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Should the United States should cut foreign aid to Egypt?

Published: Sunday, Sept. 9 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi waves as he leaves the Arab League headquarters. (Associated Press) Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi waves as he leaves the Arab League headquarters. (Associated Press)

By Lawrence J. Haas

Yes, the U.S. should cut foreign aid the Egypt because recently elected President Mohammed Morsi does not share American values.

WASHINGTON — U.S. foreign aid, which dates back to the early 1950s, is designed to support U.S. national security by helping our friends, pressuring our adversaries and promoting a safer, more prosperous world.

That's why U.S. aid shifted over the years as our priorities shifted — from winning the Cold War through the 1980s to supporting U.S. global predominance in the 1990s to fighting the war on terror since 2001.

It's also why Washington has showered so much foreign aid on Egypt since it made peace with Israel in 1979, stabilizing the region and making Arab-Israeli war far less likely.

But, with the rise of President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi was a leading figure, Egypt is no longer the strong U.S. ally on which Washington has relied for more than 30 years.

Morsi does not share our values and he pursues policies that threaten our interests. Consequently, Washington should not give Cairo the economic and military aid that will strengthen Morsi at home, encourage him to keep undermining us abroad, and send a confusing signal about U.S. resolve to our friends and adversaries.

With an economically desperate Egypt needing our aid, a course correction of fewer or no U.S. dollars will get Morsi's attention and could give us the leverage to influence his behavior.

For starters, Washington has long distributed foreign aid to help advance freedom and democracy. But, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood that dominates Egypt's new parliament are cracking down on human rights.

Morsi unilaterally fired Egypt's military leaders, parliament's upper house appointed new editor-in-chief of the nation's state-run newspapers, independent newspapers are under government attack for "fueling sedition" or "harming the president through phrases and wording," and the government continues to tolerate if not encourage the Islamist-led persecution of Christian Coptics.

Morsi has said that strict Islamic law — known as Sharia — should govern Egyptian life, and the Islamists who dominate the committee that will write Egypt's new constitution say they would make Sharia the basis of it. In addition, Morsi is undermining U.S. interests in ever-bolder ways, apparently unconcerned about the consequences for U.S.-Egyptian relations.

He promised to push Washington to release the "Blind Shiekh," Omar Abdel Rahman, who's serving time for the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center. He also released jailed terrorists, including members of the dangerous Gama'a Islamiya and Islamic Jihad.

Morsi embraced the Holocaust-denying, Israel-threatening Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia and then became the first Egyptian leader to visit Tehran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution — undermining U.S. effort to isolate Iran over its nuclear program.

That same week, Egypt rejected a U.S. request that it search an Iranian ship passing through the Suez Canal for illegal arms.

Morsi promises to uphold Egypt's "treaty obligations," but he's undermining the spirit if not the letter of Egypt's treaty with Israel.

He sent tanks into the Sinai and reportedly plans to send more along with rockets and helicopters, though the treaty calls for a demilitarized peninsula to serve as a buffer between Egypt and Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood's media adviser recently called the treaty a "mark of shame" that brought "cancer, hepatitis and kidney infections" to Egypt.

Admittedly, Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in early 2011, abused human rights and enforced only a cold peace with Israel. But, he was a reliable U.S. ally, justifying the billions that Washington sent his way.

By contrast, Morsi is testing U.S. resolve as he curtails human rights while threatening U.S. interests abroad. It's time to tighten the spigot and, if that doesn't get Morsi's attention, close it altogether.

Lawrence J. Haas is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

No: Egypt is taking a hard stance against iran’s nuclear program

By John B. Quigley

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Recent activity by Egypt’s new president gives no reason to cut aid to Egypt or to take other measures against it.

Egypt’s recently elected President Mohammed Morsi did, to be sure, choose to attend personally a periodic summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Nations in Tehran and his attendance rankled the United States, because we are trying to isolate Iran diplomatically over its nuclear development.

Morsi’s visit to Iran was the first by an Egyptian leader since the 1979 anti-U.S. revolution that brought the current government in Iran to power. Although the NAN is an organization that includes Egypt, a lower-level official could have represented Egypt.

On the other side, even though Morsi attended the Tehran get-together, he did not use the occasion to confer with Iranian leaders or to change Egypt’s formal relationship with Iran. Iran and Egypt have had no diplomatic relations, and Morsi did not suggest re-establishing them.

And Morsi’s Tehran visit did not play out in the way U.S. officials feared. Far from using his visit to cozy up to the Iranian leadership, Morsi shocked his Iranian hosts by addressing the Syria situation in a speech to NAN delegates. He called the Government of Bashar Assad an “oppressive regime.” Iran is a major backer of Assad.

Morsi did not mince words. “We express our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost legitimacy,” he told the assembled delegates. “It is not only an ethical duty but a political and strategic necessity.”

“The blood of the Syrian people is on our necks,” Morsi declared, “and it will not stop unless there is an intervention by all of us.”

So if the United States was worried that Morsi would put himself in the Iranian camp, Morsi dispelled any such fears.

Morsi may not, to be sure, be on the same page as the United States on Syria, beyond opposition to the current leadership. The Syrian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood is banned by Assad, and Morsi may hope for a role for it in a post-Assad Syria.

The United States has to accept a realignment in the Middle East. Morsi, as a president coming out of the Muslim Brotherhood, is not always going to act consistent with U.S. policy like his predecessor.

The United States backed the movement against the old regime in Cairo. President Baracl Obama declared our support for democracy in Egypt. While the United States was not happy with the outcome of the election that brought Morsi into office, it has, to its credit, refrained from doing anything to reverse the consequence of that election.

The fact that Morsi may not be in sync with the United States may in the longer term not be so bad. We have been singularly unsuccessful in resolving the Israel-Palestine situation.

If the current U.S. presidential campaign is any indication, we will likely continue backing Israel to the point that we write ourselves out of the picture as a mediator. A more diverse political map in the region may be conducive to initiatives that hold some hope on the Israel-Palestine front. Morsi in particular, with ties to the Hamas leadership in Gaza, may be able to broker a peace deal more effectively than we have been.

Morsi’s activities do not give reason to re-examine U.S. aid to Egypt. But the aid we give Egypt dates from the Egypt-Israel Camp David accord of 1979. We extended aid to Egypt as a counterweight to the aid we give to Israel.

The aid we give to both countries is politically motivated, rather than needs-based. Aid to Egypt should be viewed from that perspective. If Egypt aid is to be cut, aid to Israel should be on the chopping block as well.

John B. Quigley is a professor of law at Ohio State University.

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