As with many of the inescapable issues we are seeing today in the Middle East, the Obama administration seems to be confused, unprepared and perhaps ill-equipped to deal with the rapidly changing developments in the region.
The world witnessed a crackdown of horrific proportions in Egypt on Wednesday. Despite sidestepping the question of whether or not a coup took place on July 3, President Obama must seriously look at cutting-off aid to Egypt. Receiving on average of 1.5 billion dollars of aid annually, most going directly to the military, Egypt receives one of the highest packages of assistance that Washington provides. With the images coming out of Cairo and the numbers of dead and injured, a serious discussion needs to be held on Obama’s next steps.
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In a statement released by the White House, President Obama’s deputy press secretary said the following:
“The world is watching what is happening in Cairo. We urge the government of Egypt-and all parties in Egypt-to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully.”
But the world is also watching Washington. The Obama administration must send a strong and unequivocal message to Cairo and General Sisi that violence and force used against protesters is unacceptable and it runs contrary to a democratic society.
Yes, the Muslim Brotherhood poorly managed affairs in Egypt during their time in office. But, a coup or not, Mohammad Morsi was the democratically elected leader in Egypt. In a democracy, you don’t overthrow your leaders.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Egypt’s military was “restoring democracy” when it removed Morsi.
Now there is a change in tone.
Secretary Kerry said on Wednesday that:
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“Today’s events are deplorable and they run counter to Egyptian aspirations for peace, inclusion, and genuine democracy.”
“The United States strongly supports the Egyptian people’s hope for a prompt and sustainable transition to an inclusive, tolerant, civilian-led democracy.”
What would cutting off aid to Egypt accomplish? Washington must do more than statements condemning the violence and urging all sides to return to democracy. It must decisively deal with a fast changing situation on the ground.
The United States must take control of this issue
Temporarily cutting off aid to Egypt would not be an overreaction or miscalculation. It would send a message to the Army that the path it has taken is not the way forward and it must be held accountable for its actions and decisions.
Egypt’s economy is in shambles and its people are deeply divided. The longer the violence continues and the wider the political divide becomes, Egypt will continue to spiral into an abyss that will be difficult to recover from.
The interim Egyptian government and the army must quickly get the country back on its democratic path. The United States must use whatever leverage it has to make this happen. Cutting off aid could possibly expedite that action.
The United States has lost much of its credibility in Egypt, let alone the region. It needs to show leadership on this issue at a time when eyes are not only on Cairo but also on Washington.
Senator John McCain said this past Sunday that if the government went ahead and cracked down in a violent way that “I’m afraid the Congress of the United States would have to consider carefully the elimination of aid.”
This in fact happened. We saw a violent crackdown with an unknown number of dead and countless more injured. The United States must take control of this issue, if it doesn’t, not only will the United States appear to offering indirect support to the crackdown, it will weaken its moral compass in the eyes of many who are closely watching its actions not just at home, but around the world.