Today’s Top News

March 16, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Smart Power

Despite Rights Concerns, U.S. Plans to Resume Egypt Aid (Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times)

The Obama administration plans to resume military aid to Egypt, American officials said on Thursday, signaling its willingness to remain deeply engaged with the generals now running the country despite concerns over abuses and a still-uncertain transition to democracy.  To restart the aid, which has been a cornerstone of American relations with Egypt for more than three decades, the administration plans on sidestepping a new Congressional requirement that for the first time directly links military assistance to the protection of basic freedoms.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to waive the requirement on national security grounds as soon as early next week, according to administration and Congressional officials.

U.S. Seeking Use of Funds to Aid Russian Democracy (David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times)

The Obama administration is pushing to free $50 million in long-stalled aid to promote democracy and civil society in Russia, an effort that comes amid a drumbeat of accusations that the United States is meddling in Russia’s internal politics.  The money, held up for years in Congress, represents some of the proceeds from an unusual foreign aid program in which tax dollars were invested in the formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia to help them develop into market economies.

For the most part, the investments turned out to be profitable and the money was reinvested. In recent years some of the proceeds were returned to the Treasury, while some money has been redirected to create foundations that provide foreign aid.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Majority of Americans Don’t Support Intervention in Syria (Sara Sorcher, National Journal)

Despite some defense hawks’ calls for military intervention in Syria, a new national survey shows a majority of Americans are opposed to bombing President Bashar al-Assad’s forces or arming the Syrian rebels in their fight against him.  62% of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press opposed bombing the Syrian military, and 63% were against sending weapons to groups fighting Assad. A similar number, 64%, said the U.S. does not have a responsibility to act in Syria.  This opinion stretched across party lines.

Arab Spring Countries Face Long Recovery, Official Says (Paul Hannon, The Wall Street Journal)

The economic transformation of Arab Spring countries will take a long time and won’t immediately produce more and better jobs, the head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said on Thursday.  EBRD President Thomas Mirow said expectations in those countries that have embarked on economic and political change are “impossibly huge” and must be managed to head of the possibility that “disillusion will lead to extremism and instability.” (The EBRD) has been asked by its government shareholders—including the U.S. and European Union members—to reprise that role in four North African and Middle Eastern nations: Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan.  Mr. Mirow said the international environment is now less favorable to change than it was after the fall of communism, with cash-strapped governments in Europe and elsewhere less able to provide significant financial help.