Yesterday, Egyptian security forces raided about a dozen NGO offices. It appears the affected NGOs worked on human rights or democracy promotion. At least two prominent US-funded NGOs, ‘loosely affiliated’ with the Democratic and Republican parties, were targeted.
Everything about this NGO raid hits sour or contradictory notes:
There are three plausible explanations behind the raid:
1. The military council is thumbing its nose at the US, a benefactor that contributes $1.5 billion/year to the military’s existence, sending a signal for the US to butt out of Egyptian politics or at least stop imposing itself as a referee between the military and competing political interests.
2. The military once again took dramatic action with little thought, foresight or purpose in an attempt to frighten its domestic opposition.
3. The NGO raid is purely a diversion, like the Israeli Embassy attack by soccer thugs or the ‘clash’ between Christians and Muslims this summer. Nobody in a targeted NGO is going to be killed. A few Egyptians, though no foreign nationals, might be arrested in connection with the raids. That would compare with the thousands of activists jailed by the regime since last Spring.
It’s in the Generals’ interests to focus world opinion on a relatively soft ball conflict (that they can easily resolve) and away from the repressive tactics used by SCAF against pro-democracy groups as well as SCAF’s anti-democratic plans for writing a new constitution.
I’ll take the third. These NGOs are no more a threat to today’s military council’s leadership than they were to Mubarak yesterday. The only real threats to the military council is the potential of democratic forces to effectively use upcoming elections and claim legitimacy for a new government. Forcing the State Department to respond to the NGO raids takes the spotlight off State’s ineffective demand that SCAF hold early elections and a quickly complete a full turnover of power to civilian authority.
BTW, the US government shouldn’t be funding ‘democracy institutes’ and other such groups in foreign countries. Period. Beginning with the post WW2 Italian elections, the CIA poured huge amounts of clandestine funding to determine the outcome of elections in both the developed and developing world. Such funding only gives credibility to the Assad’s and Qaddafi’s who accuse home-grown protest movements of being controlled by foreign forces.
Quite frankly, I’d also like to know what ‘democracy promotion’ programs the US government carries out, as well as why and how.