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‘To defend western freedom,’ U.S. must preserve Egyptian tyranny

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Since 2011, the United States has sent more than $6.4 billion in military aid to Egypt, while continuing to mute criticism of the dictatorship’s massive human rights violations. How much does Israel’s influence explain this inexcusable American policy?

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to Washington, provided key evidence in his memoir a year ago. He says openly he opposed the pro-democracy Tahrir Square uprising in January 2011, and he even admits he regularly telephoned then-President Hosni Mubarak’s envoy to the U.S., encouraging Egypt to resist the demonstrators. Such a stance seems odd coming from a nation that boasts that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, but Oren explained by quoting a senior Israeli approvingly:

“‘Why won’t Americans face the truth?’ one frustrated Israeli ex-general exclaimed to me. ‘To defend Western freedom, they must preserve Middle Eastern tyranny.’”

Israel does not have to worry about U.S. policy toward Egypt any longer. After General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seized power in July 2013, American aid paused briefly, but was soon restored — even though a U.S. government watchdog earlier this year reported that the U.S. assistance was not properly vetted to make sure Egypt was not committing “a gross violation of human rights.”

The el-Sisi regime is not just mildly authoritarian. The Egyptian military massacred 1000 people right away, starting with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but then expanded the crackdown to include the more secular and democratic forces that had first launched the Tahrir Square uprising. By some estimates, 40,000 people have been jailed, many of them held in secret prisons, where torture is common. Kangaroo courts have handed down hundreds of death sentences. Three Christian teenagers got 5 years in prison for producing a video, and “a Facebook user who photoshopped Mickey Mouse ears onto a picture of Sisi was convicted of ‘trying to overthrow the regime’ and sentenced to three years in prison.’”

U.S. law is supposed to prohibit aid to governments that seize power in coups, but as Rula Jebreal pointed out in The Nation, Secretary of State John Kerry and others have twisted the facts to whitewash the el-Sisi regime.

Israel is certainly not the only reason the U.S. continues to help the Egyptian dictatorship; Washington is also surely motivated by the (misguided) belief that el-Sisi stands for stability in a volatile region.

But the Israel angle cannot be ignored. American policymakers certainly know that a democratic Egypt would be much less acquiescent to Israel, and much more likely to take action the next time the Israeli army and air force attack Gaza instead of standing idly by and watching another massacre.

Betting on el-Sisi over the long- or even medium-term may be another American blunder. His regime looked popular at first, but the widening repression and the sputtering economy have hurt him. Then, this April, he announced he was giving two Egyptian islands in the Red Sea to neighboring Saudi Arabia, angering nationalists who had supported him until then.

As Sarah Yerkes at Brookings explained: “Making matters worse are reports that Egypt consulted with Israel and the United States prior to the transfer. . . The notion that [el-Sisi] would consult with Israel about something that he kept secret from his own people is the ultimate insult and betrayal to many Egyptians.”

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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15 Responses

  1. a blah chick on July 13, 2016, 12:13 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how quickly political elites cozy up to one another? They are the most dangerous “tribe” and always protect their own.

    • Lasher on July 14, 2016, 11:57 am

      To whom are you referring when you say “political elites?” Can you be more explicit? I would appreciate a courteous answer because I really don’t know your meaning.

  2. HarryLaw on July 13, 2016, 12:59 pm

    Egypt has been collaborating with Israel for many years notably by ensuring the Gaza blockade by land and sea is enforced, now the Israeli air force are bombing Islamist’s in the Sinai The Palestinians are fighting a losing battle when appealing to their so called friends, the leaderships of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulfies, far better to align with the so called ‘axis of evil’ Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah, these are true friends who will not sell them out at the behest of Israel and the US, those despots will be history soon, that is why Israel/US are so keen to regime change Syria and confront Iran. With the backing of Russia, Israel/US machinations in the region will fail, and with it US control of the middle east.

    • Atlantaiconoclast on July 15, 2016, 10:53 am

      I so hope you are right. Maybe then, our troops won’t be put into such danger on behalf of Israel, as they were in the second Iraq War.

  3. eljay on July 13, 2016, 1:05 pm

    The immorality and hypocrisy of the U.S. pair nicely with those of the “Jewish State”. I guess that’s what happens when countries have “no light between” their “shared common values”.

    • Citizen on July 13, 2016, 4:35 pm

      Yes, the two chosen states, the “lights to the world,” together afford no light at all. I get to pay for both of them with my taxes.

    • Lasher on July 14, 2016, 11:59 am

      Exactly, eljay.

  4. amigo on July 13, 2016, 4:40 pm

    Egypt has been holding a young Irish Citizen –Ibrahim Hulawa , for over three years and have postponed his trial 6 or seven times.Reports state that he is tortured and is held in very dire conditions.

    The GOI (Ireland that is ) claims it is doing it,s best to get him released but they continue to do business with this dictatorial regime.

    What is truly amazing is many people here believe that Sisi is a hero who took Egypt back from the Muslim Brotherhood and saved the countries Democracy.

    The power of propaganda overcomes all .

  5. Blake on July 13, 2016, 11:45 pm

    Not just Egypt but Jordan and even Palestinian officials too are bought to buy co-operation with israel.

    Egypt & Jordan receive large sums of money (per capita about 1/20th of what Israel receives – that figure is about to get even worse) to buy their cooperation with Israel; Palestinians receive about 1/23rd of that to Israel, to repair infrastructure that Israeli forces have destroyed, to fund humanitarian projects required due to the destruction wrought by Israel’s military, & to convince Palestinian officials to take actions beneficial to Israel. These sums should also be included in expenditures on behalf of Israel.

  6. gamal on July 14, 2016, 10:57 am

    “Israel is certainly not the only reason the U.S. continues to help the Egyptian dictatorship; Washington is also surely motivated by the (misguided) belief that el-Sisi stands for stability in a volatile region.”

    “stability” ? really that is what the US is seeking in obliterating Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, come on, its only volatile because you are burning it to the ground.

    Sissi is supported in fact hired to destroy the Egyptians and Egypt politically, economically, religiously and socially,

    America is following a genocidal policy not seeking stability however misconceived

    anyway that’s what we all think, as Shadia says “we are the reason you don’t dare blink”

    with English and English subs Egypts revolutionary anthem, which couldn’t have been created without Black folks, we are indebted to them for this

    “my tongue has no art” naughty boy to quote that here

  7. Rooster on July 14, 2016, 12:36 pm

    Never thought I would hear a quote worse than Golda Meir’s hateful one on ‘forced’ children-killing.

    Until this unattributed but requoted by Oren: ‘Why won’t Americans face the truth?’ one frustrated Israeli ex-general exclaimed to me. ‘To defend Western freedom, they must preserve Middle Eastern tyranny.’

    Murderous and despicable on so many levels.

    • Another Dave on July 14, 2016, 5:19 pm

      You’ve got that right. If our freedom requires that we enslave others, then our freedom’s not worth a pile of rancid dogshit.

  8. Atlantaiconoclast on July 15, 2016, 10:51 am

    We oppose Assad, supposedly out of concern for human rights, but fund this bastard? Our support for the Egyptian, Bahraini, Turkish, and Israeli regimes prove that our govt was never truly motivated by human rights in its quest to oust Assad.

  9. benedict on July 15, 2016, 10:54 am

    Regarding the transfer of the islands Egyptian consultation with Israel was required by its possible affect on the Israel – Egypt peace agreement.

  10. MHughes976 on July 15, 2016, 5:32 pm

    Apparently the island transfer is subject to court action, at least nominally.
    More important for the future of constitutional government in the ME, there are reports just coming through of a coup or attempted coup in Turkey.

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