In an August 10, 2018 piece for Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government, “Trump Blinks, and Egypt’s Sisi Wins,” POMED’s Deputy Director for Policy Andrew Miller argues that Washington lost its leverage in Cairo when it backed down in a standoff over military aid.
Once again, Washington has backed down in a standoff with Cairo over military aid. On July 25, U.S. and Egyptian officials revealed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had released $195 million in military assistance, which had been frozen since last August. The move came despite the fact that Egypt had met none of the three conditions that the previous secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had attached to releasing the aid: the resolution of a 2013 trial involving 43 employees of various nongovernmental organizations, including 17 Americans, who were convicted on politicized charges of operating without licenses and receiving illegal foreign funding; the repeal or wholesale revision of Egypt’s draconian 2017 NGO law; and the discontinuation of Egypt’s diplomatic, military, and economic cooperation with North Korea.
This is not the first time the United States has blinked during a faceoff with the notoriously stubborn government of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi. In fact, I was the director for Egypt on the National Security Council staff in 2015 when the Obama administration ultimately lifted a hold on the delivery of several weapons systems even though Cairo had not met the administration’s more ambitious conditions. The decision led one former Obama official to lament to Politico, “We caved.”
In that case, Egypt’s regional allies—Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—had lobbied hard against the hold. With each of them perceived to be more important to U.S. interests than Egypt, it is no wonder that their opinions bore weight with President Barack Obama. The discomfort of some U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense, with applying pressure on a putative “friend” likewise tipped the scales.
Read the full article here.
Photo: Shealah Craighead/White House