US backing of el-Sissi reminiscent of Mubarak era

(By Deutsche Welle) With ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi sworn in as Egypt’s president, Washington has promised that it will cooperate with his government. Are US-Egyptian ties returning to the Mubarak-era status quo of military rule?

More than three years ago, US President Barack Obama withdrew Washington’s long-standing support for Hosni Mubarak, accelerating the former air force marshal’s overthrow by mass demonstrations. Today, the White House is cooperating with Egypt’s latest military-commander-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in what some analysts say is a return to the old status quo of US support for military rule.

“The United States looks forward to working with [Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi], the winner of Egypt’s presidential election, to advance our strategic partnership and the many interests shared by the United States and Egypt,” the White House said in a news release.

The Obama administration also expressed concern about the restrictive political environment in which the elections took place, calling on el-Sissi to adopt political reforms that would fulfill the “democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

But in his May 28 foreign policy speech, President Obama made clear that US-Egyptian relations are primarily rooted in national security interests, not democracy promotion.

“In countries like Egypt, we acknowledged that our relationship is anchored in security interests, from peace treaties with Israel to shared efforts against violent extremism,” Obama told the West Point Military Academy’s graduating class.

“So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government, but we can and will persistently push for reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded,” the president continued.

Continue reading

US circumvents law to transfer aid to Egypt

(By Deutsche Welle) The US Congress has passed legislation that allows the White House to transfer more than $1 billion in aid money to Egypt. Experts say that Washington is prioritizing Mubarak-era security arrangements over democracy.

As Egypt’s controversial political transition moves forward under the watchful eye of a military-backed interim government, the United States faces a dilemma over whether to embrace General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi or risk jeopardizing its relations with Cairo, a key strategic ally in the Middle East.

So far, the White House has declined to label General el-Sissi’s overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi – Egypt’s first democratically elected leader – as a military coup. That’s because the US Foreign Assistance Act bars Washington from providing aid money to “any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

By calling Morsi’s ouster a coup, the Obama administration would have been obligated to cut $1.5 billion (1.1 billion euros) in aid money to Egypt. A significant portion of that money goes directly to US defense contractors which manufacture weapons systems for Cairo. The money also helps to maintain the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace agreement.

In January, the US Congress passed a spending bill that effectively allows the Obama administration to circumvent the Foreign Assistance Act and transfer aid money to Egypt under the condition that the country makes progress toward democratic governance.

“It’s an attempt by the Congress to give more space and freedom to the administration to deal with a government that came to power by a coup,” Khalil al-Anani, an Egypt expert with the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., told DW.

Continue reading