Josh Rogin reports: “Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is returning to ‘Mubarak-era tactics of repression,’ and the U.S. government should condition military funding to Egypt on such repression ending, a bipartisan group of Egypt experts said today.” The Egypt Working Group is a bipartisan collection of foreign policy gurus from the right and left that has advocated for reform in Egypt and urged the administration to support more robust human rights and democratization.
The working group has drafted a new statement calling for the United States “to make clear its support for a genuine democratic transition that will require an end to military rule in Egypt, and use all the leverage it has to encourage this goal, including the placing of conditions on future aid to the Egyptian military.”
The statement should be read in full, but the bottom line is this array of experts does not share the administration’s optimism about a prompt transfer of power. “Despite repeated promises to do so before elections, the SCAF has yet to lift Egypt’s state of emergency and has instead expanded its scope beyond what it was under Mubarak. It has kept a tight control on the reins of government, limiting the authority of civilian officials. It has violated the due process rights of more than 12,000 Egyptian citizens, including activists, bloggers and protesters, who have been subjected to unfair trials in military courts. It has given orders restricting media freedom.”
Finally, the working group suggests that President Obama hold up U.S. aid until some basic conditions are met: “The Senate version of the 2012 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill includes a modest provision requiring the Secretary of State to certify that ‘the Government of Egypt has held free and fair elections and is implementing policies to protect the rights of journalists, due process, and freedoms of expression and association.’”
I spoke to Robert Kagan, a Post contributor and a moving force behind the working group. (He is also an adviser to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, but is not speaking on behalf of the campaign in this context.) He told me that the Egyptian military “is doing everything it thinks it can get away with to consolidate and perpetuate its power at the expense of democratic reform.” Kagan cautioned, “The danger right now is that Egypt could turn out like another Pakistan, with an entrenched military (living partly off American largesse), weak civilian institutions and an Islamist politics unchecked by strong secular forces.” Kagan is dismissive of the administration’s approach. He bemoaned, “The U.S., as usual, acts as if it has no leverage, while it gives the [Egyptian] military $1.3 billion a year. Congress needs to put meaningful conditions on that aid. It’s in Egypt’s interest, and it is very much in the U.S. interest.”
The administration, of course, continued funneling aid to Hosni Mubarak while he trampled on human right and rigged elections, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that this same mentality pervades U.S. policy even in the wake of the Arab Spring. It is true that we have limited ability to influence events in Egypt, but the Obama administration seems determined to toss away even that minimal influence.