Money Well Spent?

Last Sunday, as Coptic Christians assembled peacefully in Maspero, Egypt to protest the burning of a Coptic church. The army responded by opening fire on protesters and deliberately driving armored vehicles into the crowd. Video (Warning: graphic), shows military vehicles plowing into the crowds, actively attempting to run down protestors at high speeds.

According to reports, the army was joined in attacking Christians by gangs of Muslim men armed with knives and clubs. A young Copt told Reuters that the violence was reserved for Christians, and that Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups were not attacked when they conducted similar protests.  Egyptian State-controlled media broadcasted calls for Muslims to take to the streets against Christians, even as the Prime Minister blamed “outside forces” a code word which usually implies alleged Israeli or American interference.

But in truth all the American “interference” is on the side of the Egyptian junta squashing protests and targeting minority Copts. The United States provides approximately $2 billion in military aid to Egypt every year, including for the purchase of armored vehicles like those turned on the Copts. Just two weeks the Egyptian government lodged a protest with the Obama Administration, after the Senate appropriations bill, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), included limitations on military aid, including requiring certification that the Egyptian government was respecting freedom of expression and other democratic norms. Secretary Clinton promised the Egyptians that the Obama Administration opposed the restrictions, according to the Washington Post. Following the clashes Sunday, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said the President urged “restraint on all sides,” as if there was some moral equivalence between peaceful protestors and those running them down.  Despite the violence the White House is pushing for the election to continue on schedule; an election which the well established Muslim Brotherhood and its allies are expected to dominate. Even as the Obama administration opposes the Senate appropriations bill, which would provide money for democracy promotion in Egypt and impose limitations on the army, the Obama State Department has held high-level talks with members of the Muslim Brotherhood according to a State Department official last week.  This has occurred despite the Brotherhood’s own electoral alliance with Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiya, an affiliate of Al Qaeda involved in the first World Trade Center attack, and #11 on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Whether done by design or incompetence, one cannot help but believe that the Administration’s policy is on course to ensure the rise of an Islamist anti-Western, Egypt.

EMET has made numerous warnings that the military was far more likely to side with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups, than it was to support minority rights, democratic activists and peace with Israel. Despite this, the administration, and even some pro-Israel organizations have continued to lobby for military aid to Egypt to continue to flow uninterrupted, oblivious to the facts on the ground, motivated by a failed understanding of the dynamics at play within Egyptian society. The events that occurred Sunday, are not the first Egyptian Army outrage. As we have previously reported, the Egyptian Army has conducted virginity checks against protestors, attacked Coptic monasteries, and committed other reprehensible acts against civilians.

Unfortunately there is no reason to imagine that the Obama Administration will reverse course following the tragic events in Maspero. However Sen. Leahy’s appropriations bill, with its restrictions on aid, are the beginning of a sign that those in Congress are beginning to sit up and take notice. However it seems likely that if the administration is granted any leeway by the legislative branch, it will continue its disastrous policy of arming the Egyptian military while at the same time reaching out to Islamists within the Egyptian political process. The U.S. Congress should act immediately to halt all transfers of funds to Egypt for arms, and demand an immediate halt to outreach to the Brotherhood members and other Islamists in Egypt. That is the only course which will provide religious minorities or Egyptian secularists even a modicum of a chance to prevail against the Egyptian Islamist-military alliance.  Until that happens, U.S. Taxpayers will continue to find themselves funding these sorts of massacres in the streets throughout Egypt.

About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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