The old Egypt-US aid fandango

Jaroslav Trofimov of the WSJ has a piece highlighting linguering opposition to USAID funding of NGOs and recognition of the democracy promotion outfits NDI and IRI in Egypt:

CAIRO—A U.S. plan to fund the democratic transition in Egypt has led to a confrontation with the country's new rulers, who are suspicious of American aims and what they see as political interference in the aftermath of President Hosni Mubarak's downfall.

Senior Egyptian officials have warned nongovernment organizations that taking U.S. funding would damage the country's security. The Egyptian government has also complained directly to the U.S.

"I am not sure at this stage we still need somebody to tell us what is or is not good for us—or worse, to force it on us," Fayza Aboul Naga, who has been Egypt's minister for planning and international cooperation since before the revolution, told The Wall Street Journal.

Ah, that old chestnut. Why not make it more simple and just cut off all economic and military aid altogether? A lot of people in DC think that would be rather weird — backing an autocratic Mubarak regime but not its successor. But these things should not be thought of in terms of Egypt, they should be thought of in terms of the US. Money could be better spend at home, and aid to Egypt and Israel has for decades used to a large extent to maintain autocratic regime (the one in Egypt and the one that rules the Occupied Territories.) Cut them both off and let's stop listening to their complaints. 

Of course, that's not the way these things work out. It looks like we're set for more passive-aggressive drama as the US goes ahead with disbursing the aid anyway and the Egyptian government whines about it. At least it's better than accepting restrictions on some aid distribution the way the Bush administration did for years

And one more thing: why does Fayza Aboul Naga, who is widely seen within the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a loose cannon, still have a job?

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.