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Graham: Withhold Aid to Egypt Over Muslim Brotherhood Crackdown

Image: Graham: Withhold Aid to Egypt Over Muslim Brotherhood Crackdown

By    |   Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 10:35 AM

Sen. Lindsey Graham has joined Democrats in warning the Obama Administration not to resume aid to Egypt’s military government, including Apache attack helicopters used to fight Sinai-based jihadists, al-Monitor reported.

Aid to Egypt was suspended after the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a longtime Muslim Brotherhood operative, on July 3.

Graham indicated opposition to U.S. assistance until Cairo moves “toward a civilian controlled, democratically elected government.” The South Carolina Republican – senior GOP member on the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations – said he was worried that a military crackdown might result in an all-out Islamist insurgency like the one that enveloped Algeria during the 1990s, killing more than 100,000 people. 

Bowing to bipartisan opposition that included Republicans like Graham and Sens. John McCain and Rand Paul, the Obama Administration suspended aid last summer.

Secretary of State John Kerry last week expressed “hope” that U.S. aid to Egypt could be resumed  before presidential elections there (which could occur as early as next month) and said his department would decide what to do “in the days ahead.”

Following the aid cutoff, Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Moscow last month for talks on securing Russian assistance to replace the lost American military aid. Sisi, accompanied by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, won President Vladimir Putin’s endorsement of his as yet undeclared bid for president of Egypt. 

Ironically, Sisi  had been appointed to his post by Morsi, elected president of Egypt in June 2012. But during Morsi’s year-long tenure, law and order steadily deteriorated, along with the Egyptian economy.  Millions of Egyptians took to the streets on June 30 – the first anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration as president – to demand his ouster.    

Sisi reluctantly concluded that he had no choice but to make a change. “I expected if we didn’t intervene, it would have turned into a civil war,” he said in an interview last August.

Since that time, Sisi has argued that the military must move cautiously on elections to prevent the Brotherhood and terrorist organizations like Ansar Jerusalem, which has staged attacks across Egypt, from causing the security situation to spiral out of control.

The government of Israel – which fought numerous wars with Egypt before the countries signed a peace treaty that is now a cornerstone of U.S. Middle East policy – has established a strong working relationship with Sisi. Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer met recently with Republican lawmakers and praised Egypt’s cooperation in fighting jihadist terror.

Graham, however, does not appear convinced, telling Al-Monitor that he would use the appropriations process to force Cairo to move towards a  “democratic transition.” He may well win the support of Sen.Patrick Leahy, a dovish Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign assistance. Like Graham, Leahy also advocates pressuring the Egyptian military to liberalize.

“If they move forward [with military aid] absent credible progress in supporting a democratic transition that would be a mistake," said one Senate Democratic aide, who said Congress might respond by delaying Egyptian aid or by giving the Obama Administration “less flexibility” to restart aid to Egypt on security grounds.

But some lawmakers, particularly Republican supporters of Israel, disagree with the Graham/Leahy approach to Cairo. Rep. Kay Granger of Texas – who chairs the equivalent appropriations panel in the House – supports a resumption of aid to Egypt, as does Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma , ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has come out in support of Cairo’s request for 10 helicopters.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham has joined Democrats in warning the Obama Administration not to resume aid to Egypt’s military government, including Apache attack helicopters used to fight Sinai-based jihadists, al-Monitor reported.
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Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 10:35 AM
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