Why U.S. Aid to Egypt Is Here to Stay

Rand Paul's attempt to stop aid to Egypt is likely to fail today in the Senate.

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MOSA'AB ELSHAMY FOR TIME

Morsi supporters chant for justice as they carry symbolic coffins of the victims of the Rabaa massacre in Cairo on July 30, 2013.

Updated

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky will get his wish Wednesday when the Senate considers his amendment to cancel America’s $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt. Paul, who says President Obama is “ignoring the rule of law” by refusing to financially punish Egypt’s military for seizing power earlier this month, wants to redirect the aid to bridge building in the U.S.

Could Congress really bring to an end more than 30 years of aid from Washington to Cairo? Probably not.

This isn’t the Congress’s first bid to restrict American aid to Egypt, nor will it be the last. In 2006, Congress made U.S. aid to Egypt conditional on its progress on human rights and democracy, but then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used a national security waiver to bypass the restrictions. Last session, ten bills were introduced limiting both America’s military aid as well as another $200 million in annual economic aid to the country. Thirteen more have been introduced this year, with growing levels of support, especially in the wake of the military’s overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

None have come close to passing. Last year’s sole vote on the Egyptian aid issue – another amendment sponsored by Paul – failed 10-81 in the Senate. Few expect Paul’s current bill to fare much better, and no House measure has made it beyond committee level.

“I think it is unlikely that aid to Egypt will be stripped  short of a major provocation from Egypt the U.S. cannot ignore, along the lines of massive killing of demonstrators,” says Marina Ottoway, an Egypt expert at the Wilson Center.

The Obama administration strongly opposes any reduction of aid. The Pentagon did announce last week that it will delay its delivery of four F-16s to Egypt. But that’s as far as the Obama administration will go for now: After a three-week review, the administration determined that the military’s ouster of Morsi was not a “coup”–an important distinction as the federal government is legally barred from aiding governments formed by coup. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki struggled to explain to reporters on Friday how the military takeover in Egypt didn’t qualify as a “coup.” “We don’t need to make a public declaration about whether this was a coup or not,” Psaki said. “The context of this is certainly very important here, which is…  the stabilizing pillar that is Egypt and the important role it plays in regional peace and stability.”

Little-noted in the current debate is the fact that the administration similarly did not revoke aid after Egypt’s 2011 ouster of president Hosni Mubarak–also backed by the military. In fact, Obama pledged an extra $1 billion in economic assistance for the country (only half of which has been paid out). Similarly, the funds flowed on when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group accused of terrorist links, assumed power when Morsi was elected president last summer. “The U.S. approach to Egypt throughout the Arab Spring has been to just keep everything going as if nothing has changed, despite the fact that everything on the ground has changed,” says Tamara Wittes, head of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

A coalition of human rights liberals and conservatives opposed to foreign aid is gaining strength. In mid-July, Senate Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham, two party leaders on foreign policy, called canceling military aid “right and necessary.” Though, Graham said Tuesday he’s reserving final judgment until he and McCain return next week from a trip to Egypt at President Obama’s behest.

But most Democrats and Republicans continue to believe revoking aid would deprive Washington of what Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez recently called its “leverage” over Egypt’s generals. As my colleague Michael Crowley noted, Washington also sensitive to the aid’s connection to the 1978 Camp David Accords establishing peace between Israel and the Arab world’s most populous state.

U.S. aid also buys valuable cooperation between the Pentagon and SCAF, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Allied Forces, including joint counter-terrorism operations in Egypt’s Sinai desert, a hotbed of Islamic militant activity. It also allows U.S. aircraft overflight privileges in Egyptian airspace, and gives U.S. vessels priority passage through the Suez Canal. In fact, the U.S. is the world’s only nation entitled to “cut the line” at the crowded canal – usually months long – and to sail nuclear-armed and powered vessels through it. (Other nuclear powers must send their Middle East-bound ships around the horn of Africa – a long and costly round trip.)

For now, those factors seem to ensure that American dollars will continue flowing to Egypt—coup or no coup.

*Update: The Senate tabled Paul’s amendment by a vote of 86-13 around 11:40 Wednesday morning.

17 comments
shekissesfrogs
shekissesfrogs

So nice of Time™ and Jay Newton-Small to act as government stenographer here. He didn't even mention that we pay Egypt because it's part of the Oslo Accords deal, where Isreal was required to get out of the Occupied Territories, and Egypt would deliver gas to Israel at a price well below market prices (even though they can't produce enough oil to supply their own people, who end up burning dirty coal for fuel). Guess what? A thorn is still a thorn and it doesn't matter if the US calls it a rose. It's a coup. Don't insult our intelligence too, Mr. Saban Center man. 

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

SO AMERICA SUPPORT DEMOCRACY, AND INVADE AND BOMB OTHER COUNTRIES SUPPOSEDLY TO BRING DEMOCRACY TO THIS POOR PEOPLES OF THE MIDDLE EAST!. But the democracy in Egypt was not a democracy according to the lords of democracy of the hypocrites of the USA. You cannot cut aid  to these pseudo democrats, no sir, because democracy is for those that follow the line of the lords. Besides, don't forget if a country that steal land, bomb other people and has an apartheid or to be subtler, a concentration camp, then that country needs American aid, to the tone of 6 billions taxpayer dollars a year. You see, the Syrian government doesn't follow the line of the lords of democracy, that's why it's label as a dictatorship, but no Qatar, no Saudi Arabia, no sir, they are follower, besides all the money they steal from the people and the land as petroleum, is invested in the good, old USA.

ScottMollett
ScottMollett like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The aid to Egypt is here to stay because jews control the central banks and media in the USA. They use both to control our politicians. We pay Egypt so the racist supremacist jew state can keep stealing and killing people.

ScottMollett
ScottMollett

Oh ya it is not here to stay for to much longer because after the US Dollar crashes Americans are going to wake up and put jews on the curb like so many other nations before us.

anon76
anon76

"A coalition of human rights liberals and conservatives opposed to foreign aid is gaining strength. In mid-July, Senate Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham ... called canceling military aid “right and necessary.”"

Are you calling McCain & Graham liberals, or are you suggesting that they oppose foreign aid?  It seems like a non-sequitor between those two sentences, unless McCain and Graham have policy positions on foreign aid of which I've never heard.

TheeVailTribe
TheeVailTribe

for someone who is in Egypt right now.. Us needs to cut funding.. they are aiding and supporting a coop! 22 million signatures... ok where they? These where just words .. No one looked or verified them. Verified to even see if they were people here! and the protest that set off morsi........ All the supposed 3million or 30 milion people no one knows who was supporting what.. Where you there asking ... are you for morsi? Or are you for sisi? the fact is they use the media to get there agenda! and now there is NO pro morsi..... It anti coop... The people fighting against sisi are fighting aguinst them taking over the government .. Not cus they love MORSI.. but they want their vote that was stolen! in COld blood. 

usa shouldnt be giving these people ( the military of Egypt) money .. Saudi .. UAE .. who ever.. the point is they are buying somthing.. and only Sisi and they know what they are buying but obviously its not PeAcE

DanielA.Nelson
DanielA.Nelson

Giving aid to Egypt to keep the peace is better trhan starting a war there, ask Dubya.

MouDy
MouDy

If it's a Coup, Then it's the first coup in known human history with 22 Million supporters who sign the REBEL document weeks before the military decided to take sides !!

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@MouDy

  from websters:

coup d'état : a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially : the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group 

a small group (the army) overthrew an existing government (the brotherhood) violently. it's a coup. it may be a popular coup, but it's still a coup. the people didn't overthrow the government (as in a rebellion), the army did

AaronLangster
AaronLangster

@cjh2nd @MouDy  

Morsi was offered  so many ways to improve his ruling. He didn't do Jack, instead he made matters worse. He was giving pardons to real terrorists that were behind bars, I'm not kidding. Egypt is for everyone, not just muslims and this is coming from a muslim. The only reason why He won in the first place was because the other candidate would've been a crook. Coup, sure call it that but only in the case the army decides to seize power. Right now egypt is under a civilian rule with a running government in every ministry. There's going to be a new president and a new constitution, there's a reason why we're stopping this bs you call constitution. It was written by one party, every political party withdrew from the committee that was writing that crap. It was a circus, Here's the deal; Egypt is back on track.

yogi
yogi

Honestly, I find it hard to believe Rand Paul has never paid anyone to be his friend.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@yogi  

i take it you can sense that by knowing from experience?

deconstructiva
deconstructiva like.author.displayName 1 Like

Thanks, Jay, and welcome back, you were missed. To a point (and it's an important one), I agree with Rand Paul about wanting to fix bridges and roads. I also agree on cutting back on spending overseas to achieve that. But maybe it's better to stop launching and maintaining wars instead. If some (but not too much) spending on major ally Egypt maintains our access to the Suez Canal and some stability there for our best interests, maybe that's okay, kind of like hedging bets. But no new wars in Iran or Syria, please. Use more money here at home for jobs instead.

The important point about Rand Paul and bridge building - that HE is asking for this? Him? Mr. Libertarian Tea Partier? If he really is the libertarian he is called (and I maintain he isn't), does he want more government spending at all? Or maybe, yeah, sure, spend money on road building in Kentucky only, and to hell with everywhere else? Or it's just all grandstanding to make him look good for 2016? Or perhaps he's NOT the libertarian that DC punditry and the corporate media make him out to be? But of course, Jay here proved here long ago that Rand Paul is NOT a libertarian, straight from the horse's (mouth) - 

"They thought all along that they could call me a libertarian and hang that label around my neck like an albatross, but I'm not a libertarian," Paul says between Lasik surgeries at his medical office, where his campaign is headquartered, with a few desks crammed between treatment rooms.

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1972721,00.html


terryclifton1
terryclifton1

Yes, of course, we will always continue to borrow and or print new money to give to other foreign countries. Our own country's infrastructure is crumbling, but it's way more important for our government to continue its imperialist thinking and thus continuing to interfere in other countries business, and ignore the problems at home. They talk a lot of bull about wanting to fix bridges and roads, but those overseas are way more important than our safety.

tkulaga
tkulaga

I think the most level headed person in Washington is Tennessee Senator Corker. I will wait and see what he has to recommend.