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Student Corner: US military aid to Egypt: For whose sake? - Daily News Egypt

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Student Corner: US military aid to Egypt: For whose sake?

By Mohamed Soliman In 1978, Jimmy Carter hosted negotiations between Egypt and Israel at his presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland. Among other controversial terms that were negotiated at the summit, Egyptian President Sadat was requested to demilitarise the Sinai Peninsula and to guarantee freedom of passage through the Suez Canal and the Straits of …

Mohamed Soliman
Mohamed Soliman

By Mohamed Soliman

In 1978, Jimmy Carter hosted negotiations between Egypt and Israel at his presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland. Among other controversial terms that were negotiated at the summit, Egyptian President Sadat was requested to demilitarise the Sinai Peninsula and to guarantee freedom of passage through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran.

Meanwhile, President Carter committed several billion US dollars in aid to Israel and Egypt that would be paid on a yearly basis. As a result of the Camp David Accords, Israel gained diplomatic recognition from Egypt – a key state in the Middle East. Egypt was the first Arab nation to recognise Israel. While many Arab nations were initially furious with Egypt’s decision to do so, others gradually announced diplomatic recognition of Israel as well.

In return, Egypt received $1.3 billion in US military aid each year. This fundamentally changed the orientation of the Egyptian military to align with Western interests. US military aid served to contain communist influence in the Middle East from late 1970s up until the end of the Cold War.

As a result of its newly strengthened relationship with the West, Egypt led the Arab military forces who participated in US efforts to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasions. Since the Camp David Accords, Egypt has consistently supported the United States in facilitating its interests in the Middle East. Examples of this facilitation include the Israel-Jordan peace treaty as well as the Oslo Accords.

The past three years in the Middle East have been extremely turbulent. We have witnessed the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, which demonstrated that stable regimes can be easily toppled by the will of the people. Elsewhere, Arab revolutions have led to civil wars, specifically in Yemen, Syria, and Libya. In the international arena, Russia has risen as an influential player who can change the stakes of the game, and it appears that Russia wants new allies in the Middle East.

The civil wars in both Libya and Syria have both been detrimental to the stability of the whole region. The region has been influenced by a huge influx of jihadists from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Caucasus who have come to fight in the civil wars. These jihadists have direct links to Al-Qaida and have served as a platform for Al-Qaeda operations.

The US strategy of using jihadists to topple dictatorships like those led by Gaddafi and Al-Assad has caused long-term damage for the entire Middle East.

The governments in the region, specifically in Egypt and Tunisia, have been active in recruiting their own youth for jihadist movements in Syria. The governments in Egypt and in Tunisia each contributed about 4,000 jihadists to the Syrian civil war.

Another effect of the regime change is the disastrous situation along the Libyan-Egyptian borders. Conditions have worsened since the collapse of the government and institutions in Libya after the downfall of Gaddafi’s regime.

Recently, Libya has been facing potential assassinations of key security leaders in the government in Tripoli. Prime Minister Ali Zidane was kidnapped for two days by radical Islamic movements with the help of government officials.

If Egypt, due to its central location in relation to the rest of the Middle East, was unable to stop the influx of weapons entering the country from Libya, leaving for the Sinai, and then being shipped to the Gaza Strip, it would result in a disastrous security situation for the Middle East. Libya will only worsen, and the situation in Egypt will experience a further influx of jihadists and weapons that the Egyptian military must be able to combat.

All the governments that came to power after the revolution could not find a suitable solution to the security crisis in Sinai, even after counter-terrorist operations were carried out there. Terrorist groups in Sinai have killed over 200 army soldiers. The Sinai continues to be subject to repeated explosions and attacks on military checkpoints on a daily basis.

If the US cuts its military aid to Egypt during this crucial moment in history, it will be turning its back on the Egyptian people. It will leave a void that could be potentially filled by the Russians, who seek a strong Arab ally in the pending downfall of Bashar Al-Assad.

Presently, US aid to Egypt costs $1.5bn. This $1.5bn would be nothing compared to the price of a future conflict in the region or even losing its important naval access to the Suez Canal.

It is not important whether or not what happened in Egypt was a coup or a revolution. US aid to Egypt should not be affected either way. US aid to Egypt is a strategic cooperation between the two countries, regardless of the current state of the government.

Mohamed Soliman is the President of the El Midan Student Group, and is the Foreign Affairs secretary at Al-Dostour Party  

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  • Robert Hussein

    It was the Gulf money that led Egypt and other Arab fascist leaders to participate in US efforts to free the oil of Kuwait , and to protect the rest of the tribal oils sheiks.

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  • sam enslow

    Egyptians seem to forget that during Desert Storm they fought along side Americans. They could see American GI’s. The Saudi’s stayed within their borders to protect themselves. The Kuwaiti, who were being liberated, partied in the clubs of Pyramid Road and in the Cairo’s casinos. They gave Egypt baksheesh for their blood. And that is what they are buying now. The Saudi’s especially like to fight wars in which the people of other nations die. For example, if Saudi Arabia believes Syria should be bombed, why not use their air force? They have spent billions on it. I recall during the Israeli/Lebanon war, all the Arab states called for war against Israel. Mubarak declined, but offered safe passage through Sinai for any army wanting to use it and also noted that many other countries calling for war had borders with Israel. Not one Arab state did anything. They never do. They want to be the great warriors but want only the blood of their poor relation Egypt to be spilled.
    The Cold War is over. In any case, Russia has learned how Egypt treats its “friends.” The only concerns the West or super powers have for Egypt is that it will become another failed state and produce more terrorists and boat people. Saddam Hussein said that Mubarak was like a vending machine – put in money and take what you want. Egypt remains the same today, “Give us money, and we will be your friend – until someone gives us a dollar more”. For years, decades, Egypt has received US military aid. Why didn’t it use that time to build its own armaments industry? Even now when Egypt threatens the US, it says it will go begging for weapons from somewhere else. If anyone in the West or USA comments about Egypt, it is interference in Egypt’s internal affairs. Saudi Arabia sponsors, quite openly, the Salafi and other Islamic political forces in Egypt, it sponsors television channels that spreads the Saudi propaganda. Even during demonstrations Salafi often wave Saudi – not Egyptian flags. No one says anything. Egypt is afraid to lose Saudi baksheesh or that the Saudi’s will send Egyptian workers home.
    The assistance from the US and West is not limited to military aid – and most aid given to Egypt from the US comes from private foundations and NGOs. Also the US can help open many doors – or it can do nothing. US aid is designed to make such aid unnecessary for Egypt by enabling it to be economically independent. But to be independent, Egypt must make structural reforms in its economy, Egyptians must actually work, and red tape and corruption must be fought. US firms have over US$ 1 Trillion, part of which could be invested in Egypt. It will not be even though this money is looking for a home. Egypt cannot be trusted as a safe haven where the rule of law applies. It is time for Egyptians stop worrying about what the US thinks and start planning in how to build a future for themselves, talk about its problems and how to solve them. The real enemies of Egypt are Egyptians themselves. As long as Egyptians refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and mistakes, Egypt will continue to go down hill. Egyptians need to say, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”
    The 25 January Revolution said no to theocratic rule and no to military rule. Those are the goals the US is supporting, to have Egypt develop a true democratic system in which all Egyptians are equal before the law. So far there has been no revolution in Egypt. It is as though (and even under Morsy) Egypt played Mubarak’s old game of rearranging the chairs.
    The people of Egypt have all the abilities and skills to develop Egypt. Perhaps Americans have more faith in Egyptians than any of its governments or political elites (who want as little contact with “the people” as possible” and always carry a veiled threat in their messages to them). During the first presidential elections, the Egyptians were given choices: “I love God;” “I am Mubarak Lite;” and “I have nice hair.” It is time for Egyptians to demand more from their leaders than that they look good in a uniform and say, :”The great people of Egypt..” Egypt needs statesmen who will tell the truth to the people, discuss their problems with them, and shows the people some real respect. The people of Egypt also need to accept that fact that there is much that needs to be done. The US and other countries can only help Egyptians when they are prepared to help themselves. Talk and tea won’t get the job done.

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