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.

 

US-led coalition warplanes hit IS near Syria's Al-Bab

Florida airport shooter ‘inspired’ by IS jiahdists

Iraq forces 'liberate' eastern Mosul

Palestinian home demolitions spark deadly violence

Syria war forces elderly to take shelter in retirement homes

France says Iraqi jihadist among 2015 stadium bombers

Russia, Turkey stage first joint air strikes against IS in Syria

IS advances on terrified citizens of Syria’s Deir Ezzor

In path to greater executive power, Erdogan faces weak Turkey economy

Switzerland drops war crimes case against former Algerian defence minister

Patience wears thin in Iraq's Fallujah

New UN chief stresses importance of Syria peace talks

Istanbul nightclub attacker 'received orders from IS'

Turkish border officials refuse entry to NYT reporter

Fatah, Hamas agree to form unity government

Snowden’s stay in Russia extended by two years

East Syria clashes continue between IS, regime forces

Syrian general, 8 soldiers killed in tunnel blast

Iran opposes US joining Syria talks

Turkey snubs UN hearing on detained Rwanda genocide judge

Rouhani calls for end to Saudi ‘interference’ across region

Saudi says China rise source of global stability not conflict

Lengthy drought leaves Somalia with serious famine risk

Gunman found in comfy Istanbul flat

Iran, Syria sign phone, petrol deals in Tehran

Jordan charges 8 with inciting opposition against regime

Iranian president rules out renegotiating nuclear deal

Turkey prosecutors demand up to 142 years in jail for Kurd leader

180 dead after boat capsizes in Mediterranean

Saudi carries out first death sentence of 2017

Libyan granted right to sue UK ex-minister for rendition

Syria regime, rebels name heads of delegation for Astana talks

Istanbul nightclub attacker captured

Syria troops, IS jihadists battle on in Deir Ezzor

Israel occupation forces rearrest Palestinian journalist

Russian FM says Syria peace talks to ‘consolidate’ ceasefire

Amnesty warns EU's anti-terror laws threaten human rights

Saudi health emergency after mass food poisoning

Darfur rebel groups rebuilding their forces in Libya, South Sudan

Saudi FM says Washington, Riyadh interests align

Morocco parliament elects new speaker

Hamas rejects ‘absurd’ Paris peace conference

Israeli army shoots dead Palestinian in West Bank clashes

Obama warns Trump against undoing Iran deal on anniversary

Turkish policeman who assassinated Russian ambassador buried in unmarked grave