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.

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