Saturday, February 18, 2012

Analysis in Egypt: Trial of Nineteen Americans, 24 Others Begins on February 26

Much of the political and economical turmoil going on in the world at the moment boils down to who is the most consistent and deliberate, and who refuses to "blink."

An excellent example of this statement is the scheduled February 26 trial of nineteen Americans and some 24 others who are being charged with participating in
foreign-funded pro-democracy groups.

As I've said before, although former President Hosni Mubarak was far from being a saint, he supported the global anti-terrorism effort, foreign tourism and more than anything, he was loyal to the governments he supported. The fact that he was also corrupt places him in a large majority amongst many global political leaders.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration was not as loyal to US interests as was Mubarak loyal to Washington. Hence, much of the mess that is today's Egypt, particularly with the emerging dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood, is tainted by American inaction to help Mubarak when he most needed help.

Where I come from [the US Midwest], relationships are everything and handshakes actually mean something. Yet, no doubt, such a philosophy does not apply to Washington.

The imminent trial represents what can only be described as one of the worst periods of Egyptian-US bilateral relations in 50 years, which could have been avoided if the US had acted proactively in securing a compromise in Cairo that protected Mubarak from prosecution, yet permitted the democratic process to take its course.

Needless to say, though, no one ever envisioned that a military junta would take control and facilitate dominance by the Brotherhood, all of which has caused tourism from abroad to plunge 30+%.

Although US officials have publicly said that the imminent trial could put into jeopardy more than US$1 billion in U.S. aid that Cairo receives, 70% of the New Egypt has said in polls they don't want it, suggesting that Egypt is on its way to becoming a rogue state.

As for the trial, nineteen of the accused are US citizens and sixteen are Egyptian nationals. The remainder are Germans, Palestinians and Jordanians.

The Americans work for four U.S.-based groups: the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House and a group that trains journalists.

Only seven of the Americans are in Egypt, and all have been barred from departing the country. Some have sought refuge at the American Embassy in Cairo, including Sam LaHood, who heads IRI's Egypt office and is the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The defendants are being charged with managing offices of international organizations without licenses from the Egyptian government, and with receiving foreign funding. The groups' operations "infringe on Egyptian sovereignty," according to an Egyptian governmental spokesman.

What the Obama Administration does not seem to realize is that countries who rattle sabers, make threats, selectively enforce laws against their adversaries and ignore democratic principles, understand one thing: Action with consequences.

Sadly, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey have all appealed to the highest levels of the Egyptian government in an effort to end their investigation and allow the foreigners to leave the country, with unsuccessful results.

Rather than continuing to show inaction by the Obama Administration, for the first time in recent memory, the executive and legislative branches of the US Government should work toward a common goal, reach consensus and publicly notify the Egyptian government that the US$1 billion aid package appropriated for Egypt will be permanently suspended until such time as all 43 defendants are exonerated and all foreigners have left Egypt.

If the US pursues such a course, it may not necessarily be "liked" by Egypt, but it would be respected, which is much more important than being "liked."

Finally, those who are politically correct might well argue that such an action as I have proposed above could jeopardize the "Middle East peace effort." Well, such efforts have been underway by the US for over 40 years, with unsuccessful results, so what actually is being jeopardized?

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