Mend don’t end U.S. aid to Egypt | Freedom House

Mend don’t end U.S. aid to Egypt

CNN: Global Public Square

Photo Credit | Darla Hueske

By Daniel Calingaert and Nancy Okail

An impending delivery of F-16 fighter jets and components of 200 Abrams tanks to Egypt has run into a barrage of criticism and triggered calls to cut off all U.S. aid to the country. These calls are excessive. Aid should continue, because the United States has a critical interest in supporting a democratic transition in Egypt. But the U.S. cannot do that effectively unless it overhauls its approach.

Three major changes are needed. First, U.S. assistance should be tied to progress toward democracy. We should hold back until the government of President Mohamed Morsy respects the fundamental rights of Egyptians and democratic principles. It has hardly done so. The government has harassed its media critics, most recently launching an investigation against popular comedian Bassem Youssef for making fun of President Morsy, and limited free expression in the new constitution, which prohibits “insulting or showing contempt toward any human being.”

The new constitution was rammed through the Constitutional Assembly and put to a snap referendum last month. Rather than build a broad consensus on the institutional structures for a new Egypt, the constitution drafting process alienated significant segments of Egyptian society, including secularists and Christians. It also coincided with a blatant power grab by Morsy, who issued a decree, subsequently reversed in the face of angry protests, to put his decisions beyond judicial review. He has made unilateral decisions without providing justifications or consulting different political forces, and in response, many of his advisors have resigned over the past two months.

U.S. law makes military aid conditional on the Egyptian government protecting free expression, association, and religion, and due process of law. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to waive these conditions last March, as the law permits, undermined U.S. leverage. The United States should uphold the conditions going forward and suspend military aid if Egypt fails to meet them. It should also criticize Egypt’s human rights abuses during negotiations on economic assistance.

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