News / Middle East

US Military Aid to Egypt: A Complicated Issue

FILE - Supporters of Egypt's top military officer, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, march over a bridge leading to Tahrir Square in Cairo after the ouster of democratically-elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, July 26, 2013.
FILE - Supporters of Egypt's top military officer, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, march over a bridge leading to Tahrir Square in Cairo after the ouster of democratically-elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, July 26, 2013.

Article Poll

Poll archive
Cecily Hilleary
The United States has not announced any decisions yet on whether to cut—or amend—military aid to Egypt, but President Barack Obama has said whatever the decision, he doubts it will influence the military-backed government’s actions.

The U.S. gives Egypt $1.2 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid every year. But the amount of U.S. aid is relatively small compared to the more than $12 billion that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies are promising. 

But like many foreign policy decisions, whether to continue providing U.S. aid will require a careful balancing of U.S. interests and human rights concerns.

The United States has a long-standing military relationship with Egypt and has always viewed that as a good investment, especially because the aid is directly linked to maintaining Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel. 
 
Egypt also allows Washington to send U.S. Navy vessels through the Suez Canal on a priority basis and to fly from the Mediterranean across Egypt’s air space to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.  Analysts worry that if the U.S. cuts aid to Egypt, these concessions could change.

Aid benefits defense industry

There are other important considerations, says Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Robert SatloffRobert Satloff
x
Robert Satloff
Robert Satloff
“$1.3 billion dollars is certainly not a lot in relative terms, in terms of the Egyptian GDP and in terms of what other countries are willing, at this moment, to substitute for Egypt,” he said. 

But the aid is important because it has kept the Egyptians as a major customer for U.S. advanced weapons systems and continued training.

“There aren’t many places where the Egyptians can go shopping for these things,” Satloff said. “You need a deep and years-long partnership with a major power in order to procure such a weaponry and the training and technology that the Egyptians are looking for.” 

Admittedly, says Satloff, the U.S. benefits in “a sort of mercenary way” because much of the aid money goes to America’s defense industry. 

“But we benefit in a broader sense by being the indispensable partner to the most significant military force in the Arab world,” Satloff said. “And we benefit in a larger sense in that the partnership is a two-way street.  I mean, the Egyptians do things for us and we do things for them.” 

Satloff says the best course of action with regard to Egypt is to simply “do nothing” --  i.e., “maintain what leverage we have, maintain what connections we have, in the hope that they can, before long, be put to advance American interests more effectively.”

Subsidizing tyranny 

Charles W. Dunne is director of Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House, one of several non-government organizations accused by Egypt of political interference.  He has argued for months – most recently, before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in early June – that the Washington should suspend aid because of increased repression of civil society in Egypt.

Charles W. DunneCharles W. Dunne
x
Charles W. Dunne
Charles W. Dunne
“I think the case is even more powerful now that we are simply subsidizing tyranny, which is taking place in Egypt,” Dunne said. “People are being arrested en masse. 
Emergency law has been reinstated. 
The military is engaging in severe repression of human and civil rights, and I think the relationship as it has gone on for the last 30 years is simply unsustainable.” 

Dunne admits that cutting aid carries political risks. Egypt’s military is unhappy enough over what it sees as Washington’s past support of the former government of ousted president Mohamed Morsi as well as Washington’s reluctance to endorse the military’s recent actions.

“But what people have to remember is that it’s fundamentally Egypt’s interest to keep that relationship going,” Dunne said.  “It has no interest in shutting down the Suez Canal, which would be a political and economic disaster for Egypt.  If it were to break off the treaty between Egypt and Israel -- (A), there is no way they can go to war against Israel, and (B), they would find a lot of their friends in the international community deserting them, not just the United States.”

What about using the U.S. aid as an incentive to promote further democratization?

“We are doing some of this already,” Dunne said. “Supporting their bid for an I.M.F. loan package, which the current government may be less interested in now with Saudi and other support flowing in.

“But they need U.S. support for international investors to come in. They need trade agreements. They need U.S. assurances that Egypt is a safe place to go as a tourist – that is a huge slice of their democratic economy,” Dunne said.

In the end, Dunne says the concerns about what the Egyptians might do if aid were canceled or reduced are overblown. 

“I think they [the Egyptians] would be seeking ways to repair that relationship very quickly,” he concluded.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More