White House officials are reportedly drafting plans to make US foreign aid conditional on how countries treat their religious minorities, in an effort that is seen as a sop to Christian evangelicals in Donald Trump’s base.
The move, which threatens to impose further constraints on a US foreign aid policy already heavily restricted under the Trump administration, was first reported by Politico after briefings from White House aides.
The aides suggested the US Commission on International Religious Freedom listings could be used for identifying which countries should have their aid withheld.
According to the report, the proposal could also be extended to include US military assistance with a potential impact on countries from Iraq to Vietnam and India. The commission’s “Tier 1” designated countries – regarded as the most serious offenders – include US partners such as Saudi Arabia as well as adversaries like Iran.
Critics point out that a number of key regional partners of the US, including Iraq and India, have been accused of restricting religious minority rights leading to the suspicion that any new restrictions are likely to be used selectively.