Nobel Prize winner Ahmed Zewail made a case for the continuation of US military aid to Egypt, saying that a cut to aid would seriously damage relations between the two countries and have major impacts on the region.
Zewail’s article, published in the LA Times, comes just as the US is preparing for the congressional elections, and makes an argument that could be taken into consideration by future members of Congress.
The US government had first considered suspending aid to Egypt following the events of the 2013 popular revolution, where the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, saying that it was in response to the millions of demonstrators who took to the streets to protest the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule.
The US was careful, however, not to call the turn of events an illegitimate military coup, and has since taken up the position that what occurred was a legitimate popular revolution.
Last month some members of Congress briefly held up the delivery of 10 Apache fighter helicopters marked for delivery to Egypt, citing concerns over possible human rights violations. The halt in delivery was brief, however, and the helicopters have since been delivered.
Zewail argues that given the current climate regarding the global fight against terrorism, the US cannot afford to upset relations with a partner as valuable as Egypt.
“Today, the US needs Egypt’s partnership more than ever,” Zewail says. “In addition to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, which is crucial to US interests both domestically and in the Middle East, the US has had and will continue to need Egypt’s collaboration in the war on terrorism. Just last month, northern Sinai was struck by terrorists, who killed more than 30 Egyptian army personnel and wounded a number of civilians.”
“The partnership between the United States and Egypt is crucial to both countries, and it can’t be predicated on political manipulation and threats of withholding aid. Moreover, the United States must be aware that it is no longer the primary provider of foreign aid to Egypt. Today, the Gulf States contribute more than 10 times what the US does,” the Nobel Prize laureate stated in the op-ed.
Following the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) pledged billions in aid to Egypt’s new government.
Zewail goes on to outline the events that led to Morsi’s ousting and Al-Sisi’s election as president, saying that Morsi’s “presidency quickly became a proxy for the Muslim Brotherhood, and under his leadership the country was driven to the edge of civil war.”
“President Sisi did not initially intend to run for the office in which he now serves, but he was urged to, I was told, by the chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Court and others,” Zewail says. “If the election that put him into office was rigged, as some politicians and editorials have claimed, why would Egyptians continue to support him after the election?”
“It is true that Egypt’s attempt at democracy after the 2011 revolution encountered many obstacles. And there remain issues to address, among them establishing fair laws governing NGOs, enforcing the rule of law for political prisoners awaiting trials, and the integration of Muslim Brotherhood members into the political fabric of Egypt.”
Zewail says that given the problems Egypt is facing on several fronts, “including a troubled economy and high unemployment”, and security problems with Libya, Yemen, and the Islamic State, the fact that Al-Sisi has rallied most Egyptians behind him is a hopeful sign for the country’s future.
“The US needs to feed that hope, and cutting aid to Egypt won’t accomplish that,” he concluded.