Senator Lindsey Graham wants billions in emergency funds for Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 07, 2016 10:50 AM

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator Lindsey Graham said on Thursday he would seek an emergency appropriation of "multiple billions" of dollars to help Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon as they try to cope with the fallout from the war with Islamic State.

Graham, who recently returned from a trip to the region, said the three countries are facing severe stresses as a result of the political and refugee crisis caused by the Syrian civil war and the overrun of parts of Syria and Iraq by Islamic State.

"One thing I'm going to talk... about is an emergency appropriation that would help Egypt, Jordan and probably Lebanon to deal with the stresses they're facing," said Graham, chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign aid.

He said he also wanted money for Israel to help protect its borders, especially with Syria.

Graham said he expected opposition from budget hawks, mostly his fellow Republicans.

He said he expected Democratic support, although he acknowledged deep concern from some, including Senator Patrick Leahy, the party's leader on his subcommittee, about Egypt's human rights record.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted former President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against Mursi's rule. Sisi then launched a crackdown on dissent, drawing allegations from rights groups of abuse, which his government denies.

Sisi initially gained the support of millions of Egyptians, who saw him as a decisive figure who could deliver stability. But that support has thinned as the public has grown frustrated with unemployment and high prices.

Graham said Egypt is too crucial an ally, to both the United States and Israel, not to bolster Sisi's government militarily to fight terrorism, and economically, if he improves on human rights.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Graham said he would ask the Pentagon to approve Egypt's requests for additional military equipment.

"If al-Sisi did something that would be seen by me and others as a real serious move on the rights front, it makes it easier for a guy like me to help," he said.

Longer term, Graham said he wanted a "Marshall Plan" for the region, similar to what Washington provided to Europe after World War Two.

"We need to think broadly as a nation about some kind of Marshall Plan for front-line states that would allow Egypt to have access to low-interest loans, preferential trade agreements and bolstering their civil society," he said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)