The Obama administration is set to eliminate a significant portion of Egypt’s $3.2 billion debt to the U.S. According to the Washington Post, the debt-relief package will likely approach $1 billion.
Obama plans to grant this relief even as Egypt’s Islamist president Morsi cracks down on his domestic opponents, seeks control over the Sinai, and cozies up to Iran. The only concession Morsi appears to have made to the U.S. came when he replaced a minister who had pushed for the prosecution of several employees of NGO’s funded by the U.S. with a new minister described by the Post as “more receptive to U.S. aid.” How big of Morsi.
The debt-relief package reflects the Obama administration’s sanguine view towards Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood man. That view usually finds expression in the notion that Morsi, now that he must govern an economically troubled country, will have no choice but to act moderately and responsibly.
This view could hardly be more misguided. Arab extremists don’t “grow in office” by becoming more solicitous of the peoples’ welfare. They grow in office by crushing those who oppose them. This reality binds together Arab leaders as otherwise diverse as Saddam Hussein, the Iranian mullahs, and the Assads.
But even if there were merit in the view that Morsi might moderate in order to cope with economic difficulties, it wouldn’t make sense for the U.S. to ease those difficulties, in advance of any moderation, to the tune of $1 billion. Before bailing Morsi out, we should expect more than just his decision to sack a minister who didn’t want the bailout.
The real reason the Obama administration is so sanguine about Egypt lies in the fact that Morsi — as he is, without any moderation — does not offend Obama in any way. Is Morsi already undermining the new democracy? Who cares; only the dreaded “neocons” obsess about this sort of thing.
Is Morsi moving Egypt into a more adversarial position with Israel? It serves Israel right for not making “peace” with the Palestinians. Anyway, the more headaches Netanyahu suffers, the better, as far as Obama is concerned. Maybe our president will finally obtain the leverage against Israel he has yearned for.
Might Morsi continue tilting towards Iran? Probably, but why is that a concern for Obama? Sure we have sanctions in place against Iran. But where’s the evidence that the sanctions are any more than a fig leaf employed in the hope of dissuading Israel from doing something meaningful about Iran’s nuclear program?
When the Iranian people took to the streets in massive protest against the Iranian dictatorship, Obama didn’t back them. Why would we expect Obama to be concerned now about the fate of Egypt’s democracy or about Egypt’s increasingly warm relations with Iran?