The US government has expressed relief that at least six US citizens and seven other foreigners charged with inciting unrest in Egypt have been allowed to leave the country.
“It was a total overreaction. People were talking about this as if it was the Iran hostage crisis again which is absurd… That aid is a jobs programme for America.“
– Hussein Ibish, Middle East writer
They are among 43 non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers who were arrested and charged with working without a license and receiving illegal foreign funds.
Will this move defuse the standoff that has plunged US-Egyptian ties into a crisis? Has Egypt’s military junta responded to US pressure? And what impact has this decision had on Egypt’s judicial independence?
Joining Inside Story to discuss these issues are: Heba Morayef, the Cairo representative for Human Rights Watch; Hussein Ibish, a senior research fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and a writer on the Middle East; and Abdallah Schleifer, Professor Emeritus at the American University in Cairo and a veteran journalist.
Prominent among discussions between US and Egyptian officials was the fate of roughly $1.5bn in US aid appropriated for the fiscal year 2012. So what sort of financial help does Egypt get from the US?
- Most of the American aid goes to the Egyptian military – according to the US congressional research service report.
- Over the last 30 years, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US foreign aid after Israel.
- In 2010 and 2011, $1.3bn went to strengthen Egyptian forces. The bulk of the military assistance goes to pay for Egypt’s purchases of military hardware, upgrades to existing equipment and maintenance and support contracts.
- Another $1.9mn went for training meant to bolster long-term U.S.-Egyptian military cooperation.
- The US grants Egypt about $250mn in economic assistance which is divided among several sectors, including health, education, economic development and democracy promotion.