From Washington, With A Slap

News that Washington will suspend a sizeable chunk of military aid to Egypt was met with little more than a shrug from Egypt watchers and analysts who said the decision was unsurprising.

The move to trim part of the $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt had been in question since the US issued a warning in July when the military ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

For many, it was all talk not action.

“I don’t see it as any more than a symbolic slap on the wrist,” H. A. Hellyer, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told Global Post.

In the short run, as this Associated Press editorial argues, “the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid will have little effect on Egypt’s military and its ability to defend itself. The cutoff probably will not do much damage to most of the companies with contracts to build such weapons.”

Indeed, a report by Al Jazeera revealed that US military aid has flowed as normal to the Egyptian cities of Damietta and Alexandria since the coup began, despite warnings.

Some also said the slap on the wrist decision avoids the real debate at the heart of the aid.  Jonathan Guyer of the Cairo Review explains:

If we agree that American assistance doesn’t do much, then why continue it? The basis of this gargantuan military aid package is the 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel; that should be the topic under discussion rather than the idea of “leverage” in the abstract.

If Washington is going to cut aid, it must carry out the policy change with a bang, not a whimper. 

On the flip side, for supporters of the military-backed overthrow, the announcement inflamed tempers. Naguib Sawiris, the politician and billionaire who has never been short on opinions, started a Twitter row:

But a healthy dose of realism from a few Egypt commentators doused Sawiris’ outburst:

For all the discussion of symbolism and how much impact the aid cuts will make on Egypt, the US undeniably has a significant amount of fire power in the Middle East. The decision to suspend some aid, in and of itself, is a big deal that will influence other major donors in their attitude toward Egypt. 

Aside from Gulf aid (and I’ve been clear about why that’s not a great idea in the long-run here and here) Cairo has pretty much lost the confidence of every major donor. Washington’s announcement is a nail in the coffin for the European Union, the World Bank and the African Development Bank who have been closely monitoring developments.

Of course, the US is just one of many countries and institutions that provide military and financial assistance to Egypt, as the chart compiled by the Center for Global Development shows below. Even though, taken as a whole, European bilateral aid plus EU assistance is double that of the United States, the US is still the single largest contributor and has huge voting power at other international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, where the country’s quota on the board is the largest. The US can stop Egypt getting the help it needs when it undoubtedly asks for it in a few years, if not earlier. 

aidto egypt

Whether Egypt likes it or not, even a symbolic decision is damaging to Cairo’s ever-withering reputation in the eyes of the international community. 

The only saving grace is that those in Egypt’s government realise how detrimental the US decision is to its chances of securing other aid and make moves to speed up the election process and be rid of the the military’s undemocratic rule.

But somehow, with condemnations of the US coming fast and steady from all parts of the administration, that looks very unlikely.

Instead, as Cairo isolates itself more and more it further drives itself into the power-hungry hands of the Gulf. 

One Comment

  • Posted October 14, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    At some point the Egyptian people, for or against Morsi, must wake up they are being led down a regressive path back into history by a military corrupt leadership. If Egyptians can establish a Muslim democracy without being subjected to more oppression by fascist thinkers, Egypt can be the first in an united states of Muslim social democracies. Funding the Egyptian military by Obama and/or an Arab country is buying to the 19th century paradigm of tit for tat to keep the Suez Canal working for dirty oil and Israel protected. Sustainability for Egypt lies in the development of green energy, banning of GMOs, controlling the banksters, and taking the monies being swung in the breeze for social needs rather than war machines. Free education, health care, and establishing co-ops is what people need and want. If Egyptians in plurality if not commonality can see the military/police for what they are – the waterboard boys of the United States of Hillary – they will oust this current coup regime and vote into power leaders who do not suffer from chronic cases of egotism and despotism. While I am a noted pacifist I am also a realist and without a clean slate wiping of traditional oppressors Egyptians will continue to be under the yoke of Wall Street/western colonialism now seeking water (The Nile) and secure access to petro (Suez). Egyptians need to stand up for all Egyptians and disarm their military and its so called ‘savior mentality’ to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood. Fear mongering needs a group to hate to work its repression. From my perspective the MB did far more good than evil within local communities. The lack of education coupled to an Egyptian cultural tendency to politely talk talk is a country wide problem. Seriously sitting down and building a nation wide consensus without interference by the military, the banks, western influencers, the Sauds, and others takes courage. Fear and polarity is ruling Egypt at this juncture. The enemy is not the MB, it is the insecurity of the people beaten down by fear as the most effective tool of a fascist state. The mindset needs to shift from political protests in the streets to organized resistance sited in local communities and neighborhoods where leadership is democratically elected by the citizenry and represents in ratio the various perspectives. This means if the community is 80% MB then the representation is 80% MB. If the community is 50% secular then the representative is 50% secular, and so forth. Building a democracy is about active participation of the citizenry otherwise Egypt will continue to be stuck in a never ending cycle of abuse of resources, its civil society and its heart. Human rights only succeed when the doctrine of equality is applied blindly and all encompassing yet the key is local leadership responsive to those who are foremost accountable to their neighbors. Unless the innate corruption of the military ends there is no point in taking to the streets to become lambs in the latest slaughtering of Egyptians. The greater good is a premise of Ancient Egypt and while dormant in 2013 it is viable if given the space, energy, and commitment necessary to set up this core value to establishing a free and beautiful New Egypt for all Egyptians, not just those in uniform.

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