The Obama administration's plans to release $450 million in U.S. aid to Egypt have been put on hold by a member of Congress who insists the relationship between the two countries requires more scrutiny before aid to Cairo is resumed.
"This proposal comes to Congress at a point when the U.S.-Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny, and rightly so," Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas, pictured) said in a written statement Friday. "I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance and I cannot support it at this time," said Granger, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.
U.S.-Egyptian relations have been unsettled since the overthrow in 2011 of the decades-long rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime U.S. ally. The new government drew Washington's disapproval this year by suppressing democracy advocates, including members of three U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations.
Earlier this month, Egyptian demonstrators invaded U.S. embassy grounds in Cairo and desecrated the American flag in a demonstration that, according to initial reports, was ignited by an anti-Muslim video, made in the United States and viewed worldwide on the Internet. The incident occurred the same day an armed mob attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three staff members. The citing of the video as the spark that ignited the demonstrations in both countries has since been called into question, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday that the attack in Libya was planned by terrorists.
"As we determined the details of what took place there and how that attack took place, it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack," Panetta told reporters, adding that it "took awhile" to come to that conclusion. Panetta declined to comment on a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that attributed the attack to al-Qaeda, saying the question of just who was involved has yet to be determined. "I think that the investigation is ongoing [and] will hopefully determine that," the defense chief said. President Mohamed Magarief of Libya said the video had been in circulation for months before the attack on the consulate.
"Reaction should have been, if it was genuine, should have been six months earlier. So it was postponed until the 11th of September," Magarief told NBC. "They chose this date, 11th of September to carry a certain message." September 11 was the 11th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks in New York and Washington in 2001 that killed an estimated 3,000 people.
A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration would work with Congress to free the flow of aid to Egypt, the Associated Press reported. The United State remains committed to a transition to democracy in Cairo and believes continued American support for economic growth in that land will lead to peace and security, the official said. Last December, Congress made both economic and military aid to Egypt dependent on a determination by the United States that the government there is "supporting the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections; implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion and due process of law."
The United States provides Egypt with $1.55 billion annually — $250 million in economic aid and $1.3 billion in military aid. Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has long argued that the Constitution does not delegate to the U.S. government the authority to take money from the American people to give to governments and organizations in other lands. In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Paul argued that trying to influence governments and control events in far off lands with grants of foreign aid rarely advances legitimate U.S interests and often results in turmoil and chaos rather than peace and stability. All the billions the United States gave Egypt during Mubarak's 30-year reign illustrates the point, he said.
"What good was the 40 billion dollars or so that we gave to Mubarak and to Egypt? It finally fell apart and there's chaos there now, so I would say it was a bad investment from the beginning," Paul said. "It's a foolish policy and it will come to an end, the sooner the better."
Photo: Rep. Kay Granger