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Dear President Obama: Freedom and Democracy Must Come First in Egypt

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Dear President Obama:

As you embark this week on your visit to Saudi Arabia we write to you out of deep concern with regard to the policy of the United States and its allies in the region.

Despite your assurances to the Muslim world in 2009 in Ankara and Cairo that your administration would support the promotion and spread of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, your administration's record in the last year shows that such pronouncements were not backed by concrete policies and actions. No less than the future of the Middle East and the credibility of the United States are at stake.

Millions of people -- especially youth -- were inspired by the hope of the Arab Spring, but the military coup in Egypt last July dashed their aspirations for freedom and human dignity. You have always reminded the world that responsible leaders must be on the right side of history. This is just such a moment that should not be wasted.

Support for freedom and democracy in Egypt and the Arab world must trump any false notion of maintaining temporary stability promised by an iron fist regime with the barrel of a gun. If the United States does not take an unambiguous position and demonstrate unmistaken resolve against Egypt's current undemocratic path, and if your administration decides to resume suspended aid programs in the face of growing repression and brutality, your words on democracy and human rights will ring hollow. Furthermore, we urge you to instruct Secretary of State John Kerry not to certify that Egypt has met congressionally mandated conditions on democracy under current conditions.

Moreover, several long-term allies in the region led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have unfortunately been strong supporters of the military-backed regime in Egypt and of the forces of authoritarianism in the region.

We urge you to take this opportunity to make it clear to all the regimes that democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, and the application of the highest standards of human rights are the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region.

The United States must also condemn the brutal tactics of the army-backed regime in Egypt as well as its security and propaganda campaigns, which are being used to suppress dissent and reconstitute a police state.

During your visit to Saudi Arabia we urge you to commit to the values that you declared in your 2012 State of the Union, in which you stated that the United States "will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings" and that "it will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies... because tyranny is no match to liberty."

Mr. President, leadership is about seizing the moment to change the course of history for the betterment of humanity. This is just such a moment that must not be relinquished.

Sincerely,
Douglas Bandow, former Special Assistant to President Ronald Regan
Jonathan Brown, Georgetown University
Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Larry Diamond, Stanford University
Michael C. Desch, University of Notre Dame
Mohamed Fadel, University of Toronto
Richard Falk, Princeton University
Norman Finkelstein
Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
Ricardo R. Laremont, SUNY Binghamton, Atlantic Council
Marina Ottaway, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Emad Shahin, American University in Cairo
Robert Springborg, Naval Postgraduate School