Wants in­terim lead­ers to make progress to­ward democ­racy

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ASHISH KU­MAR SEN

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said Wed­nes­day it is sus­pend­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars of mil­i­tary aid, in­clud­ing the de­liv­ery of de­fense equip­ment and cash, to Egypt in an at­tempt to nudge the in­terim gov­ern­ment in Cairo to pave the way for an in­clu­sive, demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment.

“Hold­ing up in the de­liv­er­ies of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in as­sis­tance is a pretty clear mes­sage” about U.S. con­cerns over un­demo­cratic de­vel­op­ments in Egypt, a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said in a back­ground brief­ing.

The U.S. will with­hold F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 tank kits, Har­poon mis­siles and Apache he­li­copters from Egypt’s mil­i­tary. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion also will with­hold $260 mil­lion in cash as­sis­tance to the Egyp­tian gov­ern­ment.

“This de­ci­sion will be re­viewed on a pe­ri­odic ba­sis, par­tic­u­larly as we look at Egypt’s progress on the demo­cratic tran­si­tion,” said a sec­ond se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who also spoke on back­ground.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel dis­cussed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion in a phone call with Egyp­tian army chief Gen. Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sisi on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. A third se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial de­scribed the call, which lasted 40 min­utes, as “very friendly.”

“Sec­re­tary Hagel made the key point that the U.S.-Egyp­tian se­cu­rity re­la­tion­ship and as­sis­tance re­la­tion­ship is con­tin­u­ing, and made the points … that we’re con­tin­u­ing to pro­vide as­sis­tance on the is­sues that ad­vance both our vi­tal se­cu­rity ob­jec­tives,” the of­fi­cial said.

Th­ese is­sues in­clude coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and pro­lif­er­a­tion, bor­der se­cu­rity, en­sur­ing se­cu­rity in Egypt’s Si­nai Penin­sula, main­tain­ing peace with Is­rael and pro­vid­ing parts for U.S.-ori­gin mil­i­tary equip­ment as well as mil­i­tary train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion.

“There will be no im­me­di­ate diminu­tion in Egypt’s abil­ity to be a strong se­cu­rity part­ner of the United States,” another se­nior of­fi­cial said.

Gen. el-Sisi ousted demo­crat­i­cally elected Is­lamist Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi on July 3 af­ter days of mas­sive anti-gov­ern­ment protests.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has faulted Mr. Morsi for not gov­ern­ing in an in­clu­sive man­ner, says the in­terim gov­ern­ment is act­ing in a sim­i­lar man­ner.

Mean­while, an Egyp­tian court an­nounced Wed­nes­day that Mr. Morsi will go on trial on Nov. 4 on charges of in­cit­ing his sup­port­ers to kill his op­po­nents while he was in of­fice. Mr. Morsi has been held at an undis­closed lo­ca­tion since his ouster.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has grap­pled with how to deal with Egypt since Mr. Morsi’s ouster. It does not pub­licly de­scribe Mr. Morsi’s ouster as a coup, a de­scrip­tion that would re­quire the sus­pen­sion of all aid to the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to U.S. law. Since July, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has can­celed joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with Egypt’s mil­i­tary and sus­pended the de­liv­ery of F-16s.

Some law­mak­ers — even mem­bers of Mr. Obama’s po­lit­i­cal party — ex­pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion Wed­nes­day with the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to sus­pend the aid to Egypt.

“The Egyp­tian mil­i­tary has han­dled the re­cent tran­si­tion clum­sily, but they have be­gun a demo­cratic tran­si­tion which will serve the Egyp­tian peo­ple well in the fu­ture and have also worked to main­tain re­gional sta­bil­ity,” said Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Demo­crat on the House Com­mit­tee on For­eign Af­fairs. “Dur­ing this frag­ile pe­riod we should be re­build­ing part­ner­ships in Egypt that en­hance our bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship, not un­der­min­ing them.”

Sen. Pa­trick J. Leahy, Vermont Demo­crat, ac­cused the ad­min­is­tra­tion of “try­ing to have it both ways, by sus­pend­ing some aid but con­tin­u­ing other aid.”

“By do­ing that, the mes­sage is mud­dled,” he said.

The U.S. pro­vides Egypt with about $1.5 bil­lion in an­nual aid, $1.3 bil­lion of which is for the mil­i­tary. This aid helps se­cure U.S. strate­gic in­ter­ests in the re­gion, par­tic­u­larly pri­or­ity ac­cess to the Suez Canal for the U.S. mil­i­tary and Egypt’s com­pli­ance with its 1979 peace treaty with Is­rael.

“The Egyp­tian gen­er­als prob­a­bly will pull back some of those priv­i­leges at least tem­po­rar­ily in re­sponse to a par­tial sus­pen­sion of U.S. aid,” said Paul Pil­lar, a CIA vet­eran and for­mer na­tional in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer for the Near East and South Asia.

Much of the $1.3 bil­lion in aid to the Egyp­tian mil­i­tary is used to pur­chase de­fense equip­ment from U.S. firms.

“The U.S. needed to send a strong sig­nal to Egypt be­cause of the lev­els of vi­o­lence in that coun­try,” said Wil­liam Lawrence, a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity. “I ques­tion how prac­ti­cal this is to do be­cause a lot of th­ese are mul­ti­year con­tracts on the mil­i­tary side that are hard to turn off and hurt U.S. busi­ness as much as they hurt the Egyp­tians.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sec­re­tary of De­fense Chuck Hagel stands with an Egyp­tian army of­fi­cial be­fore lay­ing a wreath at the tomb of late Pres­i­dent An­war alSa­dat in Cairo. Wash­ing­ton’s de­ci­sion to with­hold mil­lions of dol­lars in mostly mil­i­tary aid to Egypt has fu­eled anti-U.S. sen­ti­ment.

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