WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the same week the Obama administration is claiming a 2.5 percent reduction spending increases will result in laid off teachers, grounded planes, and furloughed janitors, Secretary of State John Kerry released $250 million in U.S. aid to Egypt.
Kerry said the funds were part of a good faith effort to support “key engines of democratic change in Egypt, including Egypt’s entrepreneurs and its young people.” Apparently our new Secretary of State believes the Muslim Brotherhood is a force for democracy.
But many in Congress aren’t as optimistic about Egypt’s new government, nor do they feel the United States can afford to be sending it money. On January 15, Representative Vern Buchanan (Rep-FL) introduced a bill that would prevent funds from any federal department or agency from being used to offer assistance to Egypt. Buchanan said “Releasing millions of hard-earned American dollars to a regime that supports Hamas and denigrates Israel is outrageous.”
Since mid-summer of 2012, there have been several measures that seek to limit aid being sent to Egypt:
- January 25 – Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Rep-FL) introduced the Egypt Accountability and Democracy Promotion Act, which ties aid to Egypt to the advancement of political, economic, and religious freedom, and requires periodic certification relating to political reforms, the influence of foreign terrorist organizations, implementation of the Egypt-Israel peace agreement, and security in Sinai and along the Sinai-Gaza border.
- January 27 – Representative Tim Griffin (Rep – AR) introduced a Congressional resolution saying the president should suspend the delivery of F-16 fighter aircraft, M1 tanks, and other defense articles and services to Egypt.
- January 31 – Senator James Inhofe (Rep- OK) introduced a bill making the sale of F-16s, M1s, and other defense items conditional on proper security at U.S. diplomatic missions, Egypt-Israel peace agreement commitments, and political reforms, including dialogue with the opposition.
- January 31 – Senator Rand Paul (Rep-KY) introduced a bill prohibiting the U.S. government from allowing the sale, lease, or transfer of those same defense products to Egypt.
When then-Senator Kerry visited Egypt, he defended U.S. aid by saying, “If we suddenly cut it off, we’d be sending a horrendous message that basically says, ‘Screw you, we’re out of here.’ And they’ll turn around and say, ‘There’s no reason to even think about the United States. Let’s go work with Iran or whoever it’s going to be.’”
Kerry expressed optimism about working with a Muslim Brotherhood administration, “not because I believe I can take to the bank everything they say – but because everything they say is better than what they could be saying.”
The Senator then added that there would need to be “a lot of coalition building, work on the constitution – and they’re going to have to do it fast.”
Since then, coalition building has been practically non-existent, Morsi has been accused of ramming through a constitution with controversial Islamist elements, and Egyptian society is deeply divided.
Protestors that gathered during a meeting between Kerry and Egyptian representatives chanted anti-U.S. and anti-Brotherhood slogans. “The participants in the march claimed that the purpose of Kerry’s visit is to support the Muslim Brotherhood and interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt,” the Al-Masry al-Youm daily reported.
Though Kerry told reporters he wanted it to be clear “that we come here as friends for the Egyptian people, not for one government or one person or one party or ideology, but for the Egyptian people.”
Despite those assertions, two of Egypt’s most prominent opposition figures, Mohamed El Baradei and Hamdeen Sabahi, refused to meet with Kerry during his visit. A spokesman for Sabahi’s Popular Current movement said the U.S. was putting pressure on opposition groups “to support the Muslim Brotherhood, Washington’s allies in Egypt.”