Wednesday, June 6, 2012

US Democracy Help Flows to Preferred Groups in Egypt

Two months before Egyptian police attacked the offices of American-backed democratic organizations last year, seven Egyptian employees resigned from a group of American organizations to protest what was called undemocratic practice.
They complained that the US organization group, described as non-partisan, had issued an Islamic political organization (Ikhwanul Muslimin) from its program, collecting sensitive information about religion about Egyptians when conducting polls to be sent to Washington, and ordering employees to delete all computer files and submit all records to be sent abroad months before the raid.
The employees said their resignation was due to their suspicion of unprofessional practices from the organization.
One of those who resigned, Dawlat Soulam, said that it was not democracy that should have been given to him when he worked for the International Republican Institute.
Soulam and others said that they were disturbed by work carried out by Sam LaHood, son of the United States Minister of Transportation, Ray LaHood.
He suspected that there was something disguised from the Egyptian people and suspected of a political agenda but did not want to show American alignment.
It was denied by IRI officials and ignored the dissatisfaction of the former employees. Nevertheless the workers' small uprising was important because it reflected the feeling that the US-supported democracy program in Egypt was not to help the Egyptian people but to serve American interests.
Interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate that workers' protests and the government's crackdown with raids helped reveal what US officials would not openly acknowledge: the US government spent tens of millions of dollars to finance and train liberal groups in Egypt, which was the backbone of the Egyptian rebellion. This was done to build opposition to Islamic parties and pro-military parties, in the name of democracy while US diplomats tried to convince Egyptian leaders that Washington was impartial.
Since the raid, US officials have been trying to improve their relationship with Egypt, but that can not be done overnight.
Documents and interviews with US and Egyptian officials show:
- US diplomats have known since March 2008 that Egyptian leaders will close the democracy program and arrest workers, and last year some of them even discussed the possibility of a strong Egyptian response to spend $ 65 million on democratic training costs after the Arab Spring.
- The democracy training program has strong links with US political parties by receiving the largest share of the money, which is $ 31.8 million. The IRI refused to work with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP Party. IRI's Democratic counterpart, the National Democratic Institute, offers training and supports the Ikhwan members.
- Nearly six years before the Egyptian government filed a lawsuit against US democracy workers, its leaders severely curtailed the American democratic program after controversy over public comments by the IRI director.
The use of US money to support several groups seems to contradict the US Agency for International Development policy which requires "good efforts to help all democratic parties, with fair assistance." A senior USAID official said he was not aware that the IRI had excluded members of the Muslim Brotherhood from its programs. But he denied the agency was siding when distributing money to groups in Egypt or internationally.
Although the US is committed to announcing the details of the democratic program in Egypt, USAID refuses to identify all groups that receive money and amounts. The official said that the agency disclosed the list to Egyptian leaders, but would not release information publicly about the recipient of the grant, which surprised some US State Department officials.
The Egyptian government closes funding for US democracy. Islamic political groups feared by the United States will gain more control in Egypt and become more popular, and occupy the most seats in parliament and compete for the presidency. There are scheduled hearings in the courts of 43 democracy workers, including 16 Americans, who are illegally accused of operating political training programs, campaigns and elections financed with funds from the US and other foreign funds. Most Americans no longer exist in Egypt and are not expected to appear in court.
This court is expected to reveal what is a personal and long-standing argument between American officials and Egyptian officials over the role of the US in government in Egypt. Some political leaders argue that the US interfered in Egyptian affairs by directly funding training programs and political campaigns.
From the US experience in Egypt it is clear that the dependence of American officials on financing to promote democracy in countries that fear US interference can endanger American interests and for greater freedom. In addition to Egypt, American financing for democratic groups has also been banned in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Some argue that the US goal of promoting democracy in Egypt will backfire after the Arab Spring, so that undermining American interests in the country is considered important for Middle East stability, because Western leaders do not fully understand what is happening.
Former US Ambassador to Egypt, Frank Wisner, said that all sensitive feelings surfaced when the revolution in Egypt began. And according to him the friends of the US and the US government do not understand the extent of the risk and are not ready to overcome it
Former US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone wrote in a secret memo to the Department of Foreign Affairs in March 2008 that Egypt's Minister of International Cooperation, Fayza Aboulnaga, continued to complain about money from the US for unregistered democratic groups that train political activists. Ricciardone was concerned that the groups, which he called partners, could become targets of ministers opposed to US financing unless the money went into his office.
He wants US partners to be aware of the legal or political consequences of receiving from US funds and not believe that Aboulnaga will encourage security forces to arrest US partners or close their organizations without warning.
IRI was never informed of Ricciardone's concerns.
In 2006, Egyptian officials ordered a reduction in the US-backed democracy program after a newspaper quoted the IRI director as saying. The article quoted some Egyptian leaders as insulting when Americans "came and taught the Egyptians how to think,".
After the Arab Spring and the overthrow of Mubarak, the US piles up millions of dollars to promote democracy in Egypt, hoping to expand its efforts by giving grants directly to large and small groups despite the concerns of Egyptian leaders over the practice.
The United States quickly agreed to the development of a $ 65 million democracy, most of which was for Egyptian aid detained, because there were no promised improvements. Money goes directly to IRI, NDI and other democratic groups, including Egyptian organizations are considered more liberal and more inclined to challenge the interests of Islam.
An official said that the Obama administration supports decisions that support pro-democracy organizations because groups backed by the military that do not need US assistance, the Muslim Brotherhood, already have political popularity with strong national networks, no need for US support, and regime remnants. Mubarak does not need US training to organize or manage political campaigns.
US officials say that the US wants liberal groups, women's groups, to form a coalition government, but that will never happen.
Their IRI leaders excluded groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood for the same reason.
Scott Mastic, from the Middle East IRI, said they focused efforts on weak small parties in the early stages.
Mastic oversaw the work carried out by Sam LaHood, director of IRI in Egypt who was among the democracy workers accused of operating illegally and receiving foreign aid. The Egyptian government initially banned LaHood and other Americans from leaving the country, causing an international crisis which resulted in a US threat of holding $ 1.5 billion in economic and military aid. But the controversy was over after Egypt allowed Americans to go home and the US handed over some of the aid money.
Mastic claimed that claims by Soulam and other workers who resigned practiced partiality by excluding Muslim Ikhwaul. IRI works with several Islamic groups.
Hany Nasr, an Egyptian lawyer in Cairo, said he resigned from IRI, because he considered it unfair to help certain groups other than Islamic organizations.
Although he strongly disagrees with the Islamic group's point of view in politics, "you have to say that I have to be non-partisan. So I really have to be non-partisan,"
Mastic believes employees who resigned represent only a small number of 52 Egyptians working for the organization. He denied allegations that the group was collecting sensitive information about Egyptian religion as part of a political poll to be sent to Washington. Some information was collected to identify the characteristics of Egyptians surveyed such as gender and age. Mastic said the information was not given to anyone outside IRI.
Interviewers held IRI face-to-face polls last year by noting whether Egyptians were talking to Muslims or Christians by observing things like American-style clothing, men having beards, women wearing more conservative Abbas or hijabs.
Sherif Mansour refused if it was said that complaints against IRI were the extent of the problem of developing democracy in Egypt. He considered it a dirty campaign against civil society.
Many groups expect to get funding of US $ 65 million. However, Egyptian officials refused to approve licenses for IRI, NDI and other groups.
Authorities began conducting summer investigations and collected evidence showing the groups were operating illegally without permission. He said that many of his colleagues in Egypt must understand this was the Egyptian revolution and that the Egyptian people would determine the outcome, said Aboulnaga.
Mastic said he believed Aboulnaga was attacking IRI and other democratic groups that received American money because the US was traveling in its ministry to distribute aid directly to those organizations.
US officials do not know whether Aboulnaga will survive the insurgency and the military government said US State Department official.
The official said that nothing was fully debating the ministry's persistence in ministry. It never occurred to anyone that the ministry would be the strongest political agent in Egypt during the following year, he said.
The United States should be able to avoid many problems in Egypt after the rebellion if its officials pay more attention to how bad the push is to expand the development of democracy in Egypt, he said.
Wisner likens entering a kitchen full of Egyptian chefs while they don't want any outside chefs.
IWD/The Truth Seeker Media

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