US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the green light Friday to resume $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt despite fears it is slipping in its avowed transition to democracy.
The move marked the denouement of a crisis in the 30-year-old US-Egyptian alliance that erupted over a crackdown in December on pro-democracy groups by Egypt’s interim military rulers.
“Today, Secretary Clinton has certified to Congress that Egypt is meeting its obligations under its peace treaty with Israel,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
The move clears the way for $250 million in economic aid this year, which had not been in serious question.
“The secretary has also waived legislative conditions related to Egypt’s democratic transition, on the basis of America’s national security interests, allowing for the continued flow of foreign military financing to Egypt,” Nuland said.
The move frees up $1.3 billion in US military aid this year.
“These decisions reflect America’s over-arching goal: to maintain our strategic partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy,” Nuland said.
Clinton began reviewing aid to Egypt after it raided the US-funded International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House as well as Egyptian and other foreign pro-democracy groups.
Even though a court case continues against US and other members of such non-government organizations, US officials say Egypt is making progress toward democracy and Washington sees cooperation with Cairo in its national interest.
And Nuland suggested the United States was keeping an eye on the case.
“We remain deeply concerned regarding the trials of civil society activists — non-Egyptians and Egyptians alike — and have raised these concerns at the highest levels, urging an end to harassment,” Nuland said.
But the secretary’s waiver is “designed to demonstrate our strong support for Egypt’s enduring role as a security partner and leader in promoting regional stability and peace,” Nuland said.
Passing legislation in December, Congress had tied conditions to progress Egypt’s interim military rulers make toward democracy following the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in a revolution in February last year.
“Egypt has maintained thirty-plus years of peace with Israel. It contributes to efforts to stop proliferation and arms smuggling and facilitates missions from Afghanistan to counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa,” Nuland said.
Senator Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the legislation that imposed conditions on aid, said he was “disappointed” by Clinton’s decision.
“I know Secretary Clinton wants the democratic transition in Egypt to succeed, but by waiving the conditions we send a contradictory message,” Leahy said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Egyptian military should be defending fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, not harassing and arresting those who are working for democracy,” he said.
Now that she has taken her decision, he said, Clinton should release funds in increments as Egypt demonstrates its commitment toward democracy following the revolution that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February last year.
The military aid goes toward paying US military and security contractors who supply equipment and services, including training, to the Egyptian armed forces.