In the coming days, Egypt will elect a new president. This will be a historic moment for the people of Egypt and an important step in the journey that they began more than three years ago, when millions took to the streets to demand change.
The U.S. administration’s response to the events in Egypt that began on June 30, 2013, sent mixed signals to the Egyptian people and to our allies in the region. It is my hope that a free and fair election in Egypt will provide the U.S. government with an opportunity to fully re-engage this critically important strategic partner.
I do not view events in Egypt through rose-colored glasses. As Chairman of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, I assess our relationship with Egypt in these clear terms: Does it advance our national security; is it a good-faith partner for peace with Israel; and will it contribute to the stability of the Middle East? To all three questions, even at this time of a difficult transition, the answer is, “Yes.”
Egypt is trying to emerge from decades of military rule and build a sustainable democracy, all amid a deadly ongoing battle against radical Islamic terrorism. This transition will not be resolved overnight. In the meantime, the United States must remain focused on our long-term interests in the region. I believe our interests will suffer if we fail to support Egypt. This is why I have been persistent in demanding clarity from the Administration about their approach.
As a strategic partner with Egypt, the U.S. can help guide Egypt toward a durable, representative and genuine democracy. But let me be clear: We are not in a position to dictate outcomes. In a region that is on fire with sectarian violence and terrorism, Egypt is one of our country’s few reliable friends. Relationships among intelligence and military leaders go back decades, providing our officials with an invaluable resource in the fight against terrorism. We cannot allow what happened in Pakistan to happen in Egypt, where we ended a critical relationship in the 1990s and sacrificed a generation of close strategic cooperation. When we needed to re-engage with Pakistan after 9/11, we had to start from scratch. Trust, once lost, is not easily regained.
Today, Egypt requires assistance and support to defeat the same terrorists that we have been fighting in Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq. Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri has called for terrorists to kill Egyptian security officials, members of the military, civilians and tourists alike. As a result, hundreds have been killed at the hands of Islamic fanatics in Sinai, Cairo and elsewhere. As jihadi groups and radical terrorism continue to metastasize in ungoverned regions from Libya to Syria to Yemen, we simply cannot allow Egypt to follow the same fate. Given these circumstances, the suspension of assistance to Egypt was not just premature and shortsighted, it was dangerous. I was encouraged when the Administration announced it would release some military aid to Egypt, including the 10 Apache helicopters so central to the fight against terrorism. But this is only a first step.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.