February 08, 2012
Egypt-US relations further downhill: military delegation cancels Washington visit.
As this has interesting regional implications, some thoughts on the FT arty Egypt-US meetings cancelled amid trial row and on the recent Gallup polling on Egypt and US assistance
An Egyptian army delegation visiting Washington abruptly cancelled meetings with senior American lawmakers on Monday as US government officials warned the country’s $1.5bn aid package was in jeopardy.
Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the US Senate armed services committee, were among a number of congressional leaders scheduled to meet the Egyptian military representatives in the coming week.
But the delegation was recalled home after 19 US citizens, including Sam LaHood, the son of the US transportation secretary, were referred by the Egyptian authorities for criminal trial on charges of operating civil society groups without permission and receiving unauthorised foreign funding.
I'm actually fairly surprised that Egypt has decided to play hard ball on this. They seem to truly feel that USA won't dare suspend aide, however, I don't know the US administration will be able to hold back the political backlash:
Cairo’s decision to try US citizens has put in doubt $1.5bn of US aid after a warning from Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, at the weekend. “We will have to closely review these matters as it comes [to the] time for us to certify whether or not any of these funds from our government can be made available under these circumstances,” she said.
The Obama administration repeated its warning on Monday. “We have underscored how serious a problem these actions are. We have said clearly that these actions could have consequences for our relationship, including regarding our assistance programs,” said Jay Carney, White House spokesman.
It's worth noting the amounts, Econ aide at USD 250 mln is enormous. Serious American allies don't receive such levels. A questionable one....
Under the budget approved by Congress for this year, Egypt is to receive $1.3bn in military aid and $250m in economic aid. However, allocation of the military aid requires the secretary of state to certify that Egypt is supporting the transition to a civilian government, including holding fair elections and ensuring freedom of speech.
And for the political climate in USA, this looks quite problematic to support:
Opposition to aid for Egypt continues to grow. On Friday, Patrick Leahy, the Democratic senator who chairs the subcommittee on foreign aid, said: “We want to send a clear message to the Egyptian military that the days of blank cheques are over.”
More than 40 members of Congress signed a letter sent to both the Obama administration and the Egyptian military council warning that it would be difficult to maintain aid in “the absence of a quick and satisfactory resolution to this issue”.
On this last observation below, (which I suppose suggests that just before aide is cut the trials will be suspended (but not dismissed) or some similar bit of theatre, the Gallup polling rather suggest that they are playing to a willing audience. Of course, it does raise substantial questions about the US-Egyptian relationship, given a political system that has positively nurtured paranoia re outsiders, including supposed allies.
Rabab al-Mahdi, an Egyptian political analyst, said the ruling generals appeared to be involved in a game of brinkmanship with the US but that it was unlikely they would allow the aid to be cut. She said that for the moment they seemed to be playing to nationalist sentiments in a country deeply suspicious of US intentions in the region. ...“I think what we are seeing is part of a populist campaign on the part of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in which they take extreme positions against the US and foreign powers. It feeds into the propaganda [they have been spreading] about foreign plots to destroy Egypt.”
The IHT / NYT arty on this subject In Egypt, a History of Distrust of U.S.-Aided Groups - NYTimes.com
A useful reminder that the process was launched under the deposed President, again highlighting the very problematic fundamentals of that regime, happy to accept a nearly USD 2 bln bribe, but at the same time played a double game.
Two groups were targets of an Egyptian investigation into their role in supporting opposition to President Hosni Mubarak before he fell from power last February. “Data was collected about the activities of the American Embassy through the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute,” Mr. Mubarak’s former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, said in a deposition....
That being said, I do agree with these observations:
But Paul J. Sullivan, a Middle East expert at Georgetown University who has long studied the Egyptian military, cautioned against interpreting the criminal charges as a result merely of high-level machinations. He said Egyptians of all affiliations are wary of undue influence from the United States, which they view as having propped up the Mubarak regime for many years.
“I understand the purpose of the N.D.I. and I.R.I.,” Dr. Sullivan said of the Democratic and Republican institutes. “But this is a newly freed state and a very brittle and emotional environment. It’s not the best environment for them to work. How would we react if a foreign country came here to teach us how to conduct elections?”
Many Egyptians appear to share the military-led government’s suspicions of American motives. “Eighty percent of the people think this is America’s work,” said Sherif Mohamed, 33, surveying metal fragments, garbage fires and dusty tear gas residue left on his block from five days of battles between protesters and security forces in Cairo.
“America does not like Islam,” he said, echoing a common sentiment here.
In recent days, several members of the newly elected Egyptian Parliament have said they look forward to the results of the investigation, asserting that it was wrong for the United States to violate Egyptian laws barring foreign financing of nonprofits.
Emphasis added. Given USA mainstreet popular paranioa about all things foreign (and the lunatic conspiracy theories that seem to have wide credit in the populist right like NAFTA highway, etc), one can hardly disagree.
However, turning to the Gallup note re Most Egyptians Oppose U.S. Economic Aid beyond the headline that ~70% of Egyptians oppose US assistance to Egypt, economic or political, the non-headline result that there is openness to international assistance via WB or IMF rather suggests a specific problematic relationship that the US would be better served from stepping back from:
LOS ANGELES -- About 7 in 10 Egyptians surveyed by Gallup in December 2011 oppose U.S. economic aid to Egypt, and a similar percentage opposes the U.S. sending direct aid to civil society groups. This rebuke of U.S. financial support may be a challenge for Egypt's newly elected parliament and its future president as the government attempts to bolster the nation's financial stability.
Egyptians are much more willing to receive aid from international institutions, with 50% favoring this type of help. Egypt's military and political leaders initally rejected an offer of support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but later changed their minds. Last month, Masood Ahmed, Director for the Middle East and Central Asia Department for the IMF, was in Egypt to discuss a potential $3.2 billion IMF loan to Egypt. Egyptian leaders' ability to attract foreign aid and investment will be important to collecting the capital needed to move the nation's economy forward.Well, Gulf state promises should always be subject to an enormous discount rate. Like 50% plus. Even on their private investment front, they have an El Dorado image, but actual investments in real terms lags badly.
Egytians are nearly as likely to favor aid from Arab governments as they are to oppose help from the U.S. Almost 7 in 10 favor aid from Arab governments.This may in part reflect high-profile announcements by several of the country's Arab neighbors about their involvement in projects to help rebuild Egypt's economy.
However, some Egyptian politicians have begun to voice concerns about collecting on their neighbors' promises. Fayza Abouelnaga, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation in Egypt, recently noted that her country had received only $500 million of the $3.7 billion promised by Saudi Arabia and $500 million of the $1.5 billion pledged by Qatar. Further, she said the United Arab Emirates has paid none of its promised $3 billion. Abouelnaga estimated in December that Egypt's foreign debt reached $34.4 billion, representing 15% of its gross domestic product (GDP).
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Does this from above...?
Well, Gulf state promises should always be subject to an enormous discount rate. Like 50% plus. Even on their private investment front, they have an El Dorado image, but actual investments in real terms lags badly.
... make this seem even more as sheer unmitigated gall-chutzpah?:
From Khaleej Times:
“We call upon the international community to begin implementing the items set by the ‘Deauville’ statement, particularly with regards to funding amounts specified,” said Younis Haji Al Khouri, Undersecretary at the UAE’s Ministry of Finance.
The international community pledged $38 billion in September 2011 in financing to Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan over 2011-13 under the “Deauville Initiative”.
Half of the $38 billion is supposed to be provided by G-8 and wealthy Arab states, and half by multilateral lenders such as the World Bank.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) promised a further $35 billion to countries affected by Arab Spring unrest.
Al Khouri’s call to donors is seen pertinent since very little of that promised money has actually been handed over.
Al Khouri, who was addressing a meeting of G-8 financial undersecretaries and Deauville partners in Abu Dhabi, also asked the IMF and the Council of European Development Bank to contribute to efforts of improving investment climates in Arab Spring states, and to work on increasing development and construction projects in these countries
Posted by: matthew hogan at February 10, 2012 03:52 PM
Posted by: The Lounsbury at February 10, 2012 05:13 PM
Friend of mine from Beirut days has apparently been arrested in Egypt: Australian Journalist and Egyptian Translator arrested
Posted by: Tom Scudder at February 11, 2012 07:01 PM
So, back online, eh?
On provincial sensitivities to US teaching on elections, I have little patience for that. Orgs like NDI or IRI essentially provide organization consulting in an institutional context, for which local skills are very often unavailable.
1) They act through civil organizations increasing demand side for public governance.
2) They build capacities for parties, acting on both demand side and supply side of public governance, creating checks and balances through more competent party politics.
3) They assist institutions such as electoral bodies, improving supply side governance.
I do have a personal dislike for government intervention of any type, and I have an even bigger dislike of donor based - as opposed to market based - programs, for which the measurability of performance is quite arguable. However, they do exist, that's a fact, so they'd better be used when possible.
An election is a big scale operation, the biggest after a military mobilization. It is a major project covering logistics, communication, IT, law and other fields, with a scale and political risks that demand skills that either have not had the opportunity to develop due to lack of freedom or insufficient number of large organizations (be it business or otherwise).
I've seen first hand countries go to war over screwed elections. The "pride" argument of an Arab for not acquiring these essentially managerial/organizational skills from Americans is even more stupid than if they raised sensitivities over acquiring IT skills. I mean, they could just stop using the Internet for all it matters, it was invented by Americans.