U.S. Military Aid to Egypt: An IV Drip, With Side Effects

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GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP / Getty Images

Egyptian army armored personnel carriers at Tahrir Square on Sunday. Up to 80% of the Egyptian military's weapons-buying budget comes from Washington.

Since President Obama scrapped the U.S. military’s role in September’s Bright Star joint training exercise with the Egyptian military last Thursday because of the government’s killing of close to 1,000 protesters, attention has shifted to his refusal to cut off the $1.3 billion in military aid Washington gives to Cairo each year.

We’re not talking pocket change here. A June congressional assessment suggested that “U.S. military aid covers as much as 80% of the Defense Ministry’s weapons procurement costs.”

It’s probably fair to think of the continuing aid as an IV – but instead of an intravenous drip delivering life-saving medicine to an ailing patient, it’s closer to an influence vaccination designed to keep Egypt’s generals under some – increasingly limited – sway of the U.S. government.

But, as with all medicines, there are side effects.

“We’ve given them enough weapons to do all the shooting for themselves,” Ross Douhat writes in a Sunday’s New York Times column advocating an end to the American IV. “Which means our patronage has created a different kind of problem: Even absent an actual military footprint, we’ve been dragged permanently into Egypt’s domestic politics, where we’re seen — for understandable reasons as well as conspiratorial ones — as the real power behind whatever the state decides to do.”

(MORE: Viewpoint: Egypt No Longer Matters)

The issue came up on the Sunday talk shows. “There are no good choices in Egypt,” Rep. Peter King, the New York Republican who chairs the intelligence committee, said on Fox News. “The fact is there’s no good guys there.” But the need for the U.S. to maintain influence in the Arab world’s most populous nation means “we certainly shouldn’t cut off all aid.”

U.S. military dollars grease the Pentagon’s own military operations: U.S. warplanes can fly through Egyptian air space (as some 2,000 did last year), and U.S. warships can move to the head of the line to transit Egypt’s Suez Canal, something it does 40 times annually (eliminating a two-week, 6,000-miles trek around Africa). Both have been critical U.S. time-and-money savers during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The annual funding rewards Egypt for signing the 1978 Camp David accords, championed by President Carter, signaling peace with Israel.

The Pentagon’s contract database contains 13,500 entries that include “Egypt,” which suggests how deeply Washington is involved in supplying the Egyptian military with some of its key weapons, including M-1 tanks and F-16 fighters. But Egypt has also been buying, with U.S. taxpayers’ help, AH-64 attack helicopters, Harpoon and SLAM missiles, and missile-firing coastal-patrol boats.

But the aid – and 17 importuning phone calls between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian defense minister and U.S.-trained officer – failed to still the Egyptian military’s swiftly-appointed rounds. Sisi and his comrades overthrew Mohamed Morsi on July 3, and believe the U.S. doesn’t take the Islamic threat to Egypt seriously enough.

There’s no doubt the U.S.-Egyptian military relationship is fraying. “The Department of Defense will continue to maintain a military relationship with Egypt,” Hagel said last week, “but I made it clear that the violence and inadequate steps towards reconciliation are putting important elements of our longstanding defense cooperation at risk.”

(PHOTOS: Clashes Erupt in Egypt as Protesters March Against Earlier Bloodshed)

Sisi is free to ignore U.S. entreaties: the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have poured billions in aid to Egypt in recent years. But even those cash-rich sheikdoms have a ways to go before eclipsing the U.S. investment in Egypt: between 1948 and 2011, Washington sent Egypt a total of $73 billion, according to a recent accounting – including $1.3 billion in military aid annually since 1987 (as well as $45 million in International Military Education and Training — IMET — funds).

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Congressional Research Service

Much of that has gone to supplying the Egyptian army with General Dynamics M-1 tanks under a co-production deal that is now 25 years old. “Egypt plans to acquire a total of 1,200 tanks,” that June congressional report noted. “Under the terms of the program, a percentage of the tank’s components are manufactured in Egypt at a facility on the outskirts of Cairo and the remaining parts are produced in the United States and then shipped to Egypt for final assembly.”

Then, in 2009, the U.S. agreed to sell 20 Lockheed Martin F-16s to Egypt for $2.5 billion.

As if the free money weren’t enough, the U.S. also offers Egypt some defense-hardware sweeteners, the June Congressional Research Report notes:

– Since 2000, Egypt’s [U.S.-funded] Foreign Military Financing funds have been deposited in an interest-bearing account in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and have remained there until they are obligated.

– Most significantly, Egypt is allowed to set aside Foreign Military Financing funds for current-year payments only, rather than set aside the full amount needed to meet the full cost of multi-year purchases. Cash flow financing allows Egypt to negotiate major arms purchases with U.S. defense suppliers.

Last month, the U.S. delayed the delivery of four of those F-16 fighters to Egypt as an expression of its displeasure with the military takeover (but none in the Obama Administration dared call it what it was – a coup – because such a label would lead to an automatic cutoff of military support).

Obama took that action a week before the Pentagon’s Aug. 1 announcement that it was awarding contracts of up to $250 million to U.S. firms to work with the Pentagon’s Center for Civil-Military Relations.

“Based at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., the Center for Civil-Military Relations was originally established in 1994 to assist newly emerging democracies in addressing the civil-military challenges of the post-Cold War world,” the center’s website says. “In the nearly two decades since its founding, CCMR has evolved to partner with a much broader range of regions and countries.”

Unfortunately, Egypt was identified in the announcement as only a “potential” customer for the “training of foreign troops or education of officials.”

MORE: Turmoil in Egypt: TIME Journalist Gets Caught in Cairo’s Latest Day of Rage

33 comments
Icansee4miles
Icansee4miles

From my extensive travels in the Arabian Gulf, I can tell you that the U.S. government's intentions are distrusted to an extent not seen in many years. Saudi Arabia has every right to defend itself; and what is not being said is the close alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. Iran's plan is to complete their nuke, to point it at the Arabian Gulf which has 60% of the global oil production, and to blackmail the world. Read Kindle's new thriller The Bahrain Protocol to see the surprising alliance that will take on Iran; and it doesn't include the United States

MonaAli
MonaAli

Our national security in Egypt is our matter and the U.S isn't interested in democracy or human rights as evidenced by abo gripe in Iraq where torture and sexual violence were practiced freely and guantanamo. Morsi violated all human rights and the Obama administration ignored it. The vast majority of Egyptians want the U.S aid to stop for the U.S to stop financing and supporting terrorist regimes like the muslimbrotherhood and strangely enough it considers Hamas aterrorist organization and its the palestinian wing of the muslimbrotherhood.

SonnySantiago
SonnySantiago like.author.displayName 1 Like

The truth be told, the Egyptian military controls 40% of the economy in that country, the military Generals earn the equivilant of a corporate COE, they have a system where the wealth of the country trickles down the ranks. next the security services are also well paid , there are two societies, the Military and the Security services. the Ordinary egyptian has to sruggle. The Rich are in bed with the military. The U.S. KNOWS this yet they continue to fund these thugs and killlers, so in reality we are an accomplis to this killing and violation of human rights, were as corrupt as they are. i'm so ashame of my country which i served for 13 years in uniform and fought two wars for. the DEAD Soldiers have been dishonored  they turn in their graves with disgust.

MonaAli
MonaAli

We are facing terrorism by themuslimbrotherhood and we wish the U.S would stop supporting the terrorists

Ranger
Ranger

The army has killed 1000 people. They are the terrorists.

MonaAli
MonaAli

The army killed terrorists in self defence and was completely justified to do so.

MohamedElsayed
MohamedElsayed

When 35 Millions of people  pour in the streets, it isn't a Coup by all means. If you can't see that, you have a problem  and an agenda in the same time. It is a shame, the country which has the Statue of Liberty, now is supporting and protecting the Muslim Brotherhood. What have hurt the Egyptian feeling, is not cutting aids, but trying to destroy Egypt from inside by supporting and protecting a Fascist Gang, known as Muslim Brotherhood.

Warrington
Warrington

It is NOT a military dictatorship nor a coup  d'etat. The military was doing what millions of protestors wanted. the Muslim Brotherhood are not innocent civilians. Morsi was elected democratically, then he changed his policies. We support democratically elected officials UNTIL they go against their policies and their people. Even non-military are fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood - and for good reason.

MohamedKamha
MohamedKamha

WE ALL EGYPTIAN WITH ...........CC .... 

AhmedMohmed
AhmedMohmed like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's Not a coup but a popular revolution against the terrorists Brotherhood ... We are the Egyptian people So Don't support the terrorism WE ALL EGYPTIAN WITH ...........CC

AhmedMohmed
AhmedMohmed like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's Not a coup but a popular revolution against the terrorists Brotherhood ... We are the Egyptian people So Don't support the terrorism WE ALL EGYPTIAN WITH ...........C

C

AhmedMohmed
AhmedMohmed like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's Not a coup but a popular revolution against the terrorists Brotherhood ... We are the Egyptian people So Don't support the terrorism WE ALL EGYPTIAN WITH ...........CC

AhmedMohmed
AhmedMohmed like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's Not a coup but a popular revolution against the terrorists Brotherhood ... We are the Egyptian people So Don't support the terrorism WE ALL EGYPTIAN WITH .CC

AhmedMohmed
AhmedMohmed like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's Not a coup but a popular revolution against the terrorists Brotherhood ... We are the Egyptian people So Don't support the terrorism WE ALL EGYPTIAN WITH ...........CC

jumatil
jumatil like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I just sad to see the American people still cannot see what happened in Egypt. Almost all of media cannot push their government to say that what happened in Egypt is a military coup. They afraid to said that just because they afraid to cut their business in gun ! Poor American !

ForeignIntrigue
ForeignIntrigue

We addressed the issue of foreign aid, Senator Lindsey Graham's incessant, wrongheaded maneuvering in Syria and Egypt, and the pragmatic policies of President Obama that appear to be channeling President George HW Bush in two blog posts over the weekend. Please visit the two following links for explanations as to why cutting off foreign aid to Egypt is counter-productive to American security interests, myopic, irrational, and only serves to viscerally satisfy a frustration in a voting bloc that the extreme right and left wing isolationists engage on emotion:

Why to keep aid flowing to Egypt:  http://foreign-intrigue.com/2013/08/crusading-senators-and-the-obama-administration-pragmatism-vs-idealism-in-american-foreign-policy/

And why Senator Rand Paul is wrong: http://foreign-intrigue.com/2013/08/egypt-in-crisis-at-the-intersection-of-neo-isolationism-war-fatigue-regional-stability-and-american-politics/

Ranger
Ranger

There was a time when the US was against fascists. Now, the US is supporting fascism. That did not work in Iran, South America, or Southeast Asia. They will blame General Sissi and his friend General Washington.

ScottLong
ScottLong like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

cut all foreign aid to all countries use it the help pay of our national debt.

AhmedMohmed
AhmedMohmed like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ScottLong you and your government can't play with Egypt coz you and your government is so small beside us and if you want to know ask google about Egypt and you will know that we learn you how to life in you batch country
american dream is big lie "loser"  

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@ScottLong Our foreign aid is a drop in the budgetary bucket. You want to save some REAL money, cut off corporate welfare. We are actually giving billions in taxpayer money annually to Exxon-Mobile, the most profitable business in the history of the world. 

But foreign aid? Pffft. Peanuts. The question is whether dropping the puny amount we give to Egypt -- as opposed to how much they get from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- is, as symbol, inflammatory or damaging to our long-term interests. Probably not -- and the connections we maintain with the Egyptian government and military -- would be hard to replace. It's a complicated question with no obvious answers.

Sherif
Sherif

You want us to support a terrorist group?Instead of an institution? THE peace agreement is a deal we have to respect,not to ridicule the Egyptian people..if there are no good guys there,let them be! The rest of the Arabs will always back Egypt,and let them all play with Israel. It is too late to fix the American image,we sided with terrorism.

Monamour_M
Monamour_M like.author.displayName 1 Like

Why don't you all understand that Egypt is in war on terrorism. There are no protestors here ,there are armed terrorists killing our patriotic soldiers and civilians. MB are terrorists supported by Obama. Why were you so proud when you killed Ben Laden while you are supporting his terrorist group in Egypt!!!

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@Monamour_M I take it you're Egyptian? I wish you all the best for your country and your countrymen. My heart goes out to you.

As to U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood, that actually isn't happening. The debate here is whether we should *stop* supporting the Egyptian military, which has opened fire on its own people. We recoil at civilian murder, regardless of the politics, and our principles always demand that we symnpathize with whoever is democratically elected. On the other hand, if we abandon the Egyptian military, the Russians or other bad actors will certainly take advantage.

And Egypt is ... well, Egypt. It's too important currently and historically to rush to a bad decision.

asabet
asabet like.author.displayName 1 Like

@PerryWhite1 @Monamour_MKerry just gave them 250 million $$$ few months ago, per your CNN.  Read and get educated before you open your pie hole.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/03/u-s-releases-250-million-in-aid-to-egypt-after-john-kerrys-meeting-with-president-morsi/

Warrington
Warrington

@shepherdwong @asabet  It is NOT a military dictatorship nor a coup  d'etat. The military was doing what millions of protestors wanted. the Muslim Brotherhood are not innocent civilians. Morsi was elected democratically, then he changed his policies. We support democratically elected officials UNTIL they go against their policies and their people. Even non-military are fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood - and for good reason.

manlyman
manlyman like.author.displayName 1 Like

Not a major glen beck fan, he's a bit goofy, but at the same time, why don't you tell us your reasons for calling him the names you call him. If you think he lies then give us some specifics, and some proof that he lies, or else I'll just have to chalk you up as just another leftwing nutjob zombie parroting the usual leftwing nutjob zombie opinions.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@asabet @PerryWhite1 @Monamour_M Wait, you're seriously going to use as proof of your assertions a link to "The Blaze," the website of con man, snake-oil salesman, propagandist and self-professed rodeo clown Glenn Beck? GLENN BECK is your source?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! [Wipes tears from eyes] Ahem. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!

Whew! I needed that. 


(Also, you're dead wrong, as shepherdwong mentions elsewhere. But seriously, dude, GLENN BECK? Heh.)

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@asabet "Read and get educated before you open your pie hole."

Educated people who know how to read, generally know that "isn't happening," refers to what is transpiring now, at the current moment, not five months ago when the US was giving financial aid to the democratically-elected government of Egypt. The question on the table is whether we carry on that tradition with a military dictatorship (via coup d'etat) that is massacring innocent citizens.

BillPearlman
BillPearlman like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

We should be backing the military. With any luck they wipe out the Moslem Brotherhood to the last man

mahadragon
mahadragon

@BillPearlman This is exactly my sentiments. I don't understand why the U.S. government is considering withdrawing aid at this critical juncture when Egypt's military is trying to wipe out the Muslim Brotherhood. The U.S. is actually saying they support the Muslim Brotherhood by withdrawing aid at this time. Are the leaders in Washington not aware of what exactly is going on in Egypt? Maybe Egypt should just sit there and let the Muslim Brotherhood re-organize and take over the country and see how things play out? Put the Islamic Extremists back in power, that's really smart.