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U.S. Bribery: The Egyptians “are going to be told to lay off the (nonprofit groups) or the money (for military) won’t be forthcoming”

Editor’s note: Not surprising, US “aid” to Egypt benefits the US much more than Egypt on many levels. It would be completely self-defeating for the US to cut this “aid”, therefore they won’t. Regarding the military, this is also an empty threat as this “aid” is a subsidy to US defence contractors which gives them much leverage, access, etc. Besides, without this “aid”, Egypt would likely turn to China and Russia … you can almost smell Washington sweating. Special thanks to Dr. Maximilian C. Forte, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology Concordia University for his comments and insight.

U.S. Gen. Dempsey heads to Egypt with relations on line

By NANCY A. YOUSSEF, JONATHAN S. LANDAY AND HANNAH ALLAM

McClatchy Newspapers

02.07.12

Source

WASHINGTON — With $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid and a three-decade relationship hanging in the balance, U.S. officials said Tuesday that Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would travel to Egypt to press for the criminal charges against at least 16 American nonprofit workers to be dropped.

The visit later this week by the top U.S. military official likely represents the strongest leverage the United States has in its effort to get Egypt’s ruling generals to end a crackdown on American and Egyptian nonprofit groups. The White House and the State Department have unsuccessfully pressed the case with Egypt’s military council but no U.S. government department has worked more closely with the council over the years than the Pentagon has.

Officials said Dempsey would reinforce the message – echoing lawmakers on Capitol Hill – that unless Egypt scuttled its plan to try the American nonprofit workers on charges that their agencies illegally received foreign funds, the country seriously risked losing $1.3 billion annually in U.S. military aid.

The Egyptians “are going to be told to lay off the (nonprofit groups) or the money won’t be forthcoming,” said a person familiar with the deliberations, who wasn’t authorized to be quoted because of the issue’s sensitivity.

Two Egyptian generals were scheduled to meet Tuesday in Washington with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, but the Egyptians abruptly canceled the sessions and cut short their U.S. visit. McCain, in particular, has been extremely critical of the crackdown and has called for the entire U.S.-Egyptian relationship to be re-examined if the charges and a travel ban on the Americans aren’t lifted.

Privately, some U.S. officials have described cutting off aid as premature, saying that the threat, if overplayed, could harm long-term American interests.

However, in a phone call last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, that Congress might cut off aid. Dempsey is expected to meet with Tantawi and with his Egyptian counterpart, Gen. Sami Anan.

Publicly, the Pentagon said Dempsey would be “consulting with friends. He is not delivering ultimatums,” said his spokesman, Marine Col. David Lapan.

But the long U.S.-Egyptian military relationship has been transformed since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak last year, with Egyptian generals seemingly willing to risk American funding to prove to the public that Egypt’s days as a puppet state are over.

Many Egyptians have long regarded the annual military aid package as a bribe to safeguard key U.S. interests – contain Islamist influence, uphold a peace treaty with Israel and keep the Suez Canal open to American warships – even when they ran counter to popular opinion.

The arrangement mostly ran smoothly for the 30 years of Mubarak’s authoritarian rule, until the uprising swept to power an array of new political forces that are eager to redraw the relationship. Analysts say the case against the American workers signals the emergence of a more assertive Egyptian military that’s seeking popular support by displaying what one commentator called “its anti-American credentials.”

Despite the worst rift in bilateral relations in decades, analysts added, it remained unclear whether the generals were prepared to abandon U.S. interests or were merely seizing the moment to adjust the old “master-slave” dynamic, as Egyptian politicians call it.

On Sunday, Egyptian prosecutors filed charges against at least 40 international civil society workers of receiving foreign funds illegally and participating in banned activities. Besides the Americans, the defendants reportedly include 16 Egyptians and others of several nationalities.

Egyptian reports initially said that 19 Americans were charged but the State Department said Tuesday that it had accounted for 16. Adding to the confusion, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that fewer than half of the Americans currently resided in Egypt and that others hadn’t lived there for several years.

It’s “a little bit unclear how the Egyptians came up with this list,” Nuland said.

At least three of the accused Americans have holed up at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, an extraordinary measure to keep them from arrest. Other defendants apparently have managed to leave the country despite a travel ban; the court listed “fugitive” by some of the defendants’ names.

Among the American defendants is Sam LaHood, the Egypt program director for the International Republican Institute and the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The International Republican Institute was among 17 nongovernmental agencies authorities targeted in a raid Dec. 29 against groups suspected of illegally receiving foreign funds.

Egyptian state media’s limited coverage of the dispute is couched in calls for national sovereignty as well as blatant accusations – some activists call them incitement to violence – that the groups were funneling money to forces behind the unrest since Mubarak’s ouster.

Members of the military council, typically speaking through state media, have issued ominous warnings of “hidden hands” or “foreign hands” sowing chaos under the guise of revolution. Nonprofit workers have complained for years of such smear campaigns, and they say the government barred them from the proper registration process, which could’ve prevented the current dispute.

(Allam reported from Cairo)

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/07/v-fullstory/2629899/us-gen-dempsey-heads-to-egypt.html#storylink=cpy

Top News

Egypt officials see end to U.S. NGO stand-off

Feb 07 , 2012

By Marwa Awad

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s government will back down in a stand-off with Washington over U.S. funding for civil society groups because allowing the dispute to drag on could jeopardize aid worth billions of dollars, two Egyptian officials said.

Nineteen Americans are among 40 foreign and local activists banned from leaving Egypt and referred to a criminal court, accused of managing unlicensed non-governmental organizations and receiving foreign funds without official approval.

Some of the U.S. citizens, belonging to the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI), sought refuge in the American Embassy.

Washington has asked Egypt to drop the travel bans and allow the groups targeted in the investigation to resume their work. Both Congress and the White House have warned that the crackdown could threaten its yearly $1.3 billion U.S. military support.

Egypt’s government has thrown up its hands, saying it cannot interfere in judicial business, and reacted with indignation to U.S. criticism of the crackdown. One minister said Egypt does “not accept threats from the United States.”

Washington is unlikely to accept the government’s claim of impartiality in the case, which underscores tensions between the two long-standing allies since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last February.

But two officials involved in Egypt’s diplomatic strategy said the army rulers want to ease the tension to ensure the aid keeps flowing and get American help to ensure favorable terms for an International Monetary Fund support package for Egypt.

“The travel ban will be lifted and the escalation will cease,” one of the officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “Egypt needs the loans and the IMF funds to come through, but better terms are needed.”

He said army leaders believed the U.S. government can help Egypt secure the IMF money on favorable terms.

The second official said: “A more manageable IMF deal and maintaining the military aid are high priorities for the generals.”

An Egyptian military delegation to Washington abruptly cancelled meetings with civilian U.S. lawmakers to return to Cairo on Monday.

It had met military counterparts at the Defense Department, President Barack Obama’s security team and top diplomats covering the Middle East and military affairs.

On Tuesday a leading member of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces told Reuters he would travel to Washington within the next two days for a follow-up visit.

SUSPICION

The row has also exposed tension between the U.S. Congress and defense officials, who want the dispute over the NGOs to be resolved without threatening the strong military relationship with Egypt.

“It’s our sense that much of the NGO issue in Egypt has a lot to do with internal politics. The Egyptian military leadership is watching that trend very closely, and thus may not want to act too hastily to intervene,” a U.S. official told Reuters.

“The linkage to continued U.S. financial assistance is a possibility, too. But American aid wasn’t really in major jeopardy to begin with, and the Egyptians have to know that the NGO issue is only making it easier for critics of the Egyptian government to call for halting aid – especially on Capitol Hill,” the U.S. official said.

Egypt’s government believes its U.S. ties can return quickly to normal given its status as guarantor of a peace treaty with Egypt’s neighbor Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, the officials said.

But Washington, which supported Mubarak until the uprising against his three-decade rule became an unstoppable force, is struggling to find a comfortable relationship with the men who replaced him in power.

The military has overseen Egypt’s fairest election in six decades, has urged a swift move to a presidential election – a final step before they step aside as promised by mid-2012. Critics say the army leadership will resist civilian control of the defense budget and their business interests.

Crackdowns on protests against military rule have left dozens dead since November and a pledge to lift an emergency law has only been partially met.

The investigation of foreign-funded NGOs has fuelled accusations from rights groups that the army is obstructing Egypt’s democratic transition.

The U.S. Congress now wants to make U.S. aid to Egypt’s military conditional on its steps towards democratization.

Yet a Pentagon official said ties with Egypt were “too strategically important to be broken” and the Pentagon backed “a controlled handover to civilian rule.”

The head of Egypt’s military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, spoke on the phone to U.S. President Barack Obama on January 20 and discussed Egypt’s foreign funding needs and the NGO crackdown, said two people with knowledge of the call.

Obama told Tantawi the U.S. had no control over the IMF deal or other loans. Tantawi responded that his military council had no control over the Egyptian investigation on NGOs, they said.

The call ended with a mutual promise to find areas of agreement.

Military aid to Egypt began flowing after it became the first Arab nation to sign the peace deal with Israel in 1979.

The army receives $1.3 billion annually, about 25 percent of Egypt’s defense spending per year. The defense budget was $4.56 billion in 2010 – the third-largest in the Middle East after Israel and Saudi Arabia – according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an Egyptian think tank.

(Additional reporting by David Alexander and Andrew Quinn in Washington; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE8161F420120207?irpc=932

 

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