U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement at a full committee hearing on the next steps in U.S. policy toward Egypt. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"Thanks to Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for holding this important hearing because it has not been easy due to the Administration's uneasiness in addressing the American people's concerns about the dire situation in Egypt and whatever the Administration's policies toward Egypt might be today. It is ever changing.
By failing to act decisively before, during and after the Morsi era, we have lost so much credibility and leverage in Egypt. For not disavowing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from the start, the moderate, secular and religious minorities in Egypt felt betrayed and believed that the international community was supporting terrorists at their expense.
Morsi may have won an election, but we all know that elections alone do not make a democracy. During his time, Morsi failed to live up to the principles of a democratic society; he oversaw a crackdown on civil society, free speech and human rights, imposed burdensome restrictions on the media and imprisoned a high number of journalists.
The uptick in confrontations in Egypt is a stark reminder that the transition to a new democracy is not an easy task, but that is no excuse for anyone to resort to violence. The Obama Administration must act responsibly and prioritize our foreign policy objectives in Egypt. It's disappointing that the Administration recently suspended some aid to Egypt without consulting with Congress.
We must use whatever leverage in our foreign assistance program to persuade the interim Egyptian government to act responsibly, to return to the path of democracy and to protect the rights of all Egyptians. The balance of Egypt and the stability of the Middle East may depend on it."
"The Morsi experiment in Egypt was doomed to fail and our Administration's lack of a coherent and consistent Egypt policy is part of this pathetic state of affairs. Morsi ruled as a dictator, yet for all of his transgressions, the Obama Administration did not seek to curtail the amount of U.S. taxpayer dollars we kept sending to Egypt.
We did not make access to that money conditioned upon Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood-led government meeting even minimal democratic reform benchmarks. Now Morsi has been removed from power, and violent clashes continue between pro-Muslim Brotherhood forces and the interim Egyptian government.
The U.S. continued to fully fund Egypt after Mubarak was ousted. During that time the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces assumed control of the government and under its watch there was an unprecedented crackdown on pro-democracy groups that resulted in the arrests of 43 NGO workers, many of whom were American. Since then, the 43 workers were convicted in a ruling that had no basis in the rule of law - yet no aid was suspended, or recalibrated. No one turned off the spigot.
It's appalling that this Administration has not prioritized the overturning of these politically motivated convictions.
· When will the Administration push for Egyptian authorities to pardon these human rights advocates and what are you doing to support civil society programs in Egypt?
· Is the U.S. Government advocating specific reforms that it would like to see in the new NGO law? What are those?
Earlier this month the State Department said that the U.S.-Egypt relationship will be strongest when Egypt is represented by an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government based on the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and an open and competitive economy. But we've lost credibility and leverage throughout the Middle East due to our erratic policies in Egypt.
Many Gulf nations have stated their frustration due to this Administration handling of Egypt and Syria issues, and because of our misplaced faith in the rhetoric of Rouhani in Iran.
· What are the benchmarks that will be used to assess the progress of Egypt's transition toward democracy, and what, if any, assurances has the Egyptian government given that it is willing to cooperate?"