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Should the United States continue to provide economic aid to Egypt?

Answered by: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies

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The Egyptian uprising presents a rare opportunity for the United States to resolve the tension between its strategic priorities in the Middle East and its desire to support democratic change in the region. Washington's past approach to aiding Egypt was based on relations with authoritarian leaders who could be counted on to advance the United States' interests. With the fall of Hosni Mubarak and Egyptian efforts to build a more open political system, a policy based on "authoritarian stability" is no longer possible, and the United States is now forced to alter the way it appropriates and distributes bilateral assistance.

One option, as I have written before, is for the administration to reduce the role of USAID in democracy and good governance programs; USAID's "policy reform cash transfer" program has largely been a failure. Instead, Washington should move toward a greater reliance on the Middle East Partnership Initiative and the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Rights, and Labor. Another option would be to divorce Egyptian military financing from political reform objectives, in order to prevent U.S. strategic interests from being entangled in the contentious issue of democracy promotion.