tv Former State Department Officials Testify on U.S. Humanitarian Aid in Egypt CSPAN April 25, 2017 2:18pm-3:46pm EDT
meanwhile, the senate is in session this afternoon gambling back in at this hour. they will work on the nomination of rod rosen steen to be deputy attorney general. vote on his nomination coming up at 5:00 p.m. eastern. you can follow that over on cspan 2. the house is also in this afternoon. gaveling in for legislative work at about 4:30 p.m. eastern with the bill calling on tsa to improve security procedures for airport employees. live coverage here on cspan 3 of this sub committee hearing looking a egyptian aid to egypt and the chairman of the committee coming into the room, senator lindsey graham.
the hearing will come to order. we have a lot of our democratic colleagues are in transit. we'll get started. senator leahy will be a little late, but as soon as he arrives we'll let him speak. the hearing today is on united states assistance for egypt. i would like to welcome our witnesses, elliott abrams, senior fellow from middle eastern studies, council on foreign relations. has been in the government in a variety of roles back to the reagan administration. michelle dunn, director and senior fellow middle east program carnegie endowment for international peace. tom mel now ski, former secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. i'll go ahead and make a brief opening statement and hear from our witnesses. the reason i have this hearing is egypt's important. it's important enough for us to care about the relationship, to try to make sure the relationship is going in the right direction and it's
imperative for me that egypt becomes successful because it is such an important player in the region. we provide hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the egyptian government and the egyptian people. i want to make sure it's a good investment and i want to make sure i understand what we're investing in. the one thing i would say about egypt on the security front, they're doing things in egypt that we haven't done in a while. they're helping with ha mass in a historic fashion. they're taking the fight to isil in the sigh nigh, but at the same time, their economy is lacking, civil society is deteriorating and i worry about a consolidation of power in a way that is basically undemocratic. i'm not asking egypt to become america. i'm asking egypt to become the best that egypt can be and millions of people went to the streets years ago to protest the mubarak era. some people gave their lives. morsi was a result of that
protest. clear to me he overplayed that hand. i want president el-sisi to be successful. for the american taxpayer we need to highlight what we're investing in and try to use our money to bring about outcomes that will stabilize not only egypt but the region. it is a large country with a unique history and i want nothing but success for the egyptian people. and the purpose of this hearing today is to inform the congress about the good, the bad and the ugly. and unfortunately it's all three. and we need to try to use our money in the most productive fashion to help egypt but it's now time for egypt to help us when it comes to helping them. with that, we'll start with ms. dunne. >> chairman graham, sub committee members, thank you very much for this opportunity
to address you. the problem for the united states in assisting egypt is precisely this -- how can the united states best support an important country and a long-time regional ally when its government adopts policies that promise chronic instability. the united states has an interest in supporting a stable egypt, an egypt that's at peace with its neighbors and also at peace with itself. but while president sisi is -- actually the country is struggling. and i'm afraid it could be headed for unrest within a few years. now, to be fair, many of the problems in egypt have roots that go back well before sisi came to power. they've got a rapidly growing population. they have a history of indigenous extremist groups. they have an enormous and obstructionist bureaucracy but there are also newer problems.
that sisi has caused or exacerbated which have made the country more violent, poorer than it was. either under former president mubarak or under president mohamed morsi. we're meeting today on what is a public holiday in egypt, sigh nigh liberation day. and unfortunately in the last few days some very deeply troubling information has been coming out showing the likelihood of the egyptian army carrying out extrajudicial killings of terrorist suspects in the sigh nigh. perhaps in fact using assistance, using vehicles provided by the united states in this. and this highlights exactly the problem i'm talking about. egypt does face a serious threat from terrorism. but the unprecedented human rights abuses and political repression practiced by the government since 2013 is fanning the flames rather than putting them out.
and the united states at this point it does not really have a way to ensure that our assistance is not making the problem worse instead of better. i'm actually going to use my time to focus on the economic situation, because i think that doesn't get enough attention. because in general in the united states president el see see is getting good marks on his economic policies and there is a positive side to what he is doing on the economy, but there's also a very serious problem. in fact first few months of 2017, the misery index, which is the rate of annual inflation plus unemployment for egyptians has been about 45%. core inflation has been between 30 and 33%. unemployment according to official statistics is about 12.5% and most experts think that is really an underrepresentation. for young people, unemployment averages about 30%.
for young women it is about 50%. so for young egyptians and those are the most likely ones to cause unrest, the misery index ranges from 60 to more than 80%. this is clearly an unlivable situation and despite draconian anti-protest laws there's been a significant increase in spontaneous protests related to economic grievances in the past year. now, i said sisi has gotten good marks on his economic policies and that's because he's take an couple of important steps on the fiscal side. he floated the egyptian currency which is the main reason for the very high inflation right now. that was something that needed to be done. and he's cut back energy subsidies partially. and instituted a value-added tax. and he did these things in order to get an imf loan which he has gotten for $12 billion over three years. but there's another side in which sisi's economic policies
are really not helping egypt with its economic problems at all. and that is when it comes to generating jobs, creating the conditions in the egyptian economy for jobs. there are 94 million egyptians. and right now there are at least 600,000 new egyptians coming on to the labor market every year, but the economy doesn't generate anywhere near enough jobs for them. and that number is only going to go up. right now there are 1 million new egyptians every six months, so two million new a year so you can see how the people coming into the labor force are going to be going up. and despite lip service from sisi about creating jobs and so forth, it's simply not the case, that his economic policies are aimed toward that. and they're also not aimed toward developing the labor force which is a major issue in egypt that even the jobs that are being created sometimes go
begging because egyptians don't have the skills, especially if they come out of the public education system, they don't have the skills that are needed for those jobs. you know, unfortunately -- look, a world bank report in 2014 said it clearly -- economic policies in egypt are not focussed on promoting the emergence of fast-growing high productivity, private sector companies that would generate jobs. instead and i'm quoting here, they have worked to preserve insider privileges leading to growth in sectors that are not labor intensive. this is what's happening in egypt. for a long time economic policies have been skewed toward protecting the privileges of a few, the cronies of the regime. in the sisi era it's even fewer than that. it's really the economic policies are for the benefit of sisi's own constituency, the
military itself. we're seeing a real change in laws, regulations, et cetera that are allowing the military rather than the private sector to take up more and more economic activity. that's what's behind these megaconstruction projects that sisi has been carrying out. the sue as canal passage, the new administration capital he's building in the desert. this is how the egyptian military knows how to make money by building things. let me just end with a few recommendations. i think the united states with its assistance should set an example of wise investment in human development, in education. and not to give budget support in the form of cash transfers and other things that will disappear quickly without any benefit. i would like to submit, mr. chair, some written testimony which i have more recommendations for foreign
military financing, but let me just say briefly before the united states extends more, we really need to investigate these reports of human rights abuses and how the united states can take foreign military assistance to egypt off auto pilot and look at what we can really do to help and not to contribute to a worse situation in the country. thank you very much. >> thank you. mr. abrams. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it's an honor to appear here today and i hope i can insert the full statement for the record. there's a remarkable similarity between the structure of our aid to egypt and the structure of the egyptian military and its activities. and that is that both were really established decades ago and both need to be rethought. i want to talk about the security sector today. our aid to egypt had not been very high and then leapt up
after the visit to jerusalem, that's 40 years ago. middle east has changed and egypt's role in the middle east has changed in that period. the egypt of that period was really the most influential country, most influential arab country and its position on everything was of significance to us. but that's no longer true. egypt has no role of significance when it comes to the conflict in yemen or in iraq or in syria nor really on the israeli/palestinian conflict itself. egypt's weight in the region has really declined. now, we obviously want to achieve, as you said, mr. chairman, a stable egypt, a democratic egypt, an egypt that can deal with the terrorist threat that it clearly does face, that can protect its borders. we want to help egypt protect the human rights of all
egyptians, but i am always reminded of a conversation i had decades ago with the late tom lantos who was a great champion of human rights. and i was in the bush administration at this point about ten years ago and talking about aid to egypt and tom lantos said to me -- let me ask you a question, do you really think egypt needs more tanks or more schools? and i think it is a question we continue to have to ask ourselves. let's look at the egyptian military. our goals probably the key goal in egypt today on the security side is to fight terrorism. but the egyptian military remains a force designed to conduct conventional warfare, and indeed to conduct warfare against israel. that's what they exercise for, another war for israel. the egyptian military is essentially still modelled to
refight the 1973 war. closed quote. stratford put it this way, while the existential threat from conventional foreign militaries has waned in recent years, the new and unconventional dangers of insurgencies, terrorism and non-state actors has risen to take its place. egypt's large and inflexible conventional force which is are better suited to guard against foreign incursion may not be as capable of addressing the country's current security problems. the egyptian military is actually spending huge amounts of money enhancing their conventional capability. crs reported that in february, 2015, they purchased 24 multiroll fighters, a frigit and missiles from france. that was a deal worth nearly $6 billion. 2014, they bought four naval corvettes from france.
that was 1.350 million. fall of 2015, two helicopter carriers from france. large purchases from russia. how do purchases like an anti-ballistic missile system from russia and advanced combat jets combat terrorist groups like isis or submarines? egypt received the first of four german-made attack submarines total cost 1.4 billion euros. there are other problems with the arms aid to egypt. a report last much entitled u.s. government should human rights vetting for egypt. they're not doing all the vets that they should be doing. turn to the approach to terrorism. it's just not succeeding. the tactics of the egyptian government appear to be failing. just as the terrorist attacks have become routine, so too have
heavy handed egyptian responses resulting in civilian casualties. michelle dunne mentioned this video that just surfaced. an analysis by the carnegie endowment recently concluded state-sanctioned violation against civilians only increased local anger against the military. egyptian policy has, quote, shifted some sympathy from the military to the militants, who are increasingly seen as a way to take revenge. i think actually that the egyptian handling of this is creating jihadists. i mean, if you take 60,000 political prisoners and that's the number that there are in egypt, people have not committed acts of violence, beat them up. toss them into prison. keep them there for years. incarcerate them with real
jihadis. and what comes out at the end of that process is more jihadis. that is what's happening in egyptian prisons. recent new york times about prisoners in egypt interviewed a man who said -- many of the prisoners he met were from the muslim brotherhood. the group formerly announced violence in the early '70s but he watched his cell mates become hardened in prison. npr recently had a story about a journalist who was jailed who said in jail they become isis. this is a common story. it is the story that produced al qaeda who was radicalized in an egyptian prison. so i think it is time, mr. chairman, to review the tactics of the egyptian military against terrorism and to review the
nature of our aid so that it is targeted toward fighting terrorism and not toward sustaining this conventional military that really has no significant use today. thank you. >> mr. mellon now ski. >> thank you, senator graham. members of the committee. let me -- i want to start by echoing a point that elliott abrams made because i think the overarching question here is what are our interests? what are our expectations with respect to our relationship with egypt? and what do we actually get for this investment? the aid program, the relationship that's been based on a long standing assumption that egypt is an important player in the region. and with that assumption comes another that our long-term
interest and better governance respect for human rights sometimes comes into conflict with our immediate national security interests. we certainly in the obama administration operated on the assumption that there was a lot that egypt could do for regional security and for us. we tried again and again and again to engage them on a variety of common interests. and i would say the reality is we were frustrated in the vast majority of cases. more and more it looked to us that egypt is becoming a country that sucks up aid. a lot more from the gulf states than from us, as you know. while contributing very, very little to regional security and treating the aid as an entitlement that simply must continue and continue and continue. about the only country -- well, there's the long-standing egyptian commitment not to tear
up the treaty with israel. i guess that's one thing that we get. at this point in the history of the israeli/egyptian relationship i would say that that is something that sustains itself because it's very much in egypt's interest. it's not something they do for us. in libya, their influence has been largely negative. after receiving $70 billion of american assistance over the years, i'm sure you've noticed that there's not a single egyptian f-16 in the skies over raqqa or mosul helping us in the counter-isil fight. yes, they are engaged with isil in the sigh nigh, but as we heard in ways that probably make the problem steadily worse rather than better. and there's a video that has already been mentioned a couple of times, i think in addition to showing something gruesome also shows just how counterproductive the tactics are. this is basically a window into
a strategy in which young men who may or even may not be members of isis are rounded up, executed in cold blood and then passed off as casualties in a battlefield fight so that the army can look good. we know from history that is the way to lose a fight like this, not to win. i think almost any observer of the sisi government would agree, i think, over the last two to three years the primary priority of the egyptian military under general sisi has not been to fight terrorism or to improve governance, it's been to make sure that what happened in 2011, the tahrir square rising, something like that could never happen in egypt that the power of the military over the country's politics and economics is not challenged again. and vultd, they have
concentrated as much on persecuting their political opponents, peaceful protesters, independent ngos the very people in the country who are most likely to despise ji haddism as it has on hunting down terrorists. so we know some of the leading dissidents in the country from the 2011 period are still in jail. tens of thousands of others behind bars for nothing more than having attended a demonstration or being members of a political party. a lot of these folks languish for years in pre-trial detention like the american citizen did. many are subjected to the most brutal forms of torture. read if you have the stomach for it the coroner's report on the death of that young italian student who disappeared in cairo last year and you'll have a sense of the sadistic treatment that egyptians experience at the
hands of their security agencies. the top officials of those agencies know perfectly well what goes on and they do nothing to stop it. in fact, one of the most notorious places of torture in egypt is the headquarters of the national security agency, the successor to the old secret police. right in downtown cairo near tahrir square. meanwhile, crack down on ngos has intensified. the new law basically makes it illegal for civil society organizations to function unless they get permission for every single thing they do from the government. we've hafd a steady presence of preposterous, ridiculous and pernicious anti-american propaganda in the state media, so the same government that comes up here and lobbies for less restrictions on assistance in the name of better relations with egypt, back home in egypt
treats anybody who seeks to get support and partnership from the united states as a criminal. what should we do in light of all of these problems? well, i think we have to have realistic expectations. egypt has been experiencing this turmoil for a long time. only egyptians can resolve this. it's probably going to take a lot longer for that to happen. i don't think more positive engagement is going to work very well, nor do i think that more kwquid pro quo slap on the wris will work in terms of changing things fundamentally. though it may be hard to change the way the egyptian government treats its own people, one recommendation i would have is that we should ghand the way it treats ours. we should have zero tolerance for the mistreatment of american citize citizens, continued anti-american state media and
propaganda and the persecution of individuals or ngos for association with americans. i'll say this half tongue in cheek. you can call this america first human rights policy for egypt. these are things we can demand and they will respect us if we demand them. number two, avoid complicity in these abuses. so, enforce the leahy law when there are serious violations. be very, very wary. i would encourage you all of any proposals to try to strengthen intensify deepen counterterrorism and intelligence sharing partnerships with the security agencies that are engaged in these abuses. they will abuse the partnerships in addition to the people. third, avoid re-enforcing the egyptian sense that aid is an entitlement. so cash flow financing of military aid we should not go back to that. and then the big question is what do we do about military
assistance? what do we do about the $1.3 billion in fmf? i think it would be disparting choice to simply go back to providing that unconditionally. it would just be helping egypt buy weapons that are ill-suited to meet the threats that it faces while re-enforcing that entitlement mentality and kicking the serious problems down the road again. another possibility would be to provide most of it continue with holding the 15% currently with held because of human rights abuses. that would send a modest signal of disapproval. not sure if it would do all that much good. the third option would be to step back and ask whether our investment in egypt is appropriate given the value we get from it and the crises and opportunities we face elsewhere. my strong view is that the investment is completely out of balance. does it really make sense for this government, which does so little for regional security, which consistently rejects our advice, describes us to its
people as a hostile enemy, to receive such a disproportionate share of u.s. military aid? so i agree, we should tailer what we provide to actual counterinsurgency operations in places like the sigh nigh if they're willing to accept it, which i'm not sure if they would under those terms and think about where else in the region and the world our partnerships are appreciated and our money can do actual good in the fight against terrorism and for a better world. thank you very much. >> thank you. we'll do seven-minute rounds. i'll start off. mr. abrams, i've talked to israel recently. they are fairly pleased with the security cooperation between egypt and israel regarding hamas. is that an accurate statement? >> yes. the government of egypt of course views hamas is part of the brotherhood, very much opposed to it and better cooperation against hamas than
there's ever been. i think it's fair to say the israelis are more active now in helping in sigh nigh than they have ever been before. >> i hear reports where egyptian helicopters are flying from israeli air bases to confront isis. >> i've heard those reports. >> yeah. okay. so on the good side, it seems like we have a relationship between egypt and israel on the security front that is productive. tom, tell us about the ngo law very briefly, if you could. what are the requirements of this new law they passed? >> well, they've gotten tighter and tighter, but basically a whole range of day to day activities that an organization needs to conduct. >> well, i heard you have to get approval from the government for a survey, a poll survey. >> sure, or any number of other activities.
so, first of all, those requirements give the government the opportunity to say no and to shut down particular activities, but even if the government is not so inclined, the mere fact you have to constantly ask permission to do things is just -- it makes it virtually impossible to function and it's almost impossible not to -- the rules are so complicated it's impossible not to be in violation of something at any given moment which means that at any given moment if the government wants to shut you down it can. an example of this, the leading organization in egypt for the rehabilitation of torture victims was recently shut down. >> okay. it's also true that american ngos, rir and ndi that members of americans have been convicted in egyptian court basically of being spies. is that true, mr. abrams? >> it is true. and it's an extraordinary thing -- >> ray lahood's son.
>> ray lahood's son is one of them. we're talking about freedom house, ndi, these are not submersive organizations. >> i talked extensively about president el-sisi about this. i think there were trumped up charges. she was acquitted within a few days of a visit, so so much for we can't control what happens in the judiciary. ms. dunne, in terms of the future of egypt, without some economic reforms and without economic growth, what's going to happen in egypt and to all of you very quickly? what does it matter to us if egypt becomes a failed state? because that's what i fear the most quite frankly that we're headed that way? >> yes. senator, that's true. there is -- that danger is there. the employment problem in egypt is enormous. the human development problem is egypt is enormous. they have failing educational
institutions. people coming out of secondary school and even public universities without the basic skills needed to be in the global work force. so, those are major problems and as i've said, the egyptian government persistently makes economic decisions that don't really empower the private sector, a small medium enterprises et cetera to create jobs. that's what's really needed to create labor intensive industry services et cetera to put egyptians to work. without that, you've got a growing unemployment rate and you have a growing population. the growing population i think is also related to the fact that young women can't get jobs. and so sometimes they marry very early and start families, have big families. so there -- you know, this is -- it's hard to see where this is going and what the government keeps doing and i think tom referred to this is just trying to attract more and more external financing to keep them afloat, but that's not a
long-term plan. they need a productive economy. >> it is by far the most populist arab state with over 90 million people and growing fast. if it were over 90 million people and growing fast. if it were to become a failed state, the impact around the whole world would be destabilizing. it would make the refugee situation in the region and toward europe worse. >> how realistic is that? is that a possibility? >> well, i think it is a possibility that you would see more disorder, because for one thing, as dr. dunne said, the economic conditions are deteriorating. you have more strikes. you could see more bread riots. so you could see a deterioration which could -- you know, it's a vicious cycle. it produces more oppression, which produces more of an uprising. i think it is the -- we should not assume stability in egypt. >> that's my question.
we assume it just because it's been there. but i don't think that's a good assumption to make, given what i know. tom, do you agree with that? >> sure. i don't think egypt has been stable for the last six years, since 2011. i think it would be foolish for me to make predictions about when the next political rising will be. we have no idea. but we do know that this is a country that will demonstrate surface stability until it doesn't. and because of its size and volatility, the consequences could be great. >> thank you. we'll recognize senator leahy now, then we'll go to senator moran. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i apologize for being late. we've been in a lot of negotiations, putting the
appropriations bill through. i'm glad to see the panel you have, i know all three of them. i think the committee is fortunate to have the views of t them. i look at egypt as an important country, at least in their mind. the question is, where is it go? [ inaudible ] >> it must be a cyber attack by somebody. >> let me try a different microphone. can you hear me all right? >> yes. >> in my lifetime we've provided
more than $79 billion in economic and military aid to egypt. that doesn't include the excess defense equipment that runs into billions more. certainly the egyptian people are -- seem generally unaware of that. that's why the u.s. comes across so negatively in most of the polls. or maybe they do know it and they resent how the aid has been used to prop up actions in their own government. the younger generation sees no prospect for jobs. now, their position geographically does give importance. i don't know if it gives enough importance to the billions of dollars we spend there. they have thousands of members
of political opposition teams, groups get imprisoned after sham trials. when members civil society organizations are accused of salacious crimes, they're detained for years. when critics of the government are tortured and killed, when u.s. officials, an independent press are denied access to areas where u.s. weapons are being used amid reports of war crimes, i think we have to ask some basic questions. secretary malinowsky, you've heard me ask these questions before, but what are the egyptians trying to do to civil society groups? they use antiterrorism laws to arrest these people.
how should we react? are there conditions that would have effective steps on our aid? what is our $1.3 billion in annual military aid serve? what security threats do they face that justify this, and even if they have it, how is it being spent? or is it just, we agreed to this back at camp david, it goes by just from the momentum of that? i want egypt to succeed, but certainly not in a way where everybody is being repressed, give us the money, give us the aid, give us the equipment, we're not going to tell you how we're going to use it. now, mr. mal inowskmalinowsky, assistant secretary for human rights.
i want you to know, an awful lot of members in the senate, both republicans and democrats, applaud what you did. >> thank you. >> i'm sure you had a lot of meetings with the egyptian authorities on human rights concerns. how did they respond? was anything useful -- i mean, i've been in meetings where i've heard you ask some pretty good questions. did you get pretty good answers? go ahead. >> well, my job was talking to authoritarian governments around the world. and i have to say, the meetings with the government of egypt were amongst the least productive and most unpleasant in my time at the state department. there are a lot of governments around the world that do things that we don't like, but you can have a thoughtful conversation,
intellectually challenging, where you're talking to somebody who feels like they have the best interests of their country in mind and they have a different vision of how to achieve them. in the case of egypt, it's just angry, rude denial of all problems, and how dare you, u.s. government official, raise these things with us, and where's our money, thank you very much, goodbye. >> that's giving them the benefit of the doubt. >> yeah. i don't have to be as diplomatic anymore as i used to be. and this is why i've come to the conclusion that, you know, probably more endless hours of attempted persuasion is not going to get us very far, that what we need with the government of egypt is a stepping back, a bit of a time out, where we get out of this entitlement mentality where they think that everybody part of the relationship is something that we owe them, and we step back
and try to design a relationship and an aid program that actually is there to do something positive rather than just an aid program that we provide because of what we fear they will do if we somehow cut them off. >> what happens, when i've raised some criticism, they say, look how hard we're working on isil in iraq, syria, yemen. are they? >> well, certainly not in syria. certainly not in yemen. they are fighting isil in the sinai, but as we were discussing, in a manner that's parole making the problem worse, not better. they face a very, very real, genuine, serious security threat. their soldiers, their police are getting blown up. they're attacks in cairo and egyptian cities, i would like to help them with that threat, i would help any country facing that threat. but what they've been absolutely
assist a resistant to doing is taking the advice that our military and national security professions have tried to offer with the equipment, with the training that our aid pays for. and so you see these very ham-handed tactics that, again, make the problem worse. >> mr. chairman, my time is up. dr. dunne and mr. abrams, i have some questions that i'll submit for the record. my staff gave me a summary of everything you've already said, both of you, i was not only impressed as i fully expected i would be, but i'm very appreciative of it from both of you. i will, mr. chairman, add some other questions. >> thank you, senator leahy. senator moran. >> thank you very much. thank you all for joining us this afternoon. i'll try to do two or three quick questions.
what's the consequence to an alteration of the aid we provide egypt and the relationship between egypt and israel? the historic connection there exists. would you expect any consequences today if we alter the aid that we provide egypt? >> well, i would not, senator. we saw even doors the morsi period when there was fear he would change the relations with israel, he didn't touch that. good relations are in the interests of egypt. the army understands that. they're getting help in the sinai. i think the answer is no impact. >> anyone disagree? >> i don't disagree, but i would like to add something, senator. look, i think there's a good and bad side to the israel/egypt relationship. the good side is the military to
military operation. the not so good side is the people to people side, which is very weak, very cold. i agree with mr. abrams that the aid that the u.s. provides no longer drives this. and i would point out that there was a period during the obama administration, shortly after the military coup of 2013, in which much of the military assistance was suspended for more than a year. that was the heyday of egyptian/israeli relations. i think that really proved the point that the relationship now has its own logic, its own dynamic. >> thank you. i was looking for that kind of reassurance. mr.owsmalinowsky, you indicated with regard to ngos, why is restricting ngo activity a benefit to them? >> well, parts of it are more
logical, in a nasty way, than others. certainly if there's an ngo that is working on antitorture, and your police and security forces are engaged in torture, you may not want that ngo running around and making its reports. ngos that work on press freedom, on human rights issues, on any matter, or anticorruption, very important, any matter on which the government is likely to be exposed for doing bad things, it's natural that an authoritarian state like this would want to bring those ngos under control. what is interesting, and perhaps a bit less obviously rational, is that this crackdown has encompassed not just organizations working on what you might think are politically sensitive issues like the ones i mentioned, but virtually all
ngos that operate independently from the state. one of the problems we had last year in our esf program was, we had an ngo called rti, which is one of the big sort of usaid implementers that was working on education programs in egypt. totally innocuous, nonpolitical. and that organization became subject to a massive campaign of public public vilification in the state media, they're corrupting the youth, they're spreading homosexuality. the government uses this kind of nationalism, this anti-americanism, to vilify ngos of all stripes. and in that case, it resulted in
secretary kerry pleading with general el sisi, please, take our aid, do us the favor of taking our money. and in the end they wouldn't do it. they would take it if we wrote them a check, but they wouldn't do it through an independent ngo. we said, to heck with it, we're going to spend that money in tunisia, in iraq, in syria, in places where we are equally pressing interests but partners wanting to work with us. >> thank you very much. mr. abrams, you mentioned that egypt is purchasing russian military equipment. russian special forces have been dispatched to the western desert in egypt. since intervening in syria, there's been a lot of concern about russia asserting itself in the middle east. by changing how we provide aid, are we giving russians an opportunity for more influence in egypt and in the region as a whole? what's the consequences to
russia and its influence based on decisions we might make? >> i think one would have to say that there would be something of an opening for the russians. they, unlike the golf states which are giving tens of billions of dollars, the united states, we give about a billion and a half a year, the russians are not going to give them that kind of money. but they would be willing to make loans and sell arms equipment, and they throw their weight around in cairo. if they see a weakening of the u.s./egyptian relationship. the thing is they can't really replace us in terms of economic aid, in terms of military aid, in terms of technical assistance. but i think we would have to acknowledge that you might see a kind of resentful government of egypt talking to the russians more. they are doing -- for the first time in history, they are doing now a military exercise with the russians in the western desert. and they're doing that already,
while the aid hasn't been cut back a cent you. mig you might see more of that. >> senator shaheen. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you for holding this hearing, both you and senator leahy, and to all of our witnesses for your testimony. just to follow up a little bit on senator moran's question, might we expect that sisi would go back to the days of nasser where egypt played off russia against the united states in terms of future assistance? mr. abrams. >> i think you would see him threatening to do that. i think you would see that in the state press. it's hard for them. the whole military now, after all these decades, is really equipped with american stuff. now they're starting to diversify with these more recent purchases. but i think you certainly hear, if you will, threats of doing that. and the russians would love to take advantage of this, as we've seen in syria, they would like
to reassert themselves. for putin this would be a dream come true. so i don't -- you know, i think we have to acknowledge that there is a danger of the egyptians moving in that direction. >> did you want to comment on that, mr. malinowsky? >> i mean, i agree with mr. abrams. they will if we let them, in a way. it's an old game, right? and we remember that game in the cold war, where all kinds of authoritarian countries in the developing world would play us off against the soviet union. if you're not nice to us, we'll go to moscow, we'll go to beijing. and i hope we don't allow ourselves -- this is a much bigger question than just egypt. in this era of unfortunate great power, resume graduate power competition. i hope we don't allow our decision to be influenced too often by that kind of calculus, because all we would be doing is
empowering people like sisi to get what they want by making that trip to moscow, being pictured with putin, and scaring us into giving him more. i don't think that's in our interest. >> thank you. dr. dunne, did you want to add something? >> yes, thank you, senator. i just wanted to add, i think this is already happening, in effect. i think it will happen even if we continue providing the military aid at the full level, that clearly president el sisi admires putin a great deal, he said openly from the beginning that he approved of the russian intervention in syria and perhaps would feel the same way about libya, that he's ramping up the relationship with russia in a number of ways. i think he's going to move forward with that relationship even if we provide all the aid. >> thank you. to follow up, dr. dunne, i was struck by your testimony where you point out that under sisi,
egypt is moving to a state where, even more so than under mubarak, the interests of the few are what overrides decisionmaking, as opposed to interests of the many. remembering press reports about the brief time in which the islamic state controlled egypt, is -- and there were a number of reports about mainstream egyptian society. i'm probably using the wrong term there in terms of identifying who was concerned about that. but there was definitely -- there were definitely reports that there were many egyptians who were not happy with that situation and were feeling relieved and sisi actually took back control in egypt. so to what extent do we think
the egyptian people are happy with what sisi is doing and the direction that he's heading, and how do we speak to those -- to the people of egyptian in terms of the support that we want to provide? >> thank you, senator. look, i think that, you know, it's certainly true that while mohammed morsi of the muslim brotherhood was president of egypt, it was a very brief time. it was a year. you know, there were concerns -- >> yes, thank you. let me just correct. i think i said islamic state. i think i meant the muslim brotherhood. thank you for correcting me. >> thank you. there were concerns among more secular egyptians who don't consider themselves islamists, that the brotherhood would sort of try to bring about different expressions of islamic law, things like that. there definitely were concerns. the brotherhood through morsi
was in power a very brief time. they didn't have time to do that, and we can only imagine what they would have done. what they do to, as senator graham indicated earlier, was overplay their hand. they did a number of un-democratic things, they sort of manhandled the egyptian judiciary, and forced through a constitution that a lot of egyptians didn't agree with, right? so it's true, there was a lot of public resentment and opposition to morsi. i think unfortunately what the military did was use that to not only remove morsi but to end the democratic transition. and that is -- i don't think that is what most egyptians wanted. people went out in the millions in june 2013, calling for a new presidential election. they wanted a chance to vote again on whether or not morsi should continue his term or not. that's not what they got. they got an end to the whole thing and a restoration of
military rule in a much more direct and brutal way than they had under mubarak. sisi is growing increasingly unpopul unpopular. there's not much polling in egypt nowadays, but the little there is shows that because of his failure to deliver what he promised either in terms of security or in terms of improving the economy, egyptians are becoming disenchanted. but at this point, because he's thrown so many people in prison and eliminated so many opposition political forces, they really don't have many alternatives from which to choose. >> thank you. mr. malinowsky, the recent visit by president sisi saw the white house saying that they didn't want to make human rights an issue, a public issue. they preferred to work behind the scenes. president trump suggested that. is that a good approach for us to be taking when it comes to human rights issues in egypt? >> you won't be shocked to hear
me say no. and it's not just the impact on egypt that i'm concerned about. i'm somewhat pessimistic about our ability to influence egypt in any fundamental way right now. but when i was assistant secretary, i would often find in traveling around the world, in africa and asia, people would throw certain emblematic examples of american relationships with other countries in my face. and egypt was one of them. oh, you know, you're here, you're criticizing us, you're urging us to do this and that. look, in egypt, you're propping up. and i explain, okay, it's much more complicated, we're criticizing them and withholding some aid. the point is when the whole world sees the spectacle of the egyptian general coming to the white house and being praised in such a way by the president of
the united states, and then the statement that we won't talk about human rights publicly, i'm afraid it affects perceptions of what we stand for in the hearts and mind of people in every part of the world, in a negative way. i'm glad they got hijazi out of prison and i applaud president trump for bringing her to the white house when she returned, i applauded that action. but the way the visit itself was handled, i was very sad. >> me too. thank you all. >> senator koontz. >> thank you, chairman graham, and ranking member leahy, for convening the hearing, and our assembled witnesses. i must say, this is a very disheartening hearing, it's a reminder how challenging it is for us to pursue our three goals of promoting regional security, supporting american values, and defending human rights in a country that has received more than $70 billion in u.s. bilateral aid over many, many years. and many of the topics i had
thought i would address have already been discussed by others, so let me focus on a few specific questions. given the broad and intense crackdown on human rights that's been going on under the current government in egypt, i'm concerned about it undermining long term efforts to build any enduring political institutions or to successfully combat and defeat violent extremists. so first, there's a significant amount, if i understand right, of unobligated economic support funds, i think something like $600 million. there were reports last year, these were funds that multiple organizations had received as implementing partners of ours, but never got final approval from the egyptian government to continue their work. why is egypt delaying these funds? and why should we continue to provide funds when there is such a dramatic backlog? $600 million ain't chicken feed. that's real money and could make a significant difference in a country that has so many basic challenges, addressing the real human needs of its people.
i'm looking from any volunteer from the panel to address that one. >> thank you, senator. yes, unfortunately there is a long history of real problems between the united states government and the egyptian government in getting the economic support funds spent in a productive way. one thing, there have been disagreements sometimes about economic reforms. there has been egyptian government resistance. puzzlingly, even when sometimes there is agreement on steps to be taken, there was even specific programs agreed upon, and signed and so forth with egyptian ministries, there are times when the egyptian government then has obstructed the implementation of programs. i believe tom malinowsky was referring to just such a program of educational assistance that was to have been implemented by
rti. and so i think what this gets down to is a couple of things. one thing is that there is a deep xenophobia inside the egyptian government, particularly certain parts of the egyptian government. they fight very hard against people to people engagement between egyptians and foreign organizations, nongovernmental organizations and so forth. and they will try to block it, because of their deep suspicion. the other thing is that basically there are parts of the egyptian government, they really want the aid in cash. sometimes they will just try to stonewall programs in the hopes that it will eventually just be delivered in cash, as cash budget support, with few or no conditions. so there is a long history of this. and if you would permit me, senator, my own feeling about this is, this could usefully be
converted into something like, for example, a fund for scholarships, for university and vocational educational scholarships for egyptians, for the kind of training that they need that perhaps could be implemented with a minimum of egyptian government involvement. >> interesting. mr. malinowsky. >> so a while back, president sisi made a speech in which he mentioned a concept that he referred to as fourth generation warfare. what he meant by that, as other egyptian officials explained in detail, was an effort by the united states and other western countries to destroy egypt from within. i'm using their terms. by -- through these kind of assistance programs. subverting egyptian youth,
spreading western ideals, democratic ideals, human rights ideals, et cetera. we had a talk with him about that during the former administration, and about the broader problem of this anti-american propaganda. and we didn't hear as much of that personally from him subsequently. but certainly in the egyptian state media, pro government media, these kind of attacks on our aid providers, including rti, continued to the point where it became very, very difficult for them to continue to do their work. they worried about the safety of their egyptian employees, amongst other things. i totally agree that, you know, something like a scholarship program would be a great way to spend economic assistance money in egypt. it would be the thing probably above all that ordinary egyptians would appreciate. i'm not sure if we could implement it, because you can't
just do it remotely. you've got to have people there to do the selection and figure out, you know, who gets what. and i don't know if we could do that without risk. >> i have just a minute and a half left. two other countries. mr. abrams, i'll invite you to answer all of these in one move, if you could. some have called upon the trump administration to designate the muslim brotherhood as a terrorist organization. i would be interested, ms. dunne, if there is sufficient evidence to do so, what would the consequences be. and mr. abrams, you might combine a comment on esf with whether long term stability in egypt is possible without strengthening civil society. i would be interested in concerns you have about the attack on civil society. thank you. >> i just wanted to start by saying on the international cooperation question, part of the problem is the so-called ministry of international cooperation in cairo, which is about the least cooperative agency on the face of the earth
when it comes to implementing american aid programs. i will leave the mb answer to others. but no, you should not designate the muslim brotherhood as a terrorist organization. that would be i think a very foolish move. egypt is not going to be stable if there is nothing in it but the army and the opposition to the army. and if all of the civil society organizations that represent actually not just egyptians but represent american values, as it turns out, in egypt, like freedom of press and freedom of speech, freedom of association, free trade unions, are crushed by the state. that's going to weaken stability in egypt, not only in the long run, but i would say in the medium run. >> thank you. ms. dunne? >> briefly on the muslim brotherhood question, senator. first of all, no, i don't believe the evidence exists. first of all, there isn't anything really globally called the muslim brotherhood. but let's just look at the
egyptian muslim brotherhood itself. i don't think the evidence exists that they are carrying out actions that meet the u.s. legal standard of terrorist activity. second of all, i would say that i think if the united states decided to designate, regardless, even without the evidence, it would be handing a major victory to isis, because they are the ones who have argued that, you know, only violence works, and therefore that those islamists who tried to pursue change through political or other means were fools. >> thank you very much. i appreciate the whole panel. thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this hearing. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you to the witnesses for coming today. foreign assistance can advance human interests abroad, whether it be aid or economic support. that being said, it's essential that the programs are being
administered in an open fashion to prevent use by inappropriate recipients. the significance of accountability was further highlighted by the recent horrific terrorist attacks on coptic christians and others in egypt. ensuring that u.s. taxpayer dollars and equipment does not end up in the wrong hands is certainly of utmost importance. dr. dunne, in terms of egyptian political stability, what do you see as the potential best and worst case scenarios for the next two to three years? >> thank you, senator. look, the best case scenario would be that, you know, some sort of a return to a more open political process in which more people can participate, a turn away from repression and human rights abuses, a change in the
economic policies towards something that's a little more private sector oriented a and oriented toward general rating jobs for ordinary egyptians. i wish i could say that's a more likely scenario, but i haven't seen indications that it is going that way. the worst case scenario, there is a possibility of sort of political unrest similar to what happened in 2011. what's even worse than that, though, would be if the insurgency that is based in sinai and the individual cells related to isis that we see starting to pop up in the egyptian mainland were to really take off, you know, into a kind of a larger insurgency. that's my fear about the egyptian government's approach right now, that they are actually driving toward this insurgency becoming a much larger -- a larger thing and really destabilizing the country. >> thank you. so when you think about the u.s. relationship with egypt,
particularly continued u.s. support for president sisi, what are the potential benefits as well as the risks ahead of the next egyptian presidential election? >> yes, senator, as you point out, so president sisi's term ends about a year from now in may of 2018. and i do think the united states has to be careful about the signal that we send, that we should be supporting egypt as a nation, the egyptians as a people, and making a vote for a positive future for egypt without endorsing necessarily president sisi himself or the specific policies that he's pursuing, because many of them are quite troubling. >> mr. abrams, in your testimony you state that the egyptian military remains a force designated -- or excuse me, designed to conduct conventional war, not to fight terrorism. with that in mind, the previous
administration proposed to require military assistance to egypt to be directed to be used for, and i quote, counterterrorism, border security, sinai security, and maritime security. are these appropriate and effective conditions? >> i think it's the right idea. i think the problem in part is that that may be what we direct our aid to, but if the egyptian military meanwhile is buying, you know, submarines, which they do not need to combat terrorism, buying high performance combat jets, which they do not need to combat terrorism, they're wasting an awful lot of the resources. we're pouring it in, but they're pouring it out at the wrong end. i think what the obama administration did to try to push them in the right direction was the right thing to do, and i would hope the congress would continue it. >> what conditions might you recommend to ensure that u.s. assistance is used effectively
and does advance our interests? >> first, we continue to insist that it be used on a certain kind of program, a certain kind of weapon system. i also think they need for training to do this in a way that suggests that they're killing terrorists rather than civilians. the egyptian military has said, it's in testimony, they've killed about 2500 isis people in sinai and captured 2500, that's 5,000. but the cia estimates that onthe are only between 500 and a thousand anyway. so these numbers are not reliable. i think we need to have conversations with the egyptian military in which they are more honest with us about what they're doing and in which they are not creating jihadis by attacking civilians in sinai, creating sympathy for the sinai province of isis. >> so many of us were back home
the last couple of weeks, and if you talk to the man or woman on the street, if they were here on this dais, and where asked the question, are u.s. interests served by sending u.s. taxpayer dollars to egypt and why should america care, i'll let mr. abrams answer that, how would you respond, talking to the person on the street? as oftentimes we're having to justify it, we go back home, the significant amount of dollars that are sent overseas. >> the latter part i think we can say is in a sense easier. we have learned the hard way that terrorism that emerges in the middle east doesn't stay in the middle east. so we're talking here about terrorist groups, the strength or weakness of terrorist groups that seek ultimately to attack the united states. whether a billion three for egypt, looking at the global question of combating terrorism, whether a billion three for egypt can really be defended today i think is a lot harder to explain to your constituents.
>> dr. dunne, egypt's economy has grown in recent decades, you pointed that out, it still faces challenges in private sector growth. unemployment, especially for young people, egyptians under the age of 30. how would you recommend the united states help boost egypt's economy? and do you see opportunities in the ag and potentially natural resource sectors? >> thank you, senator. so i've already mentioned that i do think the united states should support human development, the development of the egyptian labor force, so young egyptians coming into the market have good skills through our education, which is highly valued. on the job creation side, you know, we really have this problem with egyptian government policies not supporting -- not changing their policies in such a way as to support the private sector, small and medium enterprises, it could be the agriculture sector is one of the
promises sectors in egypt. so what we can do, i think we've been trying to do some things through the egyptian american enterprise fund. the united states has established this fund, and, you know, i think it's starting to do some things that set a good example of how one would encourage small and medium enterprises and so forth. but admittedly, this is a very, very tough one. and several administrations have tried and not been successful in getting the egyptian government to change its policies in such a way as to really generate jobs. it's a very tough one. what we can do is try to set a good example and do the best thing we can do, a little bit of good with the amount of aid that we're comfortable providing. >> thanks, dr. dunne. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman, thank you all for your testimony today. dr. dunne, i think you're right on the mark when you said
there's absolutely no way the egyptian people bargained for the kind of repressive regime that they have today. 60,000 political prisoners, journalists being locked up, that's not what the egyptian people asked for. i can also sense all of us are obviously frustrated, because we are struggling with how we can better use our leverage and influence with egypt, which over a period of time has been a close ally of the united states. and i think you all made the case very well that the united states is less reliant on egypt's sort of standing in the region. i think it's also fair to say from egypt's perspective, they're a little less reliant on the united states given the amount of money they're getting from the gulf states and other potential limits. that's not to say we don't have leverage. so this committee is going to have to make specific conditions on where we go on military
assistance and economic conditions. thank you, dr. dunne, for your suggestions with respect to the economic assistance. i would like to get from all of you where you stand on the following things. should congress put in a restrictions that continues the obama administration's prohibition on the cash flow financing? should we put that in the legislation? yes. all three, yes. okay. now, senator danes raised a question about limiting the military assistance to the four pillars that the obama administration had laid out. counterterrorism, border security, sinai security, maritime security. mr. abrams, you pointed out that there is a lot of flexibility in those categories. based on your testimony, it sounds to me like you all might support actually a tightening of those categories and making it even more focused on counterterrorism in the sinai, maybe some strict border
security type actions. is that the case? >> yes. >> all right. >> yes. and i would add, access to the sinai for our people. i would add for journalists. ngos would be an important piece of this. i mean, if we're going to be serious about counterinsurgency, there's got to be accountability that goes with it. one of the outrageous demands that we made, quote unquote, outrageous demands we made on the egyptians, if we're going to be giving you all of this help in the sinai, maybe you should allow our people to go there and see what's going on. and that was not received with great enthusiasm. >> i hear you. dr. dunne. >> yes. and look, the gao report from a year ago spoke about the very serious problems the united states has had with end use monitoring and human rights
vetting that are required by our laws based on obstruction by the egyptian government. so i think we need to take another look at that and be serious about that, especially in view of these very troubling recent reports about extrajudicial killings. >> and would you all support a continuation of the 15% withholding unless there is a certification that the egyptian government is making progress toward more democracy and human rights? >> actually, i would raise it, because the last year has been really horrendous for human rights. so i would at least ask you to consider going to 20 or 25. >> i would agree with that. and i think also that at a more basic level, as long as we continue to keep the $1.3 billion in fmf on sort of ougau pilot and they know it's going to be approved every year and it's just a question of how we do it, that's another thing that removes some u.s. leverage. i think it's time for a sort of
ground-up assessment of what is really needed to help egypt effectively and in a way that we think we can monitor and respect our own laws and so forth in doing. >> i strongly agree with dr. dunne. keeping the 15% is better than nothing, but i think a much more fundamental assessment is needed. the basic problem is that egypt does not view this assistance as having a policy purpose. this is not money that america is giving us to help us achieve something. it is owed. it is part of a deal that was struck decades ago. and that mentality i think is what i could not explain to your constituents, and that needs to be broken. >> fair enough. so a provision extending the ban on the cash flow financing,
conditions that limit the aid that we do provide, the military assistance that we do provide to an even narrower category, and then expanding the amount withheld or reducing the overall amount based on the current conditions. in terms of the current conditions for withholding, did you have any suggestions there? do you think the criteria are the right ones? >> i think i would need to look at them again in light of what's happening on the ground right now. i mean, i think they're the right categories. but we always want to try to hone them to the daily realities. >> okay. and my last question is, assuming the senate accepts these recommendations and we move forward with these conditions, obviously the egyptian government won't like it, but what do you believe
their reaction will be? do you think that they will move forward with us, using this leverage in the way we're talking about? i assume your judgment is that this is a moment where we say to the egyptians, this is not on all pilot, we are serious about this, and you believe that that will have, in the long term, a beneficial result? >> i don't think the egyptians are going to walk away. the aid is still very significant. and it's very significant for the military, which is president sisi's base of support. if you cut the aid, "you" meaning the congress, is that the administration will play good cop/bad cop in what is potentially a very useful way. >> and i would add to that, senator, that clearly president sisi is eager to have a good relationship with president trump, he's sought that avidly
from the time of the campaign until now. and so -- and, you know, and the administration has indicated that they're going to have a fresh look at aid. i was struck by the fact that during president sisi's visit he did not get a promise, it seems, from the administration to keep aid on auto pilot. so there is a moment here. i think that can be used to redefine the relationship in a way that's more in our interests. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. >> thank you all for a very, very helpful hearing as we try to go forward. we're about to do hopefully this week fy '17. but we'll take all this in terms of fy '18. it's going to be a real budget struggle. we've got to find a way to replace sequestration caps, 29% cut to the state department is just unacceptable. but the reason we have this hearing is we all care, i care about egypt. i want to have a good relationship with egypt. what i see is disheartening. i'm not asking egypt to do what i'm telling them. i'm asking egypt to listen to their people who went out in the
streets in 2011. and to me, this is not what they bargained for. i don't think they got what they bargained for from mr. morsi and i don't think they got what they hoped for from the current regime, the current administration. and as to the taxpayer dollars we have, i think we're obligated to spend them wisely, consistent with our values. as to what egypt might do, i don't know what they might do. i just know what we need to do. we need to reshape the relationship in a way that's sustainable. a good outcome for egypt is a good outcome for us. and what's a good outcome? that everybody share in the benefits of the economy. that the military is a strong institution but it's not the most dominant player in the economy. and that political parties can form and people can have their voices heard without fear. these are simple things that we take for granted but have stood
the test of time. and that's not the direction we're headed. as to what they might do with russia or any other country, i just hope they understand that we want to be friendly but i don't think it's wise to hook your wagon to putin. i don't think he's long for this world. i think what he offers russia over time will be rejected. it's just been a time for the russian people to realize that putin has played them for a fool, ripped them off, put their country and economy at risk. and i hope egypt will take a new direction, not march toward putin but march away from him, march back to the square where it all started. with that, the hearing is adjourned. we'll have a next hearing on may 9th on democracy programs. and sometime later about the fy 2018 budget. thank you all for coming. the hearing is adjourned. [ applause ] [ indiscernible conversation ]
president trump will mark his 100th day in office with a rally in harrisburg, pennsylvania saturday night. it's scheduled to start at 7:30 eastern. and you'll be able to watch it live on our companion network, c-span. for the first time since ronald reagan was shot, the president is not attending the white house correspondents' association dinner. the dinner is going on nonetheless. you'll be able to watch it live on c-span. coverage begins 9:30 eastern on saturday. check out our c-span classroom website at c-span.org/classroom. it's full of free teaching resources for classroom members. the improved layout gives teachers easy access to ready to go resources for the classroom, including videos that highlight important events in washington, dc, constitution clips that
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classroom discussion on a variety of topics that are current and relevant today. >> if you're a middle or high school teacher, become a member of c-span classroom. it's free and easy to register. if you register now, you can request our free classroom size american presidents timeline poster, a graphic display of the biographies of all 45 presidents. find out more about it at c-span.org/classroom. this morning, the senate foreign relations committee held a hearing on the ongoing civil conflict in libya and what role the u.s. and its allies should take. a former u.s. ambassador to libya and a middle east specialist testified at the hearing. it's about an hour and 40 minutes. >> i'm going to go ahead and start. i know our other witness will be out in just a moment. the foreign relations committee will come to order. we thank all those for