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Egypt: Reduced US Military Aid to Prompt Eastern Shift?

By: Iman Ibrahim

October 13, 2013

Despite the insistence of US military leaders to leave ties intact with the Egyptian military – mainly for the sake of Israel – the US administration has announced it would be suspending some military aid to Egypt, pushing Cairo that much closer to the "Eastern camp."

Cairo – The US administration has consistently used threats of suspending aid to blackmail countries that it fails to subdue. However, when it comes to Egypt, things are a bit more complicated since the security of Israel comes into play.

The debate on whether to suspend US aid to Egypt directly impacts the Camp David Accords, which compel the American side to pay the equivalent of $1.3 billion in annual aid in return for Egypt’s continued adherence to the peace treaty with Israel.

Informed security sources told Al-Akhbar, "Last Wednesday [October 9], the US announced it would be reconsidering the size of its aid to Egypt, and would suspend deliveries of 'heavy’ military hardware and parts of the financial aid, citing the unrest in the country and the campaign launched by the authorities against deposed President Mohamed Mursi." This, the sources said, reflects the US wavering between acknowledging the success of popular Egyptian will in self-determination, and rejecting these actions and deeming them to be a military coup against legitimacy.

The sources continued, "The spokesperson for the US State Department Jennifer Psaki confirmed that Washington would suspend the delivery of (heavy) military equipment and financial assistance to the Egyptian government, pending credible progress toward a democratically-elected civilian government. This means that foreign policy has started following the principle of the carrot and the stick, which the Egyptian civilian and military administration rejects."

The sources likened Western policy vis-à-vis the interim administration in Egypt to "a game of musical chairs, which Barack Obama and Catherine Ashton are trying to control by putting pressure on Egypt to release Muslim Brotherhood leaders, led by deposed President Mursi, and guarantee that they would not be excluded from political life." This, the sources added, "is proof of how strong the relationship between Obama and the Brotherhood is, and the financial ties between the banned group and the EU."

Ashton, who hinted that she could intervene to guarantee the continuation of aid if the Egyptian military administration complies with US demands, had left Egypt empty-handed. She was surprised to hear from Army Commander and Defense Minister General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo that he would accept no alternative to his road map for the future, and that there would be no turning back or caving in to pressure.

Sisi reportedly gave Ashton a message to the US administration, stating that threats involving aid will not work, because Egypt has friendships with neighboring countries and is able to overcome its financial crisis. Sisi also told Ashton that the EU had to respect the will of the Egyptian people.

According to Al-Akhbar’s security sources, the leaders of the Egyptian military are now studying appropriate responses to the threats made by the US administration. The sources pointed out that there are many Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, which stood vehemently against all attempts to turn tables in Egypt, including by conditioning arms deals with Western countries upon their attitudes over the interim administration in Egypt.

As concerns the "Eastern camp," on the other hand, China’s defense minister recently declared that his country is seeking to bolster military cooperation with the Egyptian armed forces, in conjunction with statements by Sisi saying that the Egyptian army relied on diversified equipment, mostly from the Eastern camp, especially in the air force.

Therefore, the suspension or scaling back of US aid to Egypt would not hurt the Egyptians dramatically, and might even reduce the financial burden on Egypt, which has to pay for spare parts and some hardware from the US, in addition to liberating the Egyptian administration from its Camp David commitments.

Cairo described the US decision to partially suspend military aid to Egypt as "bad." In a statement, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "This is a bad decision in both its content and timing, as it raises serious questions about the desire of the US to provide strategic support for Egypt as part of its security programs." The ministry also said that the decision comes at a time when the country is facing serious terror-related challenges.

However, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US wants the Egyptian government to succeed, but said that it should be the kind of government that Americans will feel comfortable supporting. Speaking to reporters upon his arrival in Malaysia on Thursday, October 10, Kerry added that the decision to curtail military aid to Egypt does not mean Washington is severing ties with Cairo, adding that the interim government in Egypt knows well that the US is committed to seeing it succeed.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.




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:: Article nr. 101652 sent on 13-oct-2013 17:38 ECT

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