US decision to release $195m in suspended military aid to Cairo receives warm welcome from Egypt MPs

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 29 Jul 2018

MPs nonetheless insist that US economic and military assistance to Egypt should not be used as a means of leverage to meddle in the country's internal affairs

File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)

In Egypt, political circles view the US decision to release $195 million in military aid to Cairo as mainly resulting from progress in cooperation between the two sides in the area of fighting terrorism and security cooperation, rather than from reaching common ground on the two thorny issues of democracy and human rights. 

The US State Department's announcement 25 July that the administration of US President Donald Trump had approved to release the military aid to Egypt was greeted with a warm welcome in Cairo's political and parliamentary circles. 

In a brief statement, the State Department indicated that the "release decision" came after a number of steps Egypt took, and that now there are stronger relations between Egypt and US in the areas of security and counter-terrorism.

The US decision came while a high-level Egyptian security and military delegation was holding talks on Egyptian-American ties with senior US officials in Washington last week.

Al-Ahram newspaper said Friday that Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry intends to visit the US next month to hold talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Al-Ahram cited foreign ministry sources as saying that Pompeo telephoned Shoukry to stress that Washington is committed to providing military and economic support to Cairo, mainly through its aid programme, and pledged to "remove obstacles in this regard."

Soliman Wahdan, Egypt's deputy parliament speaker, said in a statement 27 July that "it is very important that the US decision came without Egypt offering any political concessions in return."

"It is also significant that the decision reflects some change in the mentality of the White House," said Wahdan, adding that "While former US President Barack Obama was trying in every way to impose political conditions on Egypt in return for economic and military assistance, it seems that the current US president, Donald Trump, decided to abandon this direction."

"I think that all will agree that the US under Donald Trump is not interested in pursuing Obama's policies, and that all know that Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was able to neutralise America's political agenda to a large extent," said Wahdan, adding that "Washington should know that the policy of cooperation is the best for achieving the mutual interests of both countries." 

Mohamed Maher Hamed, an MP from Cairo's Al-Khalifa district, said: "The old impact of America's military assistance on Egypt's political decisions has no effect anymore." "So to release or to withhold this assistance does not mean anything," said Maher. "But the decision to release the suspended aid is very significant in itself as it shows that the pressure the Obama administration was exerting on Egypt to allow the ousted Muslim Brotherhood be reintegrated in the country's political process has gone forever."

Montasser Riad, MP from Giza governorate, also said in a statement that, "The US release decision is very important because it came despite repeated hostile media campaigns that tried their best to tarnish the image of the country in the area of human rights in Washington circles. But it seems that the Donald Trump administration choose to ignore them." "These campaigns, funded by the banned Muslim Brotherhood, used many US media outlets like The New York Times and CNN, in a bid to compel the Donald Trump administration to go the Obama way in dealing with Egypt," said Riad, adding that "but the release decision came as a direct slap in the face of all of these campaigns."

Riad also said that the fact that some Congress circles have lately opened a debate on the Muslim Brotherhood and whether it should be designated a terrorist organisation in the US also sends positive signals from Washington.

Riad said all MPs are in support of reinforcing Egyptian-American military relations. "But we all reject that American military assistance is used to meddle in Egypt's internal affairs or impose a certain political agenda on the country," said Riad.

Amr El-Shoubaki, an Ahram political analyst, told Al-Ahram Online that, "There is no doubt that the release decision was warmly welcomed in Egyptian political circles and they took it as a change in US direction." However, Khaled Okasha, director of the Cairo-Based National Centre for Security Studies, said that "it is too early to say that the decision reflects a complete change in the mentality of the White House towards Egypt." "There are a lot of Congress members and hostile media which have a lot of influence in Washington's political circles and these always insist on using military and economic aid to impact Egypt's politics," Okasha added.

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