Obama on Egypt: As I’ve consistently said, we support a core set of principles about which we’re deeply concerned
posted at 7:41 pm on July 3, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham
Please feel free to hash out the meaning of this in comments. There’s a dash of “let me be clear” mixed with a classic “I’ve consistently supported a vague framework within which this happens to totally fall,” seasoned with an emphasis on non-violence and a mild brow-furrowing over use of force. The statement does not come to a conclusion on Allah’s approve/disapprove question, but notes “deep concern” and a promise to “review” law governing assistance to Egypt.
As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts. Moreover, the goal of any political process should be a government that respects the rights of all people, majority and minority; that institutionalizes the checks and balances upon which democracy depends; and that places the interests of the people above party or faction. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.
No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.
Update: National security reporters Eli Lake and Josh Rogin, both experts in their field and Eli a former resident of Egypt, report on the administration’s inconsistencies on Egypt. The whole thing is a great read, but here’s a key part. Obama had this to say in Tanzania this week about the administration’s approach to Egypt: “The way we make decisions about assistance to Egypt is based on are they in fact following rule of law and democratic procedures.” But the record looks very different.
In March 2012, Clinton waived restrictions passed by Congress on aid to Egypt “on the basis of America’s national-security interests.” That decision came in the midst of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on foreign NGOs, which included the raiding of the offices of several American organizations, including the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House.
In April of this year, Kerry again waived all congressional restrictions on aid to Egypt, but did so secretly and without any explanation. The State Department later explained that aid to Egypt’s military was necessary because of U.S.-Egyptian cooperation on things like counterterrorism.
Five senators in March proposed changes to the way the U.S. gives aid to Egypt in the hopes of using the aid to pressure Morsi to improve his record on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. But the Obama administration, led by Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, fought those changes, and none was ever passed into law.
That same month Kerry delivered to Morsi an additional $190 million of U.S. aid based on Morsi’s pledge to implement economic reforms, part of a $1 billion debt-relief package Obama pledged to Morsi.
“This is simply an inaccurate description by the president of his administration’s decision-making process with regard to U.S. assistance to Egypt,” says Stephen McInerney, the executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy. “The administration’s decisions about U.S. aid to Egypt have been based primarily on short-term conceptions of preserving security. There is no evidence that such decisions have ever been made based on whether the Egyptian government is following the rule of law and democratic procedures, as the president claims.”