Will U.S. Suspend Aid to Egypt's Military?
The most devastating Egyptian military action since Mubarak's demise has been the generals' decision to open up its Rafah Gaza border. This allows Hamas unfettered shipment of weaponry through the border crossing. There are reports more than 400 al-Qaeda terrorists are now operating in Egypt's Sinai.
The Egyptian military also has taken the initiative to broker a new "unity government" between between Palestinian factions Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Egypt ignored U.S. and European Union requirements that Hamas first renounce violence, agree to abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
The Egyptian military, furthermore, continues to eye Israel as its prime enemy. Documents revealed by Wikileaks show that the Egyptian military continues to see Israel, not Iran, as its primary military threat despite a decades-old peace treaty. The Egyptian military has refused to change its Soviet-era preoccupation with major armor units poised to fight Israel, and the Wikileaks documents also show that American diplomats believe the generals do not appear interested in taking on the war on terror.
Since Mubarak's departure, there also is consternation about the military's post-Mubarak human rights record. It has tolerated Muslim violence against Christian Copts. There were widespread charges the military conducted "virginity tests" on female protesters. Military tribunals are being used to prosecute hundreds of protesters, and press censorship continues.
All of this worries Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-IL), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Last month she urged caution on continued aid to Egypt following President Obama's May 19 speech on the Middle East:
The U.S. should only provide assistance to Egypt after we know that Egypt’s new government will not include the Muslim Brotherhood and will be democratic, pro-American, and committed to abiding by peace agreements with Israel.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has said that the Egyptian military's growing anti-Israel posture might violate the Camp David Accords. Kirk has warned that military aid requires that Egypt "keeps its commitments under the Camp David peace accords, allows safe passage through the Suez Canal, and works to stem the flow of weapons into Gaza."
The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) was the first organization outside of Congress to publicly call for an end to Egyptian military assistance. In May, President Sarah Stern wrote:
In the past four decades, billions of dollars have not secured for United States the modern, westernized military partner they have sought, as the disturbing tales from Tahrir Square have shown. Additional aid will serve no further purpose.
Our foreign military aid program has bought us no good will. ... It has become the foreign policy equivalent of the worst welfare programs. We are simply rewarding bad behavior. At a time when the American budget is stretched, we are throwing away our tax payers’ dollars at people who mock us and our democratic values.
Z Street, a pro-Zionist organization, has followed's EMET's lead. Z Street has urged its members to get mobilized:
This is a time of fiscal constraint for the U.S. economy. Yet, despite budgetary cuts we are being asked to make all over, we keep showering foreign aid to the Egyptian government and to the Palestinian Authority.
Observers believe a debate is long overdue about American largesse to Egypt. In light of troubling new warning signs, perhaps there will be cuts.