The concerns expressed by both Granger and Ros-Lehtinen center on Egypt’s conservative Islamist government and its direction. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood tightened its control over the civilian government this summer. That gave the IMF and the United States a negotiating partner to help iron out economic assistance but also raised alarms among conservatives over Egypt’s potential anti-Western, anti-Israel tilt. The government’s tepid initial response to the attack on the U.S. embassy only heightened those concerns.
Middle East experts, however, argue that stabilizing the Egyptian economy is in America’s interests; economic stagnation, as much as the absence of civil liberties, motivated protesters to first take to the streets as part of the Arab Spring. And the economy has only gotten worse for Egyptians since, particularly because the tumultuous security environment has scared away foreign visitors and strangled the tourism sector.
The Egyptian government and American officials alike recognize that prolonged economic trouble could jeopardize the new democracy and spark another round of uprisings.
As the Arab world’s most populous country, Egypt is now a bellwether for the democratic transitions taking place elsewhere, and any reversal would have reverberations around the region. Its stability is also crucial for Israel’s security.
Administration officials plan to continue making those arguments on the Hill in the coming weeks.
U.S. officials also hope to leverage the IMF loan and bilateral U.S. economic aid and debt relief to convince other countries, particularly wealthy Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to pitch in with assistance.