The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Congress debates US-Egypt relations

There was a meeting of the Congressional Committee on International Relations' subcommittee on the Middle and Central Asia on Wednesday in order to discuss Washington's Egypt policy.

In her opening statement, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the head of the committee, brought up several issues, including Egypt's reported attempts to acquire North Koran missile technology, the Egypt-bound arms shipment that was recently intercepted in Turkey, smuggling in Gaza tunnels and the need for Egypt to carry out political and economic reform.

The U.S. must be more aggressive in engaging the Egyptians on these issues on an ongoing and consistent basis. It is time for reform commitments made by Egypt 5, 10, 15 years ago to be fulfilled, not only because they are linked to U.S. foreign assistance, but because they will help Egypt move forward toward political liberalization and economic prosperity.

Other speakers from the State and Defense Departments and USAID spoke respectively about Egyptian diplomacy in the region and internal reforms, military aid and US economic aid. Overall I must say the general tone was a lot less critical than one might have predicted considering the frustration with Egyptian reform expressed these days in politics and the media. It is important to note that a few days before the meeting Israeli officials appealed to US Jewish organizations to tone down their criticism of Egypt in light of the latter's help in providing security in Gaza (an appeal that reportedly came after an Egyptian request for Israeli help.)

Incidentally the meeting took place the same day as CIA Director George Tenet was visiting Cairo and met with President Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in order to discuss Egypt's role in Gaza.