Rethinking US-Egyptian Bilateral Relations: A Rights-Based Approach

Rethinking US-Egyptian Bilateral Relations: A Rights-Based Approach
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by Corinna Mullin, Suzanne Adely, and Azadeh Shahshahani

Debates in recent months over the continuation of US aid to the Egyptian military, in light of the deteriorating human rights situation, miss the forest for the trees. This includes the announcement that the US government plans to reduce its military aid to Egypt in response to the harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood that followed the 30 June popular mobilization. The narrow focus on recent events precludes a more comprehensive understanding of the US' structural embroilment in Egyptian politics, requiring a substantive rather than merely a "symbolic" response.

Recent statements by international human rights groups such as Amnesty International, pointing to US complicity in Egyptian state violence and demands for greater accountability to human rights considerations in the provision of US aid to Egypt, are certainly welcome. However, such assessments can be myopic at the expense of a longue durée and more broadly contextualized analysis of the relationship between US aid and Egyptian state violence. With the US-backed military at the fore of Egypt's political scene and deposed president Hosni Mubarak temporarily released from prison where he was being held on corruption and murder charges, US military aid appears to be directly implicated in stunting Egypt's revolutionary momentum.

The period following the ouster of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July has featured further entrenchment of authoritarian practices reminiscent of Mubarak's rule. This has included the reinstatement of "emergency law," military tribunals, and the appointment of generals as governors across the provinces. The new power also moved to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood and ban its activities, all under the national security state pretext of "fighting terrorism." In recent months, at least 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed while protesting first the ouster of their leader and later the government crackdown and military rule.

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