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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs