- By Josh Rogin
Outgoing House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) issued a Spanish-language press release Tuesday to announce her opposition to the Obama administration’s plan to send $450 million to the new Egyptian government.
"The Obama Administration’s policy on Egypt has been a failure. From its lack of support for moderate political voices to its confused response to the downfall of Mubarak and the attack on our embassy in Cairo, the Administration lacks a clear strategy towards Egypt. Now the Obama Administration wants to simply throw money at an Egyptian government that the President cannot even clearly state is an ally of the United States," she said.
"Money will not solve this situation. The Egyptian government has not gained the trust of the U.S. and the Administration’s response is to cut an unprecedented $450 million check directly to the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt is problematic. The Administration’s proposed cash transfers and other multi-million dollar requests for Egypt are also on hold by me and other pertinent Chairmen."
The New York Times reported Sept. 28 that the U.S. Agency for International Development notified Congress of its intent to reprogram the money as part of President Obama’s pledge to give Egypt $1 billion to aid its transition to democracy, but House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) opposed the idea.
Ros-Lehtinen, who will step aside as HFAC chairwoman next year because of committee chair term limits, said that the administration had failed to answer basic questions about Egypt and refused to testify about its Egypt strategy before her committee.
"I reject the administration’s attempt to double down on its failed Egypt policy at the expense of American taxpayers," she said.
On Monday, Ros-Lehtinen criticized the administration for holding a meeting with Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriot Movement, a secular party that is part of the ruling alliance in Lebanon that includes Hezbollah. Bassil met with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman at the State Department last week.
"The fact that one the State Department’s highest-ranking officials met with Bassil — one of Hezbollah’s most stalwart allies — is beyond indefensible. A supporter of Assad and Hezbollah has no place meeting with U.S. officials," Ros-Lehtinen said. "The administration chooses to meet with the likes of Bassil while giving the cold shoulder to our closest ally, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The administration must explain its actions to the American people; we demand answers and deserve no less."
Netanyahu met with several administration officials in New York last week, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and had phone calls with President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
UPDATE: State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland address Ros-Lehtinen’s concerns about Bassil at Tuesday’s daily press briefing.
"He’s the energy minister. We’ve talked to members of the coalition and we have to work with the sitting minister if we want to work on these kinds of problems," she said. "In our meetings with government representatives, whether they are in Lebanon or whether they are in the U.S., we always express our deep concern about Hezbollah’s destabilizing actions, both in Lebanon and in the region. And Undersecretary Sherman again raised our ongoing concern about Hezbollah’s actions, including its support for the Syrian regime, its role as a terrorist organization and a proxy for Iran and its criminal activities in the international drug trade and money laundering."