Skip to main content

Cut off aid to Egypt till elections held

By Tamara Cofman Wittes, Special to CNN
July 6, 2013 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
A bus passes a destroyed pickup truck with loudspeakers that was used by supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy on Friday, August 2. The supporters and security forces clashed in Sixth of October City in Giza, south of Cairo, after the government ordered their protest camps be broken up. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/15/middleeast/gallery/egypt-violence-august/index.html' target='_blank'>Look at the latest violence in Egypt.</a> A bus passes a destroyed pickup truck with loudspeakers that was used by supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy on Friday, August 2. The supporters and security forces clashed in Sixth of October City in Giza, south of Cairo, after the government ordered their protest camps be broken up. Look at the latest violence in Egypt.
HIDE CAPTION
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Photos: Unrest in Egypt
Photos: Unrest in Egypt
Photos: Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
Unrest in Egypt
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tamara Cofman Wittes: U.S. must nudge Egypt back on path toward democracy
  • Wittes: Morsy's uncompromising approach was big sign that trouble was brewing
  • Wittes: Islamist party candidates have a right to run in elections
  • She urges the U.S. to cut off aid to Egypt as incentive to hold new democratic elections

Editor's note: Tamara Cofman Wittes is senior fellow and director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution. Follow her on Twitter: @tcwittes

(CNN) -- The ouster of Mohamed Morsy as Egypt's president is unlikely to end the country's political turmoil. As a result, the United States -- which has great stakes in Egypt's stability -- must use its limited leverage to nudge Egypt back onto a democratic trajectory.

The lesson of Egypt's 2011 revolution was that lasting stability demands an inclusive government that is accountable to Egypt's people and responsive to their demands for dignity and freedom. But Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood apparently didn't get the memo.

Many Egyptians were already skeptical of the Brotherhood -- but Morsy's "my way or the highway" approach to elections, the constitution, and other key issues, and his readiness to wield the old regime's repressive laws against his critics, alienated many more. For Washington, these moves should have raised alarm bells that Egypt was not on the track to stable democracy -- but the administration was slow to act as the political clouds gathered.

Tamara Cofman Wittes
Tamara Cofman Wittes

As the largest Arab state and key regional anchor, a stable Egypt is crucial, especially for a United States that wants to turn its attention elsewhere in the globe. But Washington must press to ensure that Egypt's next leaders don't repeat Morsy's mistakes.

The Muslim Brotherhood did well in elections partly because it captured years of pent-up protest votes -- but there is also a significant segment of the public who feel that the Brotherhood best represents them politically. They, too, have the right to form parties and support candidates that reflect their beliefs. Any attempt to ban Islamist parties, or to forcibly secularize the public sphere, will alienate not only Brotherhood members but all those Egyptians who tell pollsters that they believe politics should reflect the influence of Islam.

Egyptian military takes CNN camera
Clashes in Egypt turn deadly
Violence in streets of Cairo after coup

The Brotherhood also has choices to make that could determine whether Egypt moves toward greater stability or toward civil strife. If the Brotherhood chooses to resist violently, the state has the capability to crush their efforts -- but the price will be heavy. Vulnerable Egyptians, including the country's religious minorities, are likely to be the greatest losers.

Even more troubling, deeply conservative Salafi movements only recently took the leap into formal politics -- but skeptically. Some of these groups have violent pasts. Now that democracy's been overridden in the name of defending "freedom," will they see a reason to stay in the political game? If followed by undue repression, this coup could drive the creation of a new generation of Islamist terrorists in Egypt. Egyptians have suffered enough from terrorism already.

Even if this military action to depose the elected president was a response to popular demand, that doesn't mean it wasn't a coup. It's certainly possible for a military coup to advance democratic development -- but it's rare, and the bar is pretty high.

The decisions announced by General Abdul Fatah el-Sisi place state authority back in the hands of three strong instruments of the old Mubarak regime: the army, the Interior Ministry and the judiciary. The Obama administration must use its influence with the Egyptian military to press for clear evidence that the new transitional authority will govern in a transparent, restrained manner, and move the country swiftly back to democratic rule. That should begin with a clear and swift timeline for a return to democratic rule.

The United States has a law on the books that demands an immediate cutoff of aid in the event of a military coup. The U.S. has sent an average of $2 billion a year in aid to Egypt since 1979.

The U.S. law is designed to give coup-established governments a strong incentive to return their countries to democratic rule -- aid can resume as soon as new democratic elections are held. The African Union, which has strengthened its democratic norms in recent years, has already suspended Egypt's membership because of the military's intervention into democratic politics. The U.S. law should be invoked in the Egyptian case, and used to hold the Egyptian military accountable for swift progress on their transition road map.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tamara Cofman Wittes.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT