It is an unusually mild day in Cairo for late September, but the young man perspires throughout our interview. He recounts the nightmares that continue months after he was released from prison, where he was detained for more than a month on unfounded accusations of illegally participating in a demonstration. Later that afternoon, arriving at the offices of a human rights organization, I trade glances with a thuggish man planted at a desk near the door to look over everyone who comes and goes. Inside, staff members describe in haunting terms the pressures they feel from heightened government surveillance and threats.… Seguir leyendo »
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In the half-year since the Egyptian military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, U.S. officials from President Obama on down have repeatedly said that the United States seeks to advance “Egypt’s transition to democracy .” Unfortunately, given Egypt’s downward political spiral, what is probably intended to be a principled policy formulation sounds either dangerously naive or deeply cynical — and is pointing U.S. policy down the wrong path.
Supporting Egyptian democracy is certainly the right thing to do. Unlike in some countries where U.S. interests pull in conflicting directions, the achievement of democracy in Egypt would advance the critical U.S. security interest in longer-term stability as well as peace with Israel and would help to contain violent extremism.… Seguir leyendo »
After Egypt’s presidential elections last summer, the Obama administration adopted a pragmatic policy toward the new Muslim Brotherhood-led government. The basic message to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was straightforward: Respect Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and basic democratic norms, and the U.S. government will be a helpful, productive partner. By sincerely putting forward this line, the administration put to rest the long-held Arab suspicion that the United States would never accept Islamist electoral victories.
This approach fit the situation well enough for some months. Morsi showed no signs of questioning the peace treaty with Israel and even worked closely with the United States to end a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence.… Seguir leyendo »
Just after the first anniversary of the onset of the Arab Spring, the Obama administration announced in December an enormous arms sale to Saudi Arabia, with a price tag greater than the annual gross domestic product of more than half the countries in the world. The administration hailed the sale as a “historic achievement” that “reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia.” The close juxtaposition of the anniversary and the apparent repair of the temporary rough patch in U.S.-Saudi relations highlights crucial overlooked realities about the Arab Spring and the U.S. response.
Although accounts of the Arab Spring often refer to a wave of political change washing across the Middle East, the reality is otherwise.… Seguir leyendo »
As the U.S. government assesses the uprisings across the Middle East and scrambles to support Egypt’s fledgling democratic transition, many ideas are on the table. One notably bad proposal is already being heard frequently in Washington: that to help Egypt prepare for elections we should support not just the development of political parties – a reasonable though sensitive undertaking – but favor one side of the party spectrum. That is, of course, the secular liberal side we feel comfortable with.
This is a recipe for trouble.
Former ambassador Martin Indyk recently called for the U.S. government “to mobilize funding for the well-oiled American democracy promotion machinery that can help Egypt’s youthful secular forces organize for the coming elections.” Rep.… Seguir leyendo »