The current or the coming Egyptian government has to realize that the international game led by Washington is about to be over and that new powers are being reshaped.
The storming of 17 human rights NGOs was not a security procedure, but an implementation of a court order in the foreign funding case, one that threatens national security and compromises state dignity.
The United States did not have a legal argument that a country claiming to be the guardian of freedoms all over the world should. Instead it addressed Egypt with a tone that made it appear as if it was one of those banana republics. In an explicit warning that could be described as insolent in international relations, the United States called on Egypt to stop the clampdown and to return to those NGOs all the documents it confiscated which are needed by investigators in charge of looking into foreign funds that entered the country during the past 10 months without the knowledge of Egyptian authorities and that contributed to destabilizing the country.
Washington’s warning, repeated twice in one month, waved the U.S. aid card. The same card could be used by Egypt against the United States as I will demonstrate further below.
Most of the U.S. aid goes to armament and that is why the warning took a military shape. On Friday, the Pentagon announced that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta conveyed to Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Washington’s concern over the clampdown on NGOs and demanded an immediate halt to this procedure. Apparently, the exchange between both ministers was not a political one and Tantawi was not addressed as head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the country’s acting president because in this case, he should have been contacted by the White House.
This way, we get to understand the message they are trying to deliver. The United States is threatening to respond to the lobbying of several senators to cut military aid to Egypt in the wake of a campaign that targeted the Egyptian army during the past few weeks. This campaign was launched by organizations that receive foreign funding and who send their activists to places around Tahrir Square where clashes have erupted. The U.S. secretary of State not only demands that no more NGOs be stormed, but also wants their job to be facilitated.
Here we discover that neither the law nor sovereignty is of any value and that Egypt has to now cater to America’s mood, one that cannot in anyway be representative of a superpower that protects freedoms and human rights. This is proved when we recall how during Mubarak’s rule, Egypt’s ruthless security apparatus was Washington’s torture agent and it was in Egypt that confessions were extracted from suspects brought from Afghanistan, Albania, and Italy and who were accused of targeting American interests.
Cairo is not in a good shape now; its economy is crippled and foreign powers are mercilessly interfering in its affairs. Egypt is like a sick man who on January 25 had to go through a very critical surgery to get well. But this is not what Washington wants, for it prefers an elderly man who can’t walk without his cane.
The U.S. State Department stated that Egypt pledged to stop the clampdown and to reopen the offices of NGOs under investigation. This means it will force judges to freeze the law, suspend investigations in a critical case that involves its national security, and return all documents that serve as evidence. Any country that respects its sovereignty would never do that, but it is all about the power the strong exercises over the weak.
Yet Egypt is capable of becoming the stronger player despite its economic problems. U.S. aid is part of the Camp David treaty and tampering with any of its terms could lead to its total freeze. Plus, the main purpose of the aid is to protect America’s interests in the region and if it stops, Egypt will be rid of this burden. Yet it needs to do so quickly and to start establishing dialogue with other capitals that are changing the international balance of power and regaining their historic roles like Moscow and Beijing.
The writer is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya Net. The article was published in al-Gomhuria on Jan. 2, 2012 and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid