The White House is taking friendly fire for a leaked plan to suspend a substantial portion of American military aid to Egypt, a key pillar of U.S. Middle East policy for the last 30 years. On Wednesday, Rep. Eliot Engel, the most senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the administration of jeopardizing the U.S.-Egypt relationship and imperilling American interests in the region.
“I am disappointed that the Administration is planning to partially suspend military aid to Egypt,” Engel said in statement. “During this fragile period we should be rebuilding partnerships in Egypt that enhance our bilateral relationship, not undermining them.”
The decision is expected to be announced very soon — perhaps as early as Wednesday night. Update: According to a congressional source briefed by the State Department, the U.S. will halt a shipment of military equipment to Egypt, including Abrams tanks, F-16s, Harpoon missiles, and Apache helicopters. They will also hold $260 million in cash transfers and a planned $300 million loan guarantee.
On Tuesday night, the White House pushed back on a number initial media reports, insisting that the entire U.S. aid package to Egypt would be not cut. “The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the President made clear at [the United Nations], that assistance relationship will continue.”
For months, the administration has received criticism for its aid to Cairo following the military’s brutal crackdown of supporters loyal to ousted president Mohamed Morsy. But efforts to suspend aid in Congress by libertarian Republicans have failed in the face of bipartisan opposition by congressional leaders and lobbying efforts by the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Because the aid package is seen as a key component of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, many see it as critical to regional stability. Just last month, at a Reuters conference in Georgia, retired Egyptian General Sameh Saif Al-Yazal said even a small suspension of U.S. aid to Egypt “would jeopardize the entire peace treaty” with Israel.
But that’s not the only reason Engel and other lawmakers are upset with the administration’s purported plan. “I am also frustrated that the Administration has not adequately consulted with Congress regarding U.S. policy towards Egypt,” said Engel. “I urge the administration to work together with Congress and Egypt’s leadership to better address the serious security and economic challenges Egypt currently faces.”
Congressional aides in both parties tell The Cable that members were blindsided by last night’s CNN report that the administration was ready to cut off aid. The White House has repeatedly failed to consult with Congress on its Egypt policy, these aides noted.
“It’s a systematic refusal to engage with Congress on a critical policy issue,” said one Democratic aide who focuses on foreign policy issues. “It doesn’t necessarily speak to the sensitivity of the issue, but to the lack of any clear policy to come talk to us about.”
Egypt policy, in particular, has been a black box, added a Republican aide. “The administration was pretty good on coming to talk to us on Syria,” the aide said. “But for some reason, Egypt is this verboten subject where they refuse to engage, and it’s clearly not Democratic versus Republican favoritism.”
The White House appears to be seeking a middle ground between the status quo and cutting off all aid. But Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, says the strategy runs of the risk of sending mixed messages to Egypt’s military brass. “The key question is whether the consequences for the Egyptian military are significant or meaningful,” he told The Cable. “If they aren’t, then there’s little reason to think the move will change their calculus, which, I would argue, is the point of any aid suspension.”
Yochi Dreazen is a Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security. His book about military suicide was published by Random House's Crown division in 2014.
Prior to joining Foreign Policy, Dreazen was a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the senior national security correspondent for National Journal. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal and spent 11 years at the newspaper, most recently as its military correspondent. He was born in Chicago, and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he edited the award-winning daily campus newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with degrees in History and English. He was hired by the Wall Street Journal immediately after graduation. Dreazen arrived in Iraq in April 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division, and spent the next two years living in Baghdad as the Wall Street Journal's main Iraq correspondent.
Dreazen has made more than 12 lengthy trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent a total of nearly four years on the ground in the two countries, mostly doing front-line combat embeds. He has reported from more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Dreazen received the Military Reporters & Editors association’s top award for domestic military reporting in a large publication for a series of articles about military suicide and the psychological traumas impacting veterans of the two long wars. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Tablet and the New Republic and he appears regularly on TV and radio programs such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show and PBS' Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Dreazen gives frequent lectures about journalism, the wars and current events to both civilian and military audiences.
Dreazen lives in Washington with his wife, Annie Rosenzweig Dreazen, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie.| The Cable |
U.S. to Egypt: We heart you but we’re keeping our $560m; Fisher House to the rescue; What the duck-rabbit says about snatch-and-grab; Missing October 7; Marines: “the failure of the few” and a bit more.Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |