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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid