Clinton to certify Egypt eligible for U.S. aid
Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's ruling military council.
March 22nd, 2012
09:28 PM ET

Clinton to certify Egypt eligible for U.S. aid

By Jill Dougherty and Jamie Crawfrd

In spite of tensions with Egypt over its recent crackdown on democracy support groups, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will issue a national security waiver allowing $1.3 billion in foreign military financing to flow again to the Cairo government, a senior State Department official told CNN.

Secretary Clinton, a senior State Department official confirmed, will certify Friday to Congress that Egypt is meeting its obligations under its peace treaty with Israel. In addition, "on the basis of America's national security interests," the official said, "she will waive legislative conditions related to Egypt's democratic transition."

The decision not to affirm that Egypt's military leadership is transitioning to civilian rule sparked immediate outcry on Capital Hill but the State Department official said Egypt is moving forward.

"On the democracy side, Egypt has made more progress in 16 months than in the last 60 years," the official said in explaining Clinton's decision.

"Yet Egypt's transition to democracy is not yet complete," the official added, and more work remains to protect universal rights and freedoms, and the role of NGOs and civil society."

The funds are not given in cash; all the money goes to U.S. firms with contracts to supply U.S. military and defense equipment, weapons, training and services to Egypt.

"These decisions reflect our overarching goal: to maintain our strategic partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy. "

Even before the State Department official revealed Clinton's decision, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, criticized it, saying he was "disappointed."

"I know Secretary Clinton wants the democratic transition in Egypt to succeed," he said in a statement, "but by waiving the conditions we send a contradictory message. The Egyptian military should be defending fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, not harassing and arresting those who are working for democracy."

Leahy urged Clinton to retain some leverage over Egypt by holding back funds if Egypt does not meet it stated mileposts on the road to democratic transition, including passing a new constitution and protecting human rights. The secretary, he said, should "use the flexibility the law provides and release no more taxpayer funds than is demonstrably necessary, withholding the rest in the Treasury pending further progress in the transition to democracy."

The State Department official, however, indicated that the Obama administration will retain some control: "Just as we do with our military assistance to every country," the official explained, "we will disburse security funding as needed to meet contractual obligations, and we will maintain the flexibility to make adjustments to our Foreign Military Financing program at any time if conditions require it."

Initial bipartisan reaction to the decision on Capitol Hill was largely negative.

"I am disappointed by the timing of the Secretary's decision to issue a partial waiver of restrictions on FMF funds for Egypt while the Egyptian government's transition is ongoing," Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX.) said in a written statement. "The State Department needs to make the case that waiving the conditions is in the national security interest of the United States. I expect the Secretary to follow the law and consult the Appropriations Committee before any funds are transferred."

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told CNN earlier this week that while he did not think a decision from the administration was imminent, he was having conversations with Clinton about the "complicated and complex" decision.

"We still have a number of other issues that need to be addressed," McCain told CNN. "But there is also the overall issue of the delicate situation politically in Egypt today. They've got elections coming up. So we want to weigh on these factors."

McCain is chairman of the board for the International Republican Institute, whose offices were raided by Egyptian authorities in December. The offices of two other American non-governmental organizations - National Democratic Institute and Freedom House - were raided as well.

Some employees of the groups, including the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, were prevented from leaving Egypt for weeks because of a travel ban imposed by the government. Egyptian authorities allowed them to return to the United States earlier this month.

Democracy groups also decried the Secretary's waiver. Neil Hicks, international policy advisor of the rights advocacy group Human Rights First, told CNN Clinton's decision is the "worst possible scenario that we were thinking of because it seems as though they have issued the waiver and therefore completely disregarded the issue of human rights and democracy conditions."

He said Human Rights First would support a phased rollout of the funds. "It would show that there is some leverage on the human rights and democracy issues," he said."

But the State Department said continuing the aid to Egypt goes far beyond its sometimes rocky transition to democracy.

"The secretary's decision is designed to promote our strong support for Egypt's enduring role as a security partner and leader in promoting regional stability," the State Department official said. "Egypt has maintained 30-plus years of peace with Israel. It contributes to nonproliferation, counterterrorism and peace in the region and beyond."

"In the days to come, we look to Egypt's leaders to keep the democratic transition on course and to make continuing improvements in Egypt's protection of universal human rights and freedoms."

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. robert silva


    July 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  2. wind101

    It is an appreciation to the birth of extremist religious state, after extremists capture the power in Egypt in a false elections which called in Egypt ( religion driven elections, as anyone do not vote for extremist groups become Infidel or faithless ). Regardless of everyday hate speech in – almost all government & extremists – media against US and any foreign people, state or policy, Obama Stomps with his feet on the dignity of the Egyptian's revolution after he supported the return of the old regime with its policies and cooperates with SCAF ( pro Mubarak – the ousted dictator – military council) on cracking down civil society and pro democracy who initiated the revolution . They even left their Egyptian coworkers in the " civil society organization case " to their fate after they bailout US workers. Could you believe that ??! All this Political confusion !! Or just , we are fool , and the real trend in US " We must destroy the #jan25 Revolt and roll back quickly to our old friends , Mubarak and Tantawi".

    March 23, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  3. alf564

    Believe whatever you want but the facts point to the USA rapidly becoming a member of the Islam Society with Washington DC leading the way. It starts at the top and we know how the top was educated and where.

    Riding down the slippery slope !!

    March 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  4. mipolitic

    so the obama gang went out side the protocol of congress to pay the fee for the american detainees . HERE IT IS IN BLACK AND WHITE , mark my words this will be the event that will be the down fall of the election for obama , everyone knew his foreign policy was a desaster , but this move has done it ! He will not be able to dodge this move against standard protocol.

    March 23, 2012 at 7:33 am | Reply

    On the democracy side, Egypt
    has made more progress in 16
    months than in the last 60 years

    March 23, 2012 at 5:12 am | Reply
  6. rasbury

    No wonder we are in debt. I see no reason to give this new regime thats in control of Egypt any money at all. They obviously do not care for America. So why is the government wasting our tax payer money on these people.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:28 am | Reply
    • F B M

      For the same reason that we've always (since Nasser) given them dough – to play nice with Israel.

      March 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  7. dee

    I find it ironic that the Muslim Brotherhood just obtained full power there, they indicate Israel is their number one enemy and she wants to give them billionsm of taxpayers money? She's lost her mind. I hope a bolt of lightening strikes her and burns her up in her pansuit.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:17 am | Reply

Leave a Reply to dee


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.