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US aid: “Recalibration” or change of strategy? - Daily News Egypt

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US aid: “Recalibration” or change of strategy?

The U.S. State Department announced on Wednesday that it would halt the delivery of large-scale military systems and cash assistance to Egypt’s government. It said “credible progress” must be made towards free and fair elections. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States is “recalibrating” its military aid to Egypt. While State Department did …

Dr Mohamed Fouad
Dr Mohamed Fouad

The U.S. State Department announced on Wednesday that it would halt the delivery of large-scale military systems and cash assistance to Egypt’s government. It said “credible progress” must be made towards free and fair elections. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States is “recalibrating” its military aid to Egypt. While State Department did not provide a dollar amount, officials said the freeze amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars. According to officials, the US is halting the delivery of F-16s, Apache helicopters, Harpoon missiles as well as Abrams tank kits.

Such move had been widely anticipated, with deliveries of military equipment already frozen, and joint military exercises cancelled; this simply marked the end of more than 2 years of speculation surrounding the fate of the famed $1.5 Billion purse.

So, away from both the ultra-nationalistic rhetoric and the democracy advocacy garb, let us attempt to make sense of this situation and its true significance.

World’s Reaction:

The European Union has maintained a more neutral stance than the US on the aid situation as any European aid cuts would be hard to implement since the bulk of current assistance is mainly directed at social programmes. EU governments also fear that any move to cut military assistance could hamper the Egyptian authorities’ ability to address attacks in the tremulous Sinai Peninsula.

Saudi Arabia, who has been positioning itself as the main supporter of current Egyptian regime, has rebuffed the US stance; Saudi rulers have openly affirmed that if the Americans cut aid, they will plug any deficit. Saudi Arabia along with Kuwait and UAE have already pledged $12 billion in the weeks following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.

Israel has expressed reservation towards the US decision. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not directly commented on the decision, he said that Israel’s interest is in having a peace treaty in place, adding that the treaty is heavily based on US military aid. Other Israeli officials bluntly opposed such aid cuts, claiming that they might have effects far beyond Egypt.

Significance of the Move:

The cutoff of some of the US aid should not be looked at as merely symbolic nor is it directly related to the current political situation in Egypt. This suspension accentuates a strategic shift which is taking place in the region. While the aid has helped the United States achieve short-term political objectives, the field is drastically changing for the US; so despite the fact that the word “Recalibrating aid” was used, the reality suggests a brewing change of strategy. In short, the move signals that the US commitment to Middle East security at large is seemingly dropping off the list of America’s global priorities. In fact, the US has a plethora of reasons for such change of heart.


One time allies in the Gulf region are charging forward with policies at odd with Washington. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates for instance have shown great disappointment when the US shelved possible military strikes against Assad’s regime. Most of the Gulf States are growing apprehensive as Washington attempts to make amends with Iran.

The anti-US rhetoric is growing louder in Egypt suggesting that the US can no longer appease the masses or the government; both have long anticipated the cut and are seemingly defiant.

For the US, there are also several logical arguments to accept these signals and move on with a new strategy. The US is overtaking Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. In this sense, America is steadily decreasing its reliance on Gulf oil. In fact, the US is less dependent on Middle East oil than at any time in the past century. This in terms suggests that the US would be less willing to intervene in the Middle East.

Finally, when evaluating the military aid package as a cornerstone of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the US clearly sees no possible damage to the relation between the two archrivals. Israeli security officials often assert that relations with their Egyptian counterparts are strengthening. Recently, Amos Yadlin – former head of Israel’s military intelligence – has said the peace accord with Egypt is robust and will remain so despite the decision to scale back military aid.

So with the US aid money no longer securing US interests and partly no longer welcomed, the US has seemingly decided to move on.

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  • sam enslow

    Until Egypt takes a good look in the mirror and accepts that Egyptians got themselves in the position they are in, no aid of any sort will be of any lasting benefit to the people of Egypt. As long as mismanagement is called “the special Egyptian way” no changes can be made to improve the country. Right now putting money into Egypt is what American’s call, “sending good money after bad.” Like the aid from Arab countries, money will be used for short term fixes and have no lasting benefits.
    Aid to Egypt comes from the pockets of US taxpayers. If you were an American reading the Egyptian press, how happy would you be to use your hard earned money to help a people who hate you and who blame you for all their problems? Egypt said go away, so the US is going away – not only from Egypt but the rest of the Middle East. In withdrawing from the Middle East, the US is doing exactly what the people there say they want.
    When I read the Egyptian press, I see no stories about the current fight against corruption, efforts to heal sectarian divides, how to make factories and government more productive, etc. It is all about America’s mistakes. Sadder than that, I read countless stories about people wanting to rule, not govern, Egypt. It seems the political elite want to control the people rather than enable them. At the same time, the people want “bread and circuses” rather than the hard work necessary to uplift the Egypt they all say they love
    The major key to the development of Egypt is foreign investment. But no firm is going to invest in Egypt in order to play “fun and games.” They have no interest in hiring a Big Man’s son just because he is a Big Man’s son or in spending years filling out endless forms or in paying the sweets to get someone to sign and process them. They will invest in Egypt to make a profit, and in so doing, will create jobs for Egyptians. These jobs will enable Egyptians to pay for their own bread. US corporations have about 1 Trillion US$ in off shore accounts that could, in part, be invested in Egypt. It will not happen until the rule of law applies and the money is welcome.
    Egypt has it all. The people are intelligent even if not educated (where else but in Aswan and Luxor can you find street children who speak five or more languages with some fluency?). At the same time, it is often said that the education system takes bright, young Egyptians and turns them into donkeys.
    The American people also heard the January revolution and the cries of, “No to military rule. No to theocratic rule.” The US and Obama heard this. What other than these two choices have been offered to the people of Egypt? It seems only the people at the top have changed – nothing else.
    America will help Egypt change when Egypt wants to change. Until that time, we will follow Egypt’s advice, “Yankee go home.”

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