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May 28, 2007

Egyptian Bloggers Fighting for Democracy
Posted by Shadi Hamid

Here is a must-read Washington Post op-ed piece by Wael Abbas, an Egyptian blogger. He asks:

How much is enough to make Americans question why their money goes to support this government? We Egyptians want a fair struggle for our freedom. We'll never have it as long as Mubarak and his corrupt regime are propped up by U.S. aid. All we ask is: Give us a fighting chance.

Wael, and so many others like him, on the trenches of the battle for Arab democracy, have spoken, and continue to speak, with great courage and at tremendous risk to their own safety. Will America listen?

For the Arabic-readers out there, make sure to check out Wael's blog.


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U.S. aid to Egypt was promised in the Camp David agreements of 1978. Reducing that aid might have implications for relations between Israel and Egypt.

Just to check, what is the main obstacle to reducing this aid. I'm guessing, as David Tomlin mentioned, its the Israel-Egypt linkage. The other source of political support I can think of would be Defense companies that have sales to Egypt funded in part by this military aid. On the upside, I don't think we're actually obligated to continue this aid by the treaty.

So I'd guess there's a few options for cutting it.
1) Transitioning military aid to general aid (or actively non-military aid).
2) Cutting aid to Egypt while keeping aid to Israel at roughly the same level.
3) Cutting aid to both countries.

The exact means of implementation could vary. It would probably be best to phase it out rather than cut it in one swoop. Also, I do believe there's debate in Israel about whether continuing to take the aid makes sense. So there's possible Israeli allies in the cause of cutting that aid.

Any thoughts on the specifics Shadi?

The US is under no formal obligation to maintain any particular level of aid to Egypt, as part of the Camp David agreement.

It's not like reducing aid to Egypt is a novel idea, nor is it as difficult as it might appear. Congressman David Obey offered an amendment last year to precisely that effect that would have cut aid by $100 million. It was narrowly defeated in a close 225-198 vote. And, surprise, it was Republicans who buried it. Only 45 Republicans (under guidance from the supposedly democracy-loving Bush administration to maintain aid levels)voted for the amendment, compared to 153 Democrats.

Shadi: Thanks for the clarification. So basically the Bush administration is the obstacle here. Do you know what stopped a reduction during the Clinton administration? Did the Egyptian government behave better (albeit not democratically) back then?

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