Washington readies emergency aid package for Egypt

Should the US congress give Egypt a $450 million emergency aid package?

Many supporters of Coptic Christians in Egypt say no. And Morsi's tilt toward Hamas in their conflict with Israel has members of congress questioning the aid.


In Egypt, a lot of people think Mohammed Morsi, their new president, is a faker.

"Absolutely," said Perihan Abou-Zeid, a 28-year-old Egyptian officer for a media-production company in Cairo. "He speaks of moderation for the West. But then when Salafists blow up churches, there are no arrest warrants."

Or as Raymond Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American Coptic writer, puts it: "Definitely, he's hiding. He was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. If you are a leader or member of this organization, its logo is that the 'Koran is our constitution.' Whatever comes out of his mouth otherwise, you can't be a Muslim Brotherhood leader and not want Shariah law."

All of that is not lost on the U.S. Congress, which is considering a bill to give Egypt $450 million in emergency aid - even as the Egyptian government clearly sides with Hamas in its current conflict with Israel. Egypt recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, and Morsi castigated Israel for what he called "wanton aggression on the Gaza Strip." Neither he nor any other Egyptian official offered even glancing acknowledgment of the scores of rockets Hamas fired into Israel, igniting the current crisis, though on Sunday, Egypt was said to be involved in trying to broker a cease-fire.

For that and other reasons, the House, particularly, is rife with skepticism.
"We don't know yet what this new government really is," a senior House aide, clearly perplexed, said in an interview. "What we've seen so far is really mixed."

Or as Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), put it: "This proposal comes to Congress at a point when the U.S.-Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny." She's chairwoman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, and added, "I cannot support it at this time."

Writing in the Washington Times last summer, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that "Congress heard disturbing accounts last week of escalating abductions, coerced conversions and forced marriage of Coptic Christian women and girls. These women are being terrorized and, consequently marginalized in the formation of the new Egypt." He added that abductions have increased in recent months, "while recovery of women and girls has decreased.

Egypt's economy is near collapse after two years of political upheaval. Because of that, the US has Egypt somewhat over a barrell. Even if they wanted to, it would be economic suicide for Egypt to abrogate the Camp David treaty. That action would almost certainly result in a loss of more than $1.5 billion in US aid and precipitate an economic meltdown that could lead to another change in government.

So Morsi is appearing to cooperate with the west in trying to broker a cease fire in Gaza while keeping the anti-Israel rhetoric to a minimum. He is hoping for the cash to bolster his reserves which are nearly gone. Those dollars will allow Egypt to purchase food, fuel, and other necessities that their prostrate economy is unable to supply.

Surprisingly, Morsi appears more pragmatic than many thought he would be. But the administration should still push a hard bargain in exchange for the aid, particularly when it comes to protecting the Christian minority and Egypt's continued adherence to the peace treaty.

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