The referral flies in the face of increasingly urgent warnings to Egypt’s military rulers from President Obama, cabinet officials and senior Congressional leaders that the investigation could jeopardize US$1.55 billion in expected American aid this year.
Congress requires that before the aid can be released, the US State Department must certify that Egypt is making progress toward democracy, including respecting the independence of the civil society groups under investigation.
COMMENT: The most prominent targets of the Egyptian investigation are two American-financed groups with close ties to the Congressional leadership, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are chartered to promote democracy abroad with nonpartisan training and election monitoring.
News reports today indicated that those referred for trial include Sam LaHood, director of the Republican Institute’s operations in Egypt and the son of Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation.
The investigation has been accompanied by a drumbeat of anti-American rhetoric from the Egypt’s military-led government suggesting that Washington has been paying to stir unrest in the Egyptian streets.
It needs to be mentioned that after becoming president of Egypt in 1981, former President Hosni Mubarak proved to be one of the US' most loyal supporters of US interests in the Middle East. Yet, that by no means indicates that Mubarak was a saint, but what it does mean is that the Obama Administration did not lift a hand to use its influence to ensure that Mubarak and his family were treated equitably after the 2011 revolution that resulted in Mubarak's resignation.
Subsequently, it was on February 11, 2011, that Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had resigned as president and transferred authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
On April 13, 2011, Mubarak's successors ordered he and his sons to be detained for 15 days of questioning about allegations of corruption and abuse of power, which in turn led to them being charged with murder of peaceful protesters during the revolution. Since then, they have begun investigating Mubarak's role in the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, 30+ years after the fact.
As I have noted previously in other postings, the New Egypt may not necessarily be the interest of countless countries. With the Muslim Brotherhood positioned to command a majority in Parliament in the months ahead, and with there being a high probability that conservative Islam and a shift to sharia law will become reality in the near future, the political and economic situation in Egypt could indeed deteriorate much, much more.
Already, tourism has declined by roughly 30%, and it could get worse, particularly in light of the planned prosecutions cited at the outset of this filing.
If the Egyptians stand by their intention to prosecute 19 Americans and some two dozen other, pressure should be levied on the Obama Administration by the US Congress to suspend all foreign assistance appropriated for Egypt.