While the Egyptian military made international headlines when they raided the offices of the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute a couple days before New Year’s, accusing the organizations of instigating protests and mucking around with opposition, the Egyptian press is telling a different story about who really is buying the Egyptian elections:
The daily Akhbar El Yom newspaper has published excerpts from the Ministry of Justice’s report on foreign funding of NGOs. Since summertime there has been a witch hunt on, as foreign funding – particularly Western funding – is viewed as foreign intervention and manipulation of Egyptian society. The fact-finding committee, headed by judges Sameh Abu Zaid and Ashraf El-Ashamawi, discovered that a single Salafist association has received LE296 million ($50mn) from two Gulf countries. According to the report, the Salafist Ansar El-Sonna association received LE181.7 million ($30mn) from Qatar and LE114.5 million ($19mn) from Kuwait, which was approved by former Minister of Social sSlidarity Ali Meslahi on February 12, 2011.
Herein lays the danger of Obama’s leading from behind. The Obama administration has preferred to work through Persian Gulf allies like Qatar not only in Egypt but also in Libya, untroubled by the fact that Qatar has its own agenda, one that does not often coincide with Western liberalism or democracy. The danger goes beyond simply the current occupant of the White House and infects the Republican foreign policy establishment, as well. It’s certainly a good idea to embrace allies wherever the United States can find them, but that should never mean vacating our own responsibility or side-stepping our own vision and goals for the region.