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Secretary of State Clinton is set to sign a waiver today to release $1.5 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt.

AP, US OKs Egypt Aid Despite Congressional Concerns

The Obama administration told Congress on Thursday it will waive democracy requirements to release up to $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt despite concerns that the country is backsliding on commitments it made to democratic governance and rule of law.

U.S. officials and lawmakers said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has determined that it was in the U.S. national interest to allow $1.3 billion in military assistance to flow. She also certified that Egypt is meeting its obligations to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which frees up an additional $200 million in economic aid, they said.

A senior State Department official said the decisions "reflect our overarching goal: to maintain our strategic partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy."

Reuters, Clinton to Let Military Aid to Egypt Continue: State Department Official

The office of Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on foreign aid, revealed Clinton's decision and made clear his deep unhappiness with it, arguing that Clinton should now limit the amount of military aid that is released.

Clinton should "release no more taxpayer funds than is demonstrably necessary, withholding the rest in the (U.S.) Treasury pending further progress in the transition to democracy" in Egypt, Leahy said in a statement.

Hours later, a senior State Department official confirmed Clinton would on Friday waive a requirement, recently passed by Congress and authored by Leahy, for Egypt's government to support a transition to democracy in order for U.S. military aid to continue.

For comprehensive background on the diplomatic dust-up between the U.S. and Egypt (primarily "The NGO Affair") see this March 16 article at POMED (warning: pdf). I have also written two diaries covering aspects of the affair here and here.

In all honesty, I do not trust the motivations behind Leahy's conditions on military aid to Egypt (statement [3 February 2012]) or those of the cohort of Senators (McCain, Levin et alii) who have been vocal in their support of these conditions. That said I am somewhat disappointed, though not surprised, by Secretary of State Clinton's decision to sign this waiver.

Issandr el-Amrani, writing at The Arabist, has been following this story closely and narrating developments with his usual incisive wit. I find myself in total agreement with el-Amrani when he posed on 17 March the question "Will the US approve aid to Egypt?" and replied "Probably—but it will be more embarrassing this time round."

Embarrassing? "Yes," embarrassing. The decision to sign the waiver and approve the $1.3 billion in military aid as well as an additional $200 million in economic aid is fundamentally a statement of support for the ruling junta of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). This military aid will serve to strengthen the SCAF's claims to power and their economy-within-an-economy, what Robert Springborg and others have called "Egypt's Military, Inc." On the entrenched military economy and its significance in the struggle for political power and democratic reforms in Egypt, see Springborg's interview with Egypt Independent (formerly al-Masry al-Youm) from 26 October 2011 and also see Shana Marshall's and Joshua Stacher's article "Egypt's Generals and Transnational Capital" in the Spring 2012 issue of Middle East Report. The waiver is a simple affirmation of the status quo, of Mubarakism 2.0.

The decision to sign the waiver is also embarrassing for serving as a clear privileging of U.S. interests in the status quo balance-of-power in the Egypt-Palestine-Israel nexus over our professed interests in democratization in Egypt (specifically, and MENA more generally.) I've little doubt that the mediating role adopted by the SCAF in brokering the recent cease-fire in Gaza factored significantly in the decision to waive democratization requirements.

Realpolitik, but is it good policy to facilitate the SCAF's hold on political and economic power in Egypt, coercive power that has proven to be essentially anti-democratic? Some undoubtedly view the SCAF as the lesser of two evils. In my view, the jury is still out...

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Update: and it's done... Reuters, U.S. Approves Egypt Military Aid Despite Rights Fears

The Obama administration on Friday formally released $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt despite Cairo's failure to meet pro-democracy goals, saying U.S. national security required continued military assistance.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waived congressional conditions imposed late last year that tied U.S. aid to progress in Egypt's transition to democracy following the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

"These decisions reflect America's over-arching goal: to maintain our strategic partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

Originally posted to angry marmot on Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 08:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 08:13:44 AM PDT

  •  Lesser of two evils indeed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    entlord, volleyboy1

    This is why world politics suck - it's never black and white, always varying shades of depressing gray, splattered with blood.

    In my opinion, the U.S. cannot risk Egypt destabilizing at this point and believes that the military rulers are the best shot at preventing wide spread sectarian violence or a descent into Islamic fundamentalism.

    Supports to my argument include:

    1.) The massive failure of the moderate parties to secure workable majorities or coalitions in the recent parliamentary elections - and the triumph of the radical and 'moderate' Muslim Brotherhood

    2.) Working from point two - the continued unrest with the last minority - 10 million or so - of Copts who are predominately christian and have been faced with discrimination, violence and other threats since the fall of Mubarak.

    I would wager that there is a significant part of the State Department that wants nothing to do with a Sudan/South Sudan redux in Egypt - with is arguably in a much more strategic location of geopolitical importance than Sudan.

    Power-Worshipping Fascist

    by campionrules on Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 08:30:19 AM PDT

    •  Yep, it's tricky... (6+ / 0-)

      I'm watching with interest a couple of things: 1) who will end up being appointed to the Constituent Assembly drafting the new constitution; 2) who will end up declaring their candidacies for the presidency, and in particular whether there will be (as I and many others suspect) a "compromise candidate" suitable to both the SCAF and the FJP/MB; 3) who will be elected to fill the tremendous void left by the death of Pope Shenouda III.

      Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

      by angry marmot on Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 08:42:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  bottom line is no surprise on the release of funds (5+ / 0-)

      as nothing has really changed since Mubarak got the boot; the military was in charge before and is still in charge today.  The fact that they continue to hold freedom protestors for months and allegedly torture them and deny them the right to trial or counsel shows who is in charge there

  •  Diary updated... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, sofia, Aunt Martha, heathlander

    It's a done deal. The Reuters piece also notes the following:

    U.S. officials said the decision to release the aid also avoided disruption of existing defense contracts, which could have led to expensive termination costs that could have exceeded $2 billion.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Fri Mar 23, 2012 at 11:40:46 AM PDT

  •  Aside from my general mistrust of US (2+ / 0-)

    promotion of "democracy" (see, e.g., Iraq or Nicaragua), and all the points you're making about what it means re domestic Egyptian politics, what's also troubling to me from a domestic American standpoint is that the executive simply waives a requirement put in place by the legislative.  Now, it may be that that was part of the original law--that the executive could issue such a waiver--but if not, there are also some serious concerns about breaches of Article II powers.

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