Since 1979, when Egypt struck a peace treaty with Israel following the Camp David accords, the U.S. has provided Egypt with approximately $2 billion of foreign assistance each year. This aid was purposed to promote short-term U.S. interests, such as regional stability, and long-term goals, such as promoting human rights and democracy in Egypt.
During the Mubarak era, this aid included up to $1.3 billion in military assistance each year, and copious amounts of economic aid. In the wake of Mubarak’s ouster and the subsequent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country, Congress passed legislation that prevents the Obama administration from distributing military aid to Egypt unless the State Department can independently verify that Egypt is taking concrete steps toward democracy. Their definition of such steps: Egypt must abide by its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, support “the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections,” and enact policies that protect “freedom of speech, association and religion and due process of law.” However, according to a senior Obama-administration official, there is no way to certify that all conditions are being met, so they’ve been ignored.
Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, has turned Egypt into a bastion of authoritarian rule. Since his rise to power last June, Morsi has orchestrated a constitution based on sharia law, usurped the supreme court’s constitutional power of judicial review, silenced media critics, and allegedly ordered both the killing and jailing of political dissidents. Moreover, Morsi has incited hatred toward Egypt’s Coptic minority, expressed doubt about maintaining the peace treaty with Israel, supported terrorist organizations such as Hamas, and pledged to work for the release of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, a militant Islamist preacher imprisoned by the U.S. for planning the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. When Morsi was exposed by the Middle East Media Research Institute for calling Jewish people “descendants of apes and pigs,” Morsi’s response was farcical: My words, he said, were distorted by the Jews who control the American media.
Meanwhile, Egypt is teetering on the brink of financial collapse. In the fall of 2012, President Obama informed Congress that the U.S. would provide Egypt with $450 million in immediate aid to stave off a fiscal disaster. Senator John McCain noted that a delay in foreign aid was liable to “contribute to the chaos that may ensue because of their collapsing economy.” But financial woes make Morsi susceptible to American demands, so President Obama should use Egypt’s desperate situation as leverage to insist on true democratic reforms.
Congress should implement legislation that makes economic aid to Egypt’s new government contingent upon the precise conditions it previously applied to military aid — abiding by the peace treaty with Israel and supporting policies that promote democracy and human rights. Absent these changes and independent confirmation of them by the State Department, economic aid should be withdrawn.
Military aid should also be rescinded until the conditions already set out by Congress have been met. President Obama recently promised to send 16 F-16 fighter jets and 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks to Egypt before the end of the year. This harms U.S. interests rather than advancing them — Morsi is likely to point the F-16s toward Israel and the Abrams tanks toward Tahrir Square.
The American people certainly support rethinking our relationship with Egypt. According to a poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, 42 percent of Americans think aid to Egypt should be reduced and 29 percent think it should be cut off entirely. A super-majority of Americans — 71 percent — believe that U.S. foreign aid to Egypt is a flawed policy prescription.
The Egyptian people, too, reject the notion of being dependent upon American aid. Indeed, according to a Gallup poll, more than eight out of ten Egyptians oppose receiving foreign aid from the United States.
On Tuesday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt, marking the first visit by an Iranian leader in more than three decades. A red-carpet welcome would have been unthinkable under Mubarak.
The U.S. seeks a democratic Egypt, a country that is a bulwark of peace and stability in the region. Until Cairo supports these vital American interests, it is morally irresponsible to use U.S. taxpayer money to fund or arm the Egyptian government.
— Joseph Raskas served in the Israel Defense Forces and is a research analyst for Secure America Now.