As Egypt crisis continues, would US cut foreign aid? Unlikely.
Would the Obama administration cut the $1.5 billion in military and economic aid given Egypt every year? It’s been a mainstay of US policy ever since Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979.
As it watches the widening political protest in Egypt, the Obama administration finds itself with few options that could help resolve the situation. In essence, it’s a balance between security and democracy.Skip to next paragraph
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Unwilling to call for an outright end to the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak – the bottom line for those protesting in the streets of Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt – the White House threatens a “review” of foreign aid.
But would the administration end or cut the $1.5 billion in military and economic aid it provides each year to Egypt? That’s unlikely. It’s been a mainstay of US policy in the region ever since Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979.
Over the years, the annual sum has included money for programs aimed at promoting democracy in a state run by one man for more than a generation. But the great majority (some $1.3 billion a year) is for the Egyptian military and security forces – F-16 fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters, tanks, and other equipment (including, as some of the protesters pointed out this week, the tear gas canisters fired at demonstrators).
"The way I see it the US administration supports dictators," one protester told ABC News.
For now, although administration officials talk up the right of all people – including Egyptians – to full democracy and free political expression, the US is maintaining a neutral stance on Mubarak’s future.
Scores reported killed
As the drama on the streets of Cairo unfolds hour by hour, with more than 100 estimated dead so far, it’s a difficult position for the White House.
"This is the most serious foreign policy crisis the administration has faced," Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official now at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told the Associated Press. "The paradox is, there is little if anything the administration can do."
That $1.5 billion in annual aid has morphed from carrot to stick with the promised White House “review.” And a handful of lawmakers – mainly a few tea partyers, including newly-elected Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky – are calling for across-the-board cuts in (if not an end to) foreign aid as a way of eliminating the budget deficit.
That’s easier said than done, however – not least because Egypt is key to efforts for lasting peace in the region, including the future of Israel, the fight against Islamic extremists, and the situation in Iran.