On behalf of the Working Group on Egypt, Michele Dunne of the Atlantic Council and Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution have sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concerning disturbing activity in Egypt.

We write to express our grave concern about the assault last week by the Egyptian authorities on Egyptian and international civil society groups,” the foreign policy experts write. “These latest actions undermine the already unsteady progress toward democracy in Egypt and raise serious doubts about whether the current military authorities will permit a successful transition from Army rule.”

These “actions go to the heart of what constitutes democracy,” they write, since the institutions that were raided are integral to promoting democracy in Egypt.

As Elliott Abrams (himself a member of the Working Group on Egypt) wrote, “Cairo raids on human rights organizations were . . . an effort to weaken and demonize centrist and liberal forces. The raids on Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, the Adenauer Foundation, and other groups helping Egyptians move toward respect for democratic politics and human rights were of a piece with the practices of Hosni Mubarak—only bolder and more repressive.”

Therefore, the Working Group on Egypt urges Clinton to suspend immediately “provision of all U.S. military aid . . . until Egyptian military authorities reverse their recent actions and demonstrate their commitment to the democratic process and to permitting human rights groups to conduct their activities without harassment or interference.” That’s because it is against U.S. law to provide the aid so long as the State Department cannot “certify” that “the Government of Egypt is supporting the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections; implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law.”

Such action is needed, the experts write, because “If the United States does not respond firmly, this will be read both by the Egyptian authorities, and more importantly, by the Egyptian people as acquiescence to the Egyptian authorities' assault on civil society and the democratic process.”

The United States simply should not provide assistance to an Egyptian military that treats as criminals other Egyptians who also receive U.S. aid,” the Working Group on Egypt concludes. “The United States must show that if the military insists on continuing its disastrous course, it will do so without the support of the U.S. taxpayer.”

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