U.S. Military Aid to Egypt to Resume, Officials Say
The Obama administration plans to resume military aid to Egypt, American officials said on Thursday, signaling its willingness to remain deeply engaged with the generals now running the country despite concerns over abuses and a still-uncertain transition to democracy.
To restart the aid, which has been a cornerstone of American relations with Egypt for more than three decades, the administration plans on sidestepping a new Congressional requirement that for the first time directly links military assistance to the protection of basic freedoms.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to waive the requirement on national security grounds as soon as early next week, according to administration and Congressional officials. That would allow some, but not yet all of $1.3 billion in military aid this year to move forward, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so that they could discuss internal deliberations.
The threat that the military aid might end was a critical factor in the release by the Egyptian government of seven Americans employed by four American-financed international organizations that were involved in community organizing activities. The prosecutions of the Americans were part of broader concerns the Obama administration has had about Egypt’s progress since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak a year ago.
The outcome is not likely to please either human rights advocates concerned about abuses by Egypt’s security forces or many Egyptians, who have grown disillusioned with the military council and hostile toward American interference in Egyptian affairs. At a time of rising anti-American sentiment, the waiver may also alienate the revolutionaries and political reformers struggling to push the country toward civilian rule.
“Making such a certification would undermine the brave struggle of the Egyptian people for a society founded on respect for human rights and the rule of law,” Adotei Akwei of Amnesty International USA wrote in a letter to Mrs. Clinton released on Thursday. “Waiving the certification requirement would forfeit a key form of pressure for the advancement of human rights.”
The State Department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said a final decision had not yet been made over resuming the aid, but other officials said there was still a question over how to write the waiver.
President Obama, Mrs. Clinton and other senior officials explicitly warned Egypt’s military leaders that the aid this year was at risk because of the prosecution of the American-financed organizations, which include Freedom House, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. The case, which began in December, continues, though Egyptian authorities, under intense pressure from the administration, lifted a travel ban on the seven American employees of the groups. The individuals were allowed to depart after the groups paid nearly $4 million in bail.