Washington D.C. – Congressman Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks, as prepared for delivery, at today’s full committee hearing “Next Steps on Egypt Policy."

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this important hearing. And thanks to our distinguished witnesses for joining us today. You all have very difficult jobs and I appreciate your service.”

“In managing America’s foreign policy, there are times when our ideals and our security interests don’t conveniently align. The situation in Egypt today is case-in-point.”

“For the time being, the Egyptian military’s recent removal of President Morsi has replaced one autocratic government with another. Over the last three months more than 1,000 people have been killed in a crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters. Freedom of the press remains stifled. The economy is rattled by instability. And religious minorities don’t feel safe in their own communities.”

“Yet the government the military replaced was no paragon of virtue. It is true that President Morsi won a reasonably free-and-fair democratic election with 52% of the vote. But at the time this rushed election took place, the Muslim Brotherhood was the only organized political institution in the country.”

“Morsi famously promised to rule "for all Egyptians," but upon taking office, he failed to uphold basic democratic values and treated his election victory as a license to rule in any way he saw fit.”

“President Morsi issued decrees that sacked the prosecutor-general, immunized presidential decisions from judicial review, and shielded the Islamist-dominated Shura council and the constituent assembly from dissolution.”

“He forced through a referendum on a new constitution that favored Islamist and conservative positions. His government drafted an NGO law that essentially placed civil society under state control. His judiciary raised bogus cases against journalists and activists. His economic ineptitude kept investors and tourists away and drove the Egyptian economy to the brink of collapse. And he took no meaningful steps to protect minorities, or to institutionalize respect for human rights in Egypt’s government or society.”

“By the time the Egyptian military took the extraordinary step of removing Egypt’s first democratically elected President from power, Morsi was a President in name only. He had already brought his country to the brink of collapse, and was no longer a legitimate ruler in the eyes of the majority of the Egyptian people.”

“Indeed, the future that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had in mind for Egypt was one that would have been devastating to most Egyptians, to American interests, and the interests of our allies in the region.”

“It is important to recognize that the Brotherhood’s early doctrines provided the intellectual and theological underpinnings for numerous militant Sunni Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas. And while the Brotherhood officially renounced violence and terrorism in the 1970s, they have continued to operate in Egypt as a shadow state hoping to one day institutionalize Sharia law and build an Islamic caliphate through the region.”

“So in the wake of Egypt’s most recent leadership transition, we must ask ourselves a simple question – are Egyptians and the United States better off with a Muslim Brotherhood-led government that was taking Egypt in a very dangerous and un-democratic direction? Or with a military-backed government that is slowly moving to a re-boot of Egyptian democracy? I think the answer is clear.”

“Immediately after the transition in July I supported the temporary halt in F-16 deliveries to Egypt because I thought it sent a simple message the that the US was concerned about Egypt’s instability. But today I do not believe that suspending military aid will make the Egyptian government more democratic, or make it easier for the United States to influence its behavior in the future. In fact, I think it’s more likely to have the opposite effect. And I’m afraid it could jeopardize the close US-Egypt military cooperation that we have worked so hard to build over the last several decades.”

“This cooperation supports critical U.S. national security interests in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. Our close relationship means that U.S. navy ships are granted special access to the Suez Canal. U.S. military aircraft are allowed to overfly Egyptian airspace. Our military and intelligence services cooperate on numerous regional security issues. The Egyptian military strives to keep the Sinai safe and protect the Egyptian-Israeli border. And we cannot forget that Egypt fought side by side with us to expel Iraq from Kuwait in the first Gulf War.”

“It’s clear that the Egyptian military has made some serious mistakes in managing the ongoing transition. I condemn the violence used to break up opposition sit-ins last August and urge the military to refrain from using similar tactics in the future. I also hope they will support the creation of an inclusive government that reflects the interests of all Egyptians. But if I were given the choice between the military and the Brotherhood, I’ll take the military every time – understanding that this is a choice for the Egyptian people.”

“Finally, with regard to economic assistance, I wanted to take a moment to express my strong support for funding the U.S.-Egypt Enterprise Fund, for which the Administration has recently requested approval from the Congress. This Fund is an excellent example of how we can leverage relatively modest amounts of funding to encourage significant private sector investments into Egypt’s economy. It’s my hope that we can look past our disagreements on other parts of the Egypt aid package and quickly approve funding for this program.”

“During this fragile period we should be rebuilding partnerships in Egypt that enhance our bilateral relationship and support regional stability, and I hope the Administration will reconsider its decision to suspend most military aid to Egypt.”

“Once again, I’d like to thank Chairman Royce for holding this hearing, and I look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses.”


Related Coverage
Watch Rep. Engel's opening statement here