Robert Kagan writes a monthly foreign affairs column for The Post.

The Working Group on Egypt was started in 2010 by co-chairs Michele Dunne and myself and is made up of more than a dozen scholars and experts on Egypt and on American foreign policy.  It is a nonpartisan initiative that seeks to shape an effective U.S. policy response to Egypt’s transition and to press for democratic reform and respect for human rights in Egypt. Below is the group’s statement reacting to recent events in the country.

Statement from the Working Group on Egypt

Despite the mistakes committed by former president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood over the past year in Egypt, and despite the incitement and violence demonstrated by some Brotherhood supporters yesterday, the killing of hundreds of protesters carried out by the Egyptian military government was unnecessary, unjustified, and in contravention of international human rights standards. These events demand a shift in U.S. policy that is urgent and long overdue. We agree with President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel the Bright Star joint military exercise, with his condemnation of violence against civilians, with his emphasis on the need for the Egyptian government to respect the human rights of all its citizens, and with his call for positive steps towards reconciliation.

However, the president’s failure to suspend aid to the Egyptian military is a strategic error that undercuts those objectives and weakens U.S. credibility, after repeated calls by the U.S. administration for Egyptian authorities to avoid bloodshed have been disregarded. Whatever President Obama may say about U.S. support for democratic values in Egypt, continued U.S. aid sends a signal to the Egyptian military-and to the world-that the United States condones the Egyptian leadership’s actions. The continuation of aid removes a source of meaningful international pressure that could help to forestall future atrocities and prevent further steps toward consolidation of an undemocratic system in Egypt.

We therefore call on the Obama administration to take further steps, including an immediate suspension of military aid to Egypt. If the President fails once again to do so, we call on Congress to suspend military assistance to Egypt until such time as:

  • The Egyptian state’s use of force against peaceful protesters stops
  • The state of emergency is lifted
  • All political prisoners are released unless credible evidence of violent crimes is presented to the judiciary
  • The present Egyptian regime demonstrates a credible commitment to an open and fair political process
  • This must include freedom of assembly, association, and expression, and the participation of all citizens acting peacefully in the return to a democratically elected government and the establishment of a democratic system of governance.

The United States should use its influence to ensure that no international lending agencies provide financing to the government of Egypt until these conditions are met. The Obama administration should also work with Europe, Arab countries, the United Nations, the African Union, and other nations and international institutions to put concerted pressure on the Egyptian military government to reverse its current policies and launch Egypt on a path, finally, towards a genuine democratic transition in Egypt. The alternative is not only morally unconscionable, but also a direct threat to regional stability and U.S. interests.

Robert Kagan (co-chair)
Brookings Institution

Michele Dunne (co-chair)
Atlantic Council

Elliott Abrams
Council on Foreign Relations

Ellen Bork
Foreign Policy Initiative

Daniel Calingaert
Freedom House

Reuel Gerecht
Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Amy Hawthorne
Atlantic Council

Neil Hicks
Human Rights First

Peter Mandaville
Ali Vural Ak Center for Islamic Studies
George Mason University

Stephen McInerney
Project on Middle East Democracy

Tamara Wittes
Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution

**Affiliations are given for purposes of identification only and do not indicate institutional support.