Financial aid to Egyptdeserves more scrutiny

Don’t worry about Egyptian democracy, officials with the military-controlled Egyptian government have told outside news sources. As soon as they get that little problem with the Muslim Brotherhood wrapped up, the country will return to its democratic ways, with a new constitution and real elections to follow, they say.

That dispute has led to more than 1,000 deaths in Egypt over the past month, more than 900 in the last week alone. It has prompted the Egyptian military to declare a state of emergency and claim ever more powers for itself.

It has provoked a situation in which Egyptian prosecutors suddenly find deposed Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarek guilty of no crimes, so they are arranging his release, while a long-time democracy advocate who resigned from the government a week ago in protest over the army’s violent attacks on protesters’ camps is charged with treason.

In this explosive atmosphere, the Obama administration is reportedly considering whether to suspend some or all of the $1.5 billion in annual aid it sends to Egypt.

We think it’s time to reconsider the allowance we give our uncertain and increasingly undemocratic ally.

In its typically confusing manner, however, the Obama team first denied Tuesday that it was planning to cut or suspend any of the money for Egypt. Later, the White House said it was convening a Cabinet meeting to discuss the issue.

It’s true that the military government headed by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi isn’t likely to suddenly change its ways because the United States refuses to cut it a check. But doing so would at least make it clear to el-Sisi and his military brethren that this country won’t just keep handing out the cash, no matter how tyrannical the regime becomes.

To be clear, we have no sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood. Until last month, when he was deposed by the military, President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist supporters were well on their way to imposing their own undemocratic theocracy on Egypt. They rewrote the constitution, imposed their own draconian laws and ignored the nation’s economic problems.

Since the military takeover, they have helped ensure that violence in the country continues, and they have used the unrest as an excuse to attack and kill innocent Coptic Christians.

That’s why hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in protest earlier this year, and why most of them initially supported the military’s action against the Brotherhood.

But the el-Sisi government is demonstrating it’s just as despotic and power hungry as the Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, our financial contributions have given us no influence over what is happening in Egypt, and, in fact, are provoking only greater anger toward the U.S. from many in Egypt.

Why continue such problematic funding, at least for now? Put the money in escrow in the hope that violence in Egypt will abate and a real democracy can eventually emerge.


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