The Spectacle Blog

Obama Admin Thwarts Congress on Aid To Egypt

By on 3.16.12 | 2:17PM

Recall that the Egyptian government, prosecuting US-backed democracy groups, yielded slightly a few weeks ago by lifting a travel ban on arrested Americans -- but didn't end the prosecution, or do a thing to relax their treatment of the organizations' Egyptian employees. Apparently, that's good enough for the Obama administration:

WASHINGTON - 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.

Just what are the "national security grounds" that Secretary Clinton is invoking? There have been noises from the Egyptian government about abrogating the Camp David Accords in response to an aid freeze (aid to Egypt began as an informal condition of Camp David, though there's nothing about US aid in the treaty itself), but Egypt's leaders seems unlikely to take that step as long as they know perfectly well that Israel has the stronger military -- it is, after all, the generals who are still in charge, for the most part. The reality is that it's bad for our national security for the Obama administration to be bending this easily.

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