First Published: 2014-06-07

US aid to Egypt remains in deep-freeze
Using aid to try to force democratic reforms would have little effect, with most Egyptians now deeply distrustful of America.
Middle East Online

By Jo Biddle – WASHINGTON

How will Egypt president deal with world’s superpower?

As Egypt prepares to swear in its fourth leader since 2011, a huge slice of $1.5 billion in US aid remains in deep-freeze amid fears the nation is sliding back into authoritarianism.

Former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will be crowned as the next president on Sunday after three years of political turmoil since the ousting of long-time iron-fisted leader Hosni Mubarak.

But far from welcoming Sisi as a step toward stability, some analysts are urging Washington to re-think its decades-old, military-based aid program amid concerns over human rights abuses and a crackdown on civil liberties.

In a sign of Washington's unease, no senior US cabinet members will be attending the inauguration, with State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon asked to lead the delegation.

US officials announced in April they planned to resume some military aid to Cairo, suspended late last year, including 10 Apache helicopters for counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula.

But the aircraft remain in storage in the US, and a request to release some $650 million of the frozen aid has been put on hold in Congress by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of an appropriations subcommittee.

Leahy said he was "extremely disturbed" by Egypt's "flouting of human rights" and would not sign off on delivering the aid "until we have a better understanding of how the aid would be used."

But there are also no current plans to unblock the rest of the suspended 2014 funding, which includes some military hardware such as Harpoon missiles and parts for Abram tanks.

Under legislation penned by Leahy, Kerry has to certify Egypt is on the path to democracy before all the aid can be released.

"There's no timeline for when we have to make additional decisions about the assistance we haven't yet certified for Egypt," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, stressing there was "more work to do" and the administration was not "satisfied" about the pace of democratic progress.

While the US was ready to work with Egypt on badly-needed economic reforms, Harf was also non-committal on whether Washington would join a donors' conference proposed this week by Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf kingdom, together with the United Arab Emirates, has vowed to pump some $10 billion into the Egyptian economy.

Expert Michele Dunne argued the US should now "refocus its diplomacy on supporting the Egyptian people, while limiting relations with Sisi and his government to essential security interests."

The bulk of US aid should be transferred to a couple of major programs providing direct assistance to the Egyptian people instead of supporting contracts for US-made weapons for the already heavily-equipped army.

"A focus solely on cooperating with the state no longer makes sense in an era when the lifespan of Egyptian governments, at least the last three, has been measured more in months than in decades," said the expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Using aid to try to force democratic reforms would also have little effect, with most Egyptians now deeply distrustful of America thanks to its muddled policies which have swung between support for Mubarak to tepid backing for Morsi and confusion over his ouster.

US moves to try to force a reconciliation the new leaders to reconcile with Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood will be seen "as us asking them to commit suicide," Eric Trager told a conference hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

A high-level Egyptian official defended his government against charges of pervasive abuses as well as suspicions over the polling.

The official, who asked not to be named, denounced what he called "this freaking out in the Western media" about the low turnout when the elections were extended unexpectedly for a third day.

"If anybody has this illusion of having superiority of teaching us which way we should go according to their own criteria, they are totally mistaken," he told a handful of reporters, speaking in English.

"We will do what we think is right, what the Egyptian people think is right," he said angrily.

 

41 killed in Istanbul airport bomb, gun attacks

Democratic hopes fade away in Egypt

US-backed Syria rebels advance on key IS link to Iraq

Ban to Israeli PM: Gaza blockade ‘collective punishment’

Egypt becoming departure country for migrants to Europe

Egypt president urges religious reforms to counter extremists

First aid convoy since 2012 enters two besieged Syria towns

Race to succeed Cameron begins after stunning Brexit vote

Yemen peace talks to take two-week break

Iraq secures $2.7 billion US military loan

ISIS pushes back Syria rebel offensive on Iraq route

Israel cabinet approves Turkey reconciliation deal

Turkey airport attack slams limping tourism industry

Putin lifts Turkey travel restrictions, orders trade 'normalised'

Fears for stranded Syrian refugees as Jordan blocks access

Bahrain activist back in jail despite worsening health

Witnesses recount Istanbul attack

Car bomb kills 10 in Kurdish-held Syria town

Alstom-led consortium awarded $2.88 billion Dubai metro extension

Israel revokes controversial 'Hannibal Directive'

Detained Bahraini activist hospitalised

UN chief urges Netanyahu to make tough choices

Saudi Aramco, SABIC in joint petrochemicals study

Yemen clashes, air strikes kill 37 civilians

Egypt's anti-graft tsar becomes public enemy number one

Iraqis shun return to 'cursed' Fallujah

Lebanese army raids refugee camps after bombings

Ankara goes back on compensation offer for downed Russia jet

Iraq court deals blow to PM's cabinet reform efforts

UAE jails Emirati woman for spying for Hezbollah

Eight hurt in Turkey car bombing blamed on PKK

Iran hopes Saudi embassy attack trial will restore confidence

France charges Assad's uncle with graft

EgyptAir black box flight recorder 'repaired'

11 Kurdish rebels, 3 Revolutionary Guards killed in Iran

Egypt deports British-Lebanese TV show host

Turkey seeks to restore broken ties with Russia

Deadly bombings target Yemen troops in ex-Qaeda bastion

NGOs press EU leaders on Africa migrant plan

Jordanian intelligence officials sold weapons for Syria rebels on black market

On British-Irish border, Brexit breeds worries for future

New lawyers of Gaddafi son urge ICC to drop case

Bahrain jails 5 people on charges linked to ‘terrorism’

Erdogan apologises to Putin over downing of Russia jet

Clashes continue at Al-Aqsa compound