Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has disappointed me lately. His American education and (occasional) talk of cultural pluralism and civil rights give me some hope that, when we assess his legacy, he will not turn out to be the Arab Spring’s worst-case scenario: a president who combines extreme populism and Islamism into an anti-Western administration that almost makes you miss the old boss. The reason I’m not yet convinced this will happen is the same reason Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) is holding off on emergency aid to Egypt.
Granger, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, used her power to block the Obama administration’s request for $450 million “to help the country’s new government”:
This proposal comes . . . at a point when the U.S.-Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny . . . I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance, and I cannot support it at this time.
Neither can I. Egypt already receives over $1.3 billion a year in “military aid” from the U.S., and will soon receive $4.7 billion combined from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Whether they will receive a requested $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) remains to be seen. So what exactly is this extra cash for?
The Obama administration has argued that it is essential to buttress Egypt, the most populous Arab country and the first to sign a peace agreement with U.S. ally Israel.
Most Americans will agree that “buttressing” one of the few Middle Eastern (for all intents and purposes) countries to have a peace agreement with Israel is better for overall regional stability. But for how much buttressing will the U.S. be on the hook in the foreseeable future? Especially when the Egyptians failed to prevent protesters from violating the security of the U.S. embassy, and when Morsi responded to the spirit of the protests by asking the U.S. to take the video down? He knows full well how the U.S. deals with distasteful speech. Why not go with it?
If Egypt must get this extra $450 million, it ought to be contingent on three things:
- An itemized list of everything it intends to do with the money. If it doesn’t improve economic conditions for the majority of citizens, forget it.
- Morsi will respect the U.S. government’s use of its own law.
- He will also take action to restrict protests at foreign embassies that do not count as “peaceful assembly.”
I saw trouble when Morsi promised a constitution based on Islamic law, but with respect for civil rights. Let’s hope “respect” ends up meaning “commitment.”