News / Middle East

US Aid to Egypt Depends on Events

Military vehicles blocking a street in Cairo, January 30, 2011
Military vehicles blocking a street in Cairo, January 30, 2011

U.S. officials say there are no plans to cut off aid to Egypt.  But they caution that aid will be reviewed as events unfold, indicating that the Egyptian government's actions going forward might jeopardize U.S. assistance.  The bulk of USAID and State Department aid to Egypt goes toward security spending.  A State Department official said Monday that the United States makes no apologies for helping to bolster Egypt's security.

As the crisis in Egypt continues, so, too, do questions about whether the United States will use its financial leverage in the country.

According to U.S. government figures, the State Department and USAID provided $1.5 billion in assistance to Egypt last year.  The budget request for 2011 is about the same.

State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters at the State Department that the United States does not want to see a particular outcome in Cairo, but a process that gives Egyptians the ability to determine their own government.  He said there are no plans to cut funding to Egypt.

"We continue to provide assistance to Egypt. Based on what we see today, we don't envision taking any immediate action," said P.J. Crowley. "But as [White House Press Secretary] Robert Gibbs said Friday, as events unfold, we, of course, will continue to review our aid."

Washington has repeatedly called on the Egyptian government to allow for peaceful protests.  But more than 125 people have died during crackdowns on demonstrations in the past week.  Crowley indicated that such violence might jeopardize U.S. assistance and said that American funding comes with stipulations.

"If aid is used in a way that is contrary to our laws, our policies and our values, you know, we'll make adjustments as we need to," he said.

The bulk of U.S. assistance to Egypt is for security. 

"We do provide assistance to Egypt, and some of that assistance is in the form of security assistance, and we make no apologies for that," said the U.S. State Department spokesman.

And Crowley said U.S. aid to Egypt has been beneficial to the region.
"Our relationship has been a stabilizing one," he said. "Certainly, the relationship between Egypt and the United States and the support that we, together with others, have provided have been a stabilizing force across the region.  Egypt has been a strong supporter of the pursuit of peace in the Middle East." 

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979 - Israel's first with an Arab nation - and Egypt has played a role in mediating Mideast peace efforts.

But analyst Tawfik Hamid of the Washington-based Potomac Institute for Policy Studies says the Egyptian attitudes in the future depend on the way the United States deals with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Hamid says the Egyptian people would continue to support U.S. policies in the Middle East on one condition.

"When they know that America is behind the people and behind the military against Mubarak, this can make America the most beloved nation in the eyes of Egyptians," said Hamid. "But if America lets them down with Mubarak, I don't think the problem will end and the country will be lost."

The Egyptian military has vowed not to use force against demonstrators.  But analysts say it is unclear whether the military will defy or even remove Mr. Mubarak from office.

Meanwhile, State Department Spokesman Crowley said a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Frank Wisner, is in Cairo, not as an official envoy but as a private citizen.  But Crowley added that Wisner has long-standing relationships with Egyptian leaders and is in a position to reiterate U.S. policy and to report back to officials in Washington.

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