Inside Story America

Is the US choosing stability over democracy?

Despite the Egyptian government’s crackdown on protests, the US is resuming annual military aid to the country.

Despite concerns over the Egyptian government’s commitment to democracy, the US is resuming more than $1bn in annual military aid to the country.

Cairo was at risk of losing US aid because of its crackdown on non-violent protesters and on non-governmental organisations.

“The US have a wide range of interests tied to the government of Egypt and the people of Egypt… I don’t really think they had much of a choice but to continue the military assistance.

Graeme Bannerman, a scholar at Middle East Institute

Members of the groups included Americans some of whom were temporarily prevented from leaving Cairo and accused of inciting unrest. There are still charges pending against American and Egyptian NGO workers.

But on Thursday, the US State Department announced Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, will allow the money to go to the military after all.

In doing so she waived a new Congressional requirement that for the first time directly links US aid to Egypt’s protection of basic freedoms.

Is the US once again prioritising stability over democracy in Egypt? Is the US undermining Egypt’s quest for liberty, freedom and democracy? And to what extend was the move motivated by concerns for Israel’s security?

To discuss this I’m joined by from Washington by Josh Rogin, a staff writer for Foreign Policy magazine; Stephen McInerney, the executive director of Project on Middle East Democracy; and Graeme Bannerman, a former top lobbyist for the Egyptian government, who is now a scholar at Middle East Institute.

“We want to preserve and maintain and indeed strengthen our strategic relationship with an Egypt that is made more prosperous and more stable and stronger through a successful democratic transition. Egypt has made more progress, democratically speaking, in the past 16 months than it has in the past 60 years… These actions by the secretary of state are designed to help Egypt as it moves along this democratic lifepath towards presidential elections in June.”

Mark Toner, state department spokesman


  • Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, agreed to resume military aid to Egypt
  • The US gives and average of $2bn to Egypt annually
  • The majority of US aid to Egypt comes in military assistance
  • The US gives Egypt around $1,3bn in military aid
  • The US gave $39bn in military aid to Egypt over three decades
  • Egypt is the second largest non-NATO recipient of US military aid
  • In October the US Congress passed restrictions on Egypt military aid
  • The Congress required Egypt to meet certain democratic standards
  • Aid resumed despite Egypt not meeting democracy requirements
  • The US outlined a new plan for Egypt aid after Mubarak’s resignation