Sunday, October 05, 2014

Reining In Egypt’s Military Aid

OCT. 4, 2014

Egyptian leaders have come to see the annual $1.3 billion American military aid package as an entitlement they are due in perpetuity for having signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979. The United States has done little to disabuse them of that notion. It’s time it does. Failing to make significant cuts to the program later this year, when the Obama administration will confront tough choices regarding Egypt’s future, would be indefensible. Since Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took control in Egypt though a military coup in July 2013, the country has returned to its authoritarian moorings by jailing political opponents, silencing critics and vilifying peaceful Islamists.

Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which became the leading political movement in the wake of Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising, are languishing in prison, unfairly branded as terrorists. That has left a large generation of Brotherhood supporters rudderless, raising the possibility that some will be drawn to militancy. Just when the United States is battling Sunni extremists in Iraq and Syria, seeking to isolate the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, Egypt’s crushing authoritarianism could well persuade a significant number of its citizens that violence is the only tool they have for fighting back.

Egypt today is in many ways more repressive than it was during the darkest periods of the reign of deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Sisi’s government has cracked down on demonstrations, tightened control of state media and prosecuted journalists. A new, vaguely worded law will soon stiffen penalties for individuals who receive foreign funding, making it a crime punishable by life in prison. The measure, ostensibly intended to fight terrorism, is similar to policies the state has used to suppress the work of pro-democracy organizations.

(More here.)


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