Should US suspend military aid to Egypt, to try to speed new elections?
US influence over events in Egypt is scant. But the US does give $1.6 billion a year in aid, mainly to Egypt's military – and some argue that now is the time to use those dollars as leverage to speed new elections and a return to constitutional order.
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“We’ve been highly disengaged from Egypt over the past few years, and we’ve not built much of a relationship, haven’t been very active with the broad range of actors playing a role in Egypt today,” says Robert Danin, a former deputy assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs who is now a Middle East senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Affairs in Washington. “To the extent that we seem powerless now,” he adds, “it’s in part because we’ve not been clear about what we’ve wanted and the seriousness we attribute to it.”Skip to next paragraph
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The US ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, became a stand-out target of anti-Morsi demonstrators in the days preceding the president’s ouster. But if Ambassador Patterson came to symbolize a perceived US acquiescence to Morsi’s accumulation of powers and trampling of basic freedoms, it’s because neither the White House nor the State Department had been very public about US concerns over Morsi’s drift, some analysts say.
Now the US has something of a “second chance,” Mr. Danin says – but he cautions that, especially where the US is starting from, it can’t expect to simply order the results it wishes to see.
“There’s a difference between Egypt accepting our diktats and our having an influence," he says. “I’d argue that when we are engaged we can have tremendous influence.”
What happens in Egypt and its next direction are important enough to the US and its interests in the region that Mr. Obama should speak publicly and clearly about it in coming days, some analysts say.
Others say the US can send the clearest and most powerful signal by suspending aid to Egypt. Indeed, many say the US has no choice but to suspend aid, because the Foreign Assistance Act stipulates that no aid – other than democracy-promotion assistance – can go to “any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup d’etat.”
Given that, "a suspension of aid is required by US law,” says Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president of Freedom House in Washington. But suspending aid, he adds, “would also serve the purpose of exercising leverage that the US has been far to hesitant to use until now.” What the US must do now, he says, is “push Egypt’s interim government to set a date for presidential and parliamentary elections, respect the fundamental rights of all Egyptians, and bring all major political currents, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, into discussions about the country’s way forward.”
CFR’s Danin agrees that military assistance probably should be suspended. But more important still, he says, would be to lay out to Egyptians a set of “incentives and disincentives” defining what the US expects to see in the weeks going forward – and how the US proposes to help Egypt get there.
“There is a middle ground between simply imposing our will and disengaging,” he says. “We need to work on finding it.”
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