Secretary of State John Kerry last month secretly sent $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Egypt, waiving the restrictions put in place by Congress to withhold such aid unless the country could meet certain democracy standards.
“Under U.S. law, for the $1.3 billion to flow the secretary of state must certify that the Egyptian government ‘is supporting the transition to civilian government, including holding free and fair elections, implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion, and due process of law’,” Reuters reports.
Kerry’s quiet decision came before an Egyptian court this week sentenced 43 democracy workers, including 16 Americans, to up to five years in jail for working in NGOs not registered with the government. Critics of the restrictive government see the action as a crackdown on pro-democracy, non-governmental organizations.
In a May 9 memo, Kerry said that “we are not satisfied with the extent of Egypt’s progress and are pressing for a more inclusive democratic process and strengthening of key democratic institutions.” Yet the new secretary of state still decided to push the aid through.
Reuters was able to obtain a copy of the State Department’s notification of Kerry’s sneaky move, which was never released to the public.
“A strong U.S. security partnership with Egypt, underpinned by FMF (Foreign Military Financing), maintains a channel to Egyptian military leadership, who are key opinion makers in the country,” Kerry wrote in the memo.
“A decision to waive restrictions on FMF to Egypt is necessary to uphold these interests as we encourage Egypt to continue its transition to democracy,” he continued.
The unpopular memo was reportedly sent to congressional appropriations committees while some aides didn’t even know about its existence.
Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department last year also waived the restriction, however, it announced the decision and publicly defended its position to the media.
The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin has more details:
The law that allows the State Department to give Egypt $1.3 billion each year in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) specifies that to get the money, the secretary of State must certify that Egypt is honoring its peace treaty with Israel as well as “supporting the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections; implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law.”
Several members of Congress said this week that Egypt’s sentencing of American NGO workers, who were there to help Egypt build up its civil society and to promote democracy, flew in the face of that very law, meaning that Egypt should not get the money.
Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, told The Daily Beast that it was “very alarming that no public statement was made by the secretary or the Department of State more broadly in conjunction with the waiving of these conditions.”
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Featured image via Getty. This story has been updated.