The Obama administration has decided to hold part of the $1.23 billion the United States gives to the Egyptian military each year. It could halt aid on a more permanent basis after a review process is concluded.
The Obama administration is withholding some military aid to Egypt as it reviews how it wants to proceed, a U.S. official told CNN.
The move is being described as a "reprogramming" of some funds to Egypt, but in effect, Washington is temporarily holding up some military aid to that country as it prepares for the possibility that future aid could be cut, the official said.
Aid is not a continuous flow of funds, but a series of periodic bursts: a delivery of fighter jets; a military exercise. Both of those recent aid items for Egypt have already been halted.
The official said the latest moves to "reprogram" aid mean the United States has taken steps to get the remaining aid in U.S. accounts in line with legal requirements so the administration is positioned to cut off the aid, if it decides to do so, or continue it.
The official says once the review is complete, administration officials will go to Congress to decide how to move forward.
Once again, the Obama administration proves itself woefully inept in determining America's interests in the Middle East. The President is already funneling weapons to Islamist rebels in Syria; now he's undercutting the Egyptian military in its war on the Muslim Brotherhood. In both cases, Obama demonstrates solidarity with Islamic extremists hostile to U.S. values and policy aims in the region. Worse, by halting aid, he obliterates our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt. And guess what -- they don't need us anymore. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- our Middle Eastern allies -- are working together in support of Egypt's military, to the tune of $12 billion. From today's Wall Street Journal:
The U.S.'s closest Middle East allies are undercutting American policy in Egypt, encouraging the military to confront the Muslim Brotherhood rather than reconcile, U.S. and Arab officials said.
The parallel efforts by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have blunted U.S. influence with Egypt's military leadership and underscored how the chaos there has pulled Israel into ever-closer alignment with those Gulf states, officials said.
...When the Egyptian army overthrew Mr. Morsi, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the U.A.E. put together what Gulf analysts called a $12 billion "Marshall Program" aid package. The Saudis transferred the first $2 billion of their $5 billion pledge to Egypt's central bank within days.
That eclipsed the U.S.'s $1.5 billion a year in aid, which comes with strings attached. In light of the overthrow and the subsequent violence, the White House has suspended a shipment of F-16 fighter planes and a military exercise with Egypt.
It's comforting to see Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel united in the fight against Islamic extremism. Only problem? The United States is basically siding with the Muslim Brotherhood. How can we combat terrorism and Islamism if we alienate our allies in that effort?
Yes, there's been far too much collateral damage in the military's crackdown, but the image of pro-Morsi demonstrators as peaceful victims is laughable. From Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik's PBS interview last night:
MOHAMED TAWFIK: First of all, this is not about religion. This is not about God. This is not about martyrdom. If you have political grievances, you should express those political grievances in the ways that the law allows you to do that.
The second thing that we have to agree upon is you cannot go on a demonstration carrying heavy machine guns and shooting at people. That -- immediately -- if, say, a few people are armed and using those weapons, they put the other demonstrators who are unarmed in danger.
So the third thing that we have to agree upon -- and we do agree upon -- is that it is perfectly legal for people to demonstrate peacefully, without burning down churches, without attacking police stations, without attacking museums. Demonstrate peacefully, and you have the right to do so.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But eyewitnesses, I'm sure you know, Mr. Ambassador, say that the majority, the vast majority of the shooting was done by government, by soldiers, by troops, by police, and not by the demonstrators, who were largely peaceful.
MOHAMED TAWFIK: If that were true, then we wouldn't have a hundred, almost a hundred dead policemen today that have been shot by pro-Morsi, different types of pro-Morsi groups.
We have almost 700 policemen injured. So, again, the police have an obligation to respect the freedom of people to demonstrate, provided they do not use weapons and they don't attack people and people's property.
Slaughtering Egyptian Christians, committing countless acts of terror, destroying ancient churches and museums...Brotherhood demonstrators are engaged in a widespread insurgency campaign against order and decency. Egypt's generals are no angels, but foreign policy tends to eschew white knights and dastardly bad guys. It usually gives us a set of actors neither wholly good nor evil. It demands difficult decisions among a set of murky alternatives. Advancing American security is no morality play, especially in the Middle East
Yes, the Brotherhood was elected.
A country that lacks any history of popular political participation, constitutional protections, or a healthy civil society is not prepared for elections. The Brotherhood's idea of democracy is this: win elections, impose political Islam, persecute dissenters. Labeling this sham "democracy" offers little solace for religious minorities, women, and political opponents. They prefer a military government that safeguards their human rights and ensures stability. The United States should, too.
If the President permanently cuts off aid to Egypt's military, he'll not only estrange us from the one force in that country capable of restraining Islamic extremism, he'll severely impair America's role in the Middle East by dividing us from our few allies there. For the sake of American security and human rights, President Obama must continue aid.