Foreign aid to Egypt is the best and only real leverage that Obama Inc. has over the country. And Josh Rogin and Eli Lake take apart the sudden phony claims of concern by Obama Inc. over continuing to provide aid after the fall of Morsi.
In nearly every confrontation with Congress since the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the White House has fought restrictions proposed by legislators on the nearly $1.6 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt. Twice in two years, the White House and the State Department fought hard against the very sorts of conditions for aid that Obama claimed credit for this week.
But don’t tell that to Obama. On Monday he said, “The way we make decisions about assistance to Egypt is based on are they in fact following rule of law and democratic procedures.”
Hillary Clinton, the secretary of State in his first term, described the Egypt aid process during a September 2011 visit to Cairo that took place after Mubarak’s resignation, but before the powerful Egyptian military acceded to the drafting of a new constitution and the free elections held in June 2012, when Morsi won office.
“We believe in aid to your military without any conditions, no conditionality,” Clinton said. “I’ve made that very clear. I was with the foreign minister, Mr. Amr, yesterday, and was very clear in saying that the Obama administration, and I personally am against that. I think it’s not appropriate.”
In March 2012, Clinton waived restrictions passed by Congress on aid to Egypt “on the basis of America’s national-security interests.” That decision came in the midst of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on foreign NGOs, which included the raiding of the offices of several American organizations, including the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House.
In April of this year, Kerry again waived all congressional restrictions on aid to Egypt, but did so secretly and without any explanation. The State Department later explained that aid to Egypt’s military was necessary because of U.S.-Egyptian cooperation on things like counterterrorism.
That same month Kerry delivered to Morsi an additional $190 million of U.S. aid based on Morsi’s pledge to implement economic reforms, part of a $1 billion debt-relief package Obama pledged to Morsi.
Under Morsi, there was zero concern by the administration about tying aid to Egypt to human rights and the rule of law. Instead there was steadfast opposition to any such proposal.
Now suddenly Obama Inc. is very concerned about foreign aid when they can use it as leverage to put the Brotherhood back into power.
At least some protesters on Egypt’s streets have taken a similar view, holding up signs with photos of Obama and Patterson with big red X’s across their faces. Activists were angry that Patterson criticized the preparations for their protests in public remarks, saying, “My government and I are deeply skeptical” of the protests, which she suggested would lead to “more violence on the streets.”
While Patterson engaged Egypt quietly, the Obama administration was slow to criticize Morsi in public when he prosecuted journalists and other activists under an old law that makes it illegal to insult the president.
The White House warning is based on a U.S. law that prohibits U.S. support for any military that institutes a coup against an elected government. But the Obama administration could get around that law if it wanted to by not characterizing a temporary military takeover as a coup.
As usual, it’s all about Obama’s unilateral interpretation of events for his own purposes.