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US to rethink aid to Egypt amid 'descent toward despotism'

Aid to Egypt should be withheld until it shows a commitment to human rights; Reuters quoted US lawmakers as saying on Tuesday.

A statement by Senator Patrick Leahy expressed concerns about “Egypt’s descent toward despotism”, pointing out that “withholding military aid to the Egyptian regime has let its leaders know that repressive actions and abuses of human rights and the rule of law are deeply concerning to the American people, and to many in Congress.”

Likewise on Tuesday, US Representative Adam Schiff proposed an amendment to an annual appropriations bill that would reduce Egypt’s aid package by about 30 per cent and redistribute it to support education and democracy.

Prior to his amendment, Schiff said: “The conviction of the Al-Jazeera English journalists is one of a string of disturbing signs that Egypt is not undergoing the hoped-for and promised reforms, and is backsliding towards a reprise of the Mubarak era – when Islamists were repressed and secular opponents crushed underfoot. Egypt is too important to the region and to the world for the United States to stand idly by. The amendment I will offer will give Egypt the incentives it apparently needs to return to the democratic path.

“As long as we are giving Egyptians a blank check, we can expect our democratic ideals to be given no more than lip service,” Schiff told Reuters.

The House Appropriations Committee, however, voted 35-11 to defeat Schiff’s amendment, but he said he would introduce it again as the bill moves through Congress, with more hope of support in the full House and Senate, Reuters explained.

Tuesday’s vote was the result of pressure by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Schiff said as quoted by Al-Monitor.

“I didn’t know that AIPAC was weighing in at all on this until after the vote,” Schiff said. “But members did communicate to me after the vote that they had been persuaded by AIPAC not to support this.”

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