Waiting on US Press Conference as Government Announces “Review” of Aid to Egypt
An Obama Administration official told Reuters that they would “review” the $1.5 billion in annual aid sent to Egypt, in the wake of anti-government protests across the country. That doesn’t mean that anything will come of this in terms of actual reductions or eliminations in foreign aid, at least not right away. But just saying that out loud is a major step the likes of which has not been seen before.
Professor Ibrahim Arafat of Qatar University said on Al Jazeera English that “a new Egypt” is being born, and that the destruction of the government headquarters in Cairo is an example of the changes, which he termed as “the beginning of a social revolution.” The big question is where the Army will fall, on the side of the regime or on the side of the protesters. Activists welcomed the Army’s presence on the streets, perhaps seeing them as an analogue to the Army in Tunisia, which sided with the revolutionaries and led to the fleeing of the dictator Ben Ali. But it’s unclear where the Army will truly come down. Top Egyptian military leaders are actually visiting the Pentagon today, on a scheduled trip for U.S.-Egypt Military Cooperation Committee meetings.
The official report is that there will be a US press briefing shortly on the Egyptian situation, but privately Administration officials are waiting for Hosni Mubarak to speak. That was promised hours ago but hasn’t happened.
More in a moment…
…According to Sultan Al-Qassemi, Lt. General Sami Hafez Enan, the Egyptian Armed Forces Chief of Staff, cut short his visit to the Pentagon and is on his way back to Egypt. He is considered a potential Presidential candidate.
…OK, the press briefing is about to begin. Not sure if the President or if Robert Gibbs will be leading it.
…Gibbs says the President has not spoken to Mubarak. He reiterates Clinton’s statements about turning the Internet back on, calls the grievances “legitimate” and says the Egyptian government must address them immediately. Need for meaningful dialogue to address grievances. Freedom of expression, association and assembly is needed.
…Gibbs asked what the President will do if those grievances not addressed. Gibbs answers that the situation will be resolved by the people of Egypt. Says on the record that they will “review our assistance posture” in the coming days based on the resolution. I think that’s all your going to get out of him.
…This is pretty much more of the same. Gibbs isn’t going to get into details outside of “monitoring the situation.”
…”We will review our assistance posture based on events now and in the coming days.”
…Gibbs asked why President isn’t making public comments or making them to Mubarak. Says there is continual contact between US and Egyptian government. “We have not waited for the events of the last several days to bring up our concerns…” about government and political reform.
There will be a principal’s meeting (high-level) on this situation tomorrow.
Gibbs did not say either way whether Mubarak has the support of the President.
…Key question asked: why do we support regimes that don’t respect human rights? Gibbs hems and haws, says they took up human rights issues with China. “Our belief is it is important to have those conversations very directly with those leaders.” Says you have to engage with those leaders.
…Gibbs does say that the time has not passed for Mubarak to institute those needed political reform. That’s a kind of backhanded support. Asked why President isn’t making a statement, Gibbs just says “we’re monitoring the situation.”
…Everything said in this briefing has already been said. You’re not getting more out of Gibbs today.
…The general feeling among the Twitterati is that the US is throwing Mubarak under the bus here. I’m not sure that’s the case, the tone is very measured and careful. But it’s a far cry from what we’ve heard from Biden and Clinton earlier in the week.
…Brian Katulis has a verygood report saying that US-Egypt relations must change now. “The administration should reject the old way of doing business—investing in institutions and leaders that lack credibility with their own people.”
…Gibbs says the US Embassy is secure and nobody should be worried about that. He also acknowledged that the review of Egyptian foreign aid is sector-wide, including military.