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17 Aug

Top Ten Reasons Washington is Reluctant to cut off Egypt Aid

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It’s not about Democracy: Top Ten Reasons Washington is Reluctant to cut off Egypt Aid

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By Juan Cole

Another 80 people died in violence in Egypt on Friday, as Muslim Brotherhood crowds protested the military crackdown on their sit-ins that cost hundreds of lives this week. Some of the violence resulted fro police heavy-handedness, some from an armed Brotherhood attack on a police station. The continued unrest upped the pressure on the Obama administration to cut off military aid to Egypt. It is the only legal and ethical thing to do, but here are some reasons it has been difficult for Washington to take that step.

1. The US doesn’t give much aid to the Egyptian people per se. Only $250 mn a year out of $1.55 bn is civilian. The aid is to cement a relationship between the Egyptian officer corps and the Pentagon.

2. The military aid, $1.3 billion a year, is mostly in-kind, a grant of weaponry . It must be spent on US weapons manufacturers. It is US arms manufacturers like Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics (and their employees) who would suffer if it were cut off.

3. The Congress gave the Egyptian Generals a credit card to buy weapons, and they’ve run up $3 billion on it for F-16s and M1A1 tanks. If the US cancelled aid, the US government would still have to pick up that bill.

4. Even most of the civilian aid is required to be spent on US goods and materiel. It is corporate welfare for the US

5. The aid was given as a bribe to the Egyptian elite to make nice with Israel. Given the chaos in Sinai, and Egypt’s instability, Congress is more worried about that issue than at any time in 40 years.

6. The Israelis asked the US not to suspend the aid.

7. Congress even structured the economic aid to require some of it help joint Israeli-Egyptian enterprises in Egypt, so some of the aid to Egypt actually goes to . . . Israel.

8. It is not generally recognized, but the Egyptian military provides a security umbrella to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE against Iran (and sometimes Iraq). The Gulf oil states also have powerful Washington lobbies and want Egypt to continue as a Gurkha force. Children, can you say oil?

9. Many in Congress don’t actually disagree with the generals’ actions in overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Freedom and Justice Party and driving it underground, since they agree it is a terrorist organization

10. Behind the scenes Egyptian military intelligence has helped the US track down Muslim extremists and in the Mubarak era ran black sites where they tortured suspected al-Qaeda for Washington. The US deep state would like to ramp that relationship back up.

About Juan Cole

Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). He has been a regular guest on PBS’s Lehrer News Hour, and has also appeared on ABC Nightly News, Nightline, the Today Show, Charlie Rose, Anderson Cooper 360, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, the Colbert Report, Democracy Now! and many others. He has given many radio and press interviews. He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has commented extensively on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Iraq War, the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Iranian domestic struggles and foreign affairs. He has a regular column at Truthdig. He continues to study and write about contemporary Islamic movements, whether mainstream or radical, whether Sunni and Salafi or Shi`ite. Cole commands Arabic, Persian and Urdu and reads some Turkish, knows both Middle Eastern and South Asian Islam. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, and continues to travel widely there. A bibliography of his writings may be found here.

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