US-Egyptian Relations in Crisis

Article Summary
The arrest of foreign nationals - including 19 US citizens - employed by NGOs operating in Egypt has provoked a fierce reaction from the US government, which now threatens to freeze over $3 billion in military aid to the Egyptian authorities. Abdallah al-Sueiji draws on history and leaked diplomatic cables to analyze the crisis’ likely trajectory.

On December 19, 2011 Egyptian security forces stormed 17 local and international NGO offices, confiscating [their] computers and documents. Among the US NGOs were the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and Freedom House, alongside the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The Egyptian judiciary studied the case and decided to bring 44 people, including 19 US citizens and other foreigners, to trial. [These events] created a crisis between Egypt and the US [in early February] over illegal American financing of Egyptian NGOs. [The US warned Egypt of a rupture in ties] and threatened to cut US $3.1 billion in military aid to Egypt.

Surprisingly, the US reaction was unprecedentedly fierce. In fact, three Senators warned last Tuesday [February 7] that should [Egypt] carry out prosecutions against officials in foreign organizations, a disastrous break in ties between the two countries will take place.

According to a statement issued by the three Senators, Republicans John McCain and Kelly Ayotte as well as the independent Joe Lieberman, “The current crisis with the Egyptian government has escalated to such a level that it now threatens our long-standing partnership.” The three Senators asked Cairo to halt its prosecutions against employees of US NGOs, give them back their belongings and allow them to leave the country. They accused the opponents of the United States within the government in Cairo of exacerbating tensions and inflaming public opinion in order to advance a narrow political agenda. Surprisingly enough, Senator McCain said that "Egypt cannot [take decisions] on its own in this matter." In other words, the Senator wants the Egyptian leadership to refer to him for court [orders] related to a case that US law [would deem illegal].

Observers considered Egypt’s response to the US threats as very defiant, given that Dr. Kamal Ganzouri, the Egyptian Prime Minister, said that his country would not change its position on foreign funding for NGOs despite the US's threat to cut off aid. In a press conference on Wednesday [February 8], [Ganzouri] added that the case is a judicial matter and that US-funded NGOs along with others are being investigated for violating Egyptian laws, including failure to register and illegally receiving foreign cash. He also said that "Egypt will apply the law in the case of NGOs and will not back down because of aid or other reasons.”

A series of telegrams have been obtained by Wikileaks. Document number 66342 dated February 2006 says that the US paid US $600 million to organizations and youth movements calling for democracy in Egypt.

Another leaked telegram number 0076523, dated December 2010 and issued by the US Embassy in Cairo, says that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated US $5.66 million in 2008 and US $75 million in 2009 for Egyptian programs aimed at spreading democracy and applying good governance through the funding of human rights organizations, NGOs and youth movements.

Telegram number 0067832, dated January 2006 and issued by the US embassy in Cairo, says ​​that “US government programs help establish democratic institutions and amplify the voices of individuals in order to bring about change in Egypt."

Telegram number 0087432, dated December 2008, says that US funds for the spread of democracy were allocated to programs run by US and Egyptian NGOs working in the field.

According to a telegram dated February 28, 2008, the Egyptian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Faiza Abouelnaga sent a letter to the embassy ​​asking USAID to stop financing 10 organizations "because they are not accredited by the Egyptian government."

Document number 002473, a telegram from the US embassy in Cairo to the US administration, indicates that a number of young men involved in planning the Egyptian revolution were travelling to Istanbul to attend a workshop at the Eastern Museum on the mechanisms of democratic change in Egypt and guidelines of political action.

As for the telegram sent from Anne Patterson, US Ambassador in Cairo, to John Kerry, member of the US Congress, it says that things are going well.

The dispute [between the US and Egypt] is deepening and it is likely to escalate in the future. The US is increasing its criticism of both Egypt's military rulers and the Ganzouri Government. Moreover, [the US] has [organizations] on the ground (in Egypt) that uphold human rights and fight the use of force against demonstrators. [The US administration] may deal with the current government as it dealt with President Mubarak, so that the biggest and most powerful Arab country remains in a state of chaos, without stability or calm. This is what the Zionist entity and the US want, and [quarters] within Egypt are contributing to this [situation], not necessarily in a bid to serve a foreign agenda. In fact, each time the People's Assembly is convened, it becomes visible to what extent the internal situation is divided between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists on the one hand and the Islamic, liberal and democratic [movements] on the other. The existence of an Islamic government infers the existence of an endless debate. Moreover, division among the opposition, as is [also] happening in Libya, Iraq and Syria, does not set the stage for calm.

The US-Egyptian crisis threatens to escalate further, and the Zionist entity is likely to get involved, for it acts as an agent of US policy in the region. Therefore, Egypt could be exposed to an American/Western campaign to deprive it of [foreign aid]. Moreover, the IMF and the World Bank may halt their loans [to Egypt] and tourists may be warned against going to Egypt until it “comes to its senses” and [restores good relations with the US].

The Arab world will remain in the spotlight - especially for European countries and the US - because of its oil wealth, its strategic location and the location of the Zionist entity within it. In my view, never before have the Arabs needed to band together and coordinate as much as they do now. They have to beware of what is going on behind their backs. In the end, events have proven the famous proverb: "Don't keep a dog, bark yourself!” [If you want something done properly, you had better do it yourself].

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