearly 70 years ago, the United States and its allies defeated Germany and Japan and World War II came to an end. President Truman was smart enough to realize that you can't just hold elections and expect a democracy to emerge. The US, Britain and France occupied Germany and Japan and continued to do so until those countries were ready to hold elections.

What's gone wrong with the Arab spring is that you're asking people who've never driven anything more sophisticated than a horse and buggy to get behind the wheels of Ferrari. They have no clue what they're doing, and the only people directing them are people who want to put them back into the buggies.

It would have been smarter to give President Mubarak the year (or even more) that he had requested to transition to democratic rule. Unlike the rest of the Arab world, the US had real influence in Egypt a year ago, and could have insisted on stationing US troops there to make sure that the transition really took place. That may sound patronizing, but it beats the alternatives. Instead, one autocrat is being replaced with another, Egypt's economy has become an even worse basket case, and it will likely go to war with Israel in the next few years. So who is better off?

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At 11:03 PM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

You need to understand Plan Obama better. This is in no way imperils US aid to Egypt. If anything it will result in more aid, just as Panetta's last trip to ransom that 'activist' with promises of M1A2 Abrams tank upgrades and new Apache attack helicopters.

They've ripped a page out of Iran's playbook which regularly kidnaps Americans and other westerners, puts them on trial and then decides to free them when enough money's been paid. Where Iran sold them cheap, Egypt plays a stronger game and wins more prizes.

This will cost the US billions of dollars. And make no mistake, they won't stop with mere money. They will force the US to punish Israel. Obama isn't even pretending to resist.


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