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Op-Ed: Foreign aid to Egypt - a clear no-go?

Egyptians need to decide whether they will conform to restrictions coming with foreign aid – or whether they will write their own share of history.
Gehad Hussein | 21.08.2013

Two days ago, an editorial in the American Star Tribune argued that by sending military aid to Egypt, America will risk being placed on the “wrong side of history” again. It seems like the Americans are trying to preserve an image of their country which is long gone. America is no more the face of freedom and democracy - at least not to the extent it is trying to convey. History has proven that by "trying to bring democracy" to nations like Iraq and Afghanistan, the American administration actually caused its fair share of harm in these countries - on the short as well as on the long-run.

Nevertheless, right now, the American administration fails to see that what is happening in Egypt is not about the US. The conflict is about Egypt. As much as the killing of civilians and soldiers alike is condemned, and as much as I do not affiliate myself with the Muslim Brotherhood or the military, I must say that suspending the American aid might actually help the situation. Yes, economically Egypt is not at its best to say the least at the moment, but the aid coming from other countries always comes with restrictions and demands. Also, the aid package is primarily spent on buying arms from American manufacturers and companies.

Currently, the Western superpower sends an annual $1.55 billion to Egypt as military and economic aid, enforcing the peace between Egypt and Israel and more. Understandably, the sums have caused numerous uproars in the American Congress, yet, the administration is not ready to stop the cash and weapon-flow. Only yesterday, it was announced that the White House Cabinet-Level Meeting will be set to discuss the issue of “Egypt aid”, according to Time Magazine.

As Egypt has enough to worry about, adding international pressure and influence is not going to do it this time. The general sentiment on the street is telling Western countries to "leave Egypt alone". Pictures of a bearded American President Barack Obama and US Ambassador Anne Patterson with devil-horns on her head were quite visible during protests in the last two months.

It is an Egyptian problem and Egyptians have to fix it among each other. Editor-in-Chief of German renowned magazine “FOCUS” Jörg Quoos states that "international sanctions must be placed on Egypt in order to force it to be democratic". Even though the European Union has every right to consider its financial aid to Egypt, it does not have the right to force Egypt to do anything. If this is one of the guidelines that comes with the EU aid, well, they should stop sending it or Egypt should stop accepting it. Egyptians should decide whether they want democracy in the first place or not. Currently, the EU wants to discuss a promised 5 billion Euro package of grants and loans, according to Ahram Online. Again, economically Egypt is not the strongest of nations – but it will manage, as it has done for 7,000 years of ups and downs. We do have calibers and experts that can help in building an economic framework that might get the country out of the “bottle-neck”, which it is usually referred to. Interim Prime Minister Hazem ElBeblawy told ABC News that Egypt would be able to “survive without the US aid” and the Tamarod Movement – which collected signatures to oust former President Mohamed Morsi – is creating a petition in which Egyptians should refuse any aid coming from America. The petition also calls for the dismissal of the peace treaty with Israel – something the American administration would not be too happy with.

Renowned website Business Report published an article yesterday on how halting the West’s aid to Egypt will make little impact. It argues that Arab nations are by now ready to support Egypt financially. This is not the ideal solution for sure – depending on any country for aid brings a lot of baggage with it.

Looking at the issue from another angle, the Huffington Post discussed the possible cut of America’s military aid to Egypt in one of its articles, stating: “the consequences for America could be even worse than for Egypt. The $1.3 billion in aid America sends to Egypt is primarily used to buy weapons from U.S. defense corporations.” The complete story on the 10 US companies that profit most from the aid sent to us can be found here.

That said, I don't think that America will suspend its aid because it is too concerned about peace with Israel and other personal economic privileges.

The conclusion is one that might be hard on the short-term but doubtlessly beneficial on the long-run: Foreign aid and interference in Egypt’s current crisis might be fatal and inefficient.

Img of Gehad Hussein
About the author: Gehad Hussein

Former Editor-in-Chief at Egypt Business Directory and Freelance Editor at Ahram Weekly.