The White House was unprepared for what is happening in Egypt, The New York Times reported on Saturday, quoting diplomatic sources that said that Israel and Egyptian Defense Minister General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi have been in close contact. These same diplomats say that Israel assured Egypt
it did not have to worry about the US threat to cut its enormous aid package to that country.
The US is in no hurry to stop its aid to Egypt, which would severely damage its relations with the Egyptian army. The Egyptians allow the Americans to move their military forces, quickly and almost without warning, over Egyptian skies and the Suez Canal, which is a necessity for its activities in the war on terror in the Horn of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and the area of Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Cancelation of joint US-Egyptian maneuvers by President Barack Obama
over the weekend would not damage, according to the Pentagon, relations between the two countries. The Egyptian army is engaged in activities against the Muslim Brotherhood in major cities, and against terrorist organizations in the Sinai Peninsula, and the Americans are also suffering from a budget crunch. The last time the joint training exercise was held was in 2010.
What really threatens US-Egypt ties is the demand of some senior US senators to freeze aid to Egypt, including $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid. Republicans John McCain
and Lindsey Graham, sent by Obama to Cairo to try to persuade the Egyptian leadership to reach a political agreement, returned empty-handed. The two senators support the aid freeze. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Rand Paul have also been pressing for the freeze.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters want Morsi reinstated (Photo: AP)
After the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, the US government froze the transfer of four F-16 jets to Egypt, but liberal American Arab columnist Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow in The American Task Force on Palestine, warned against the cessation of aid, saying it would be a terrible diplomatic mistake, as well as ineffective. This is because, he said, the Egyptian military has already been pledged $15 billion by Gulf States. Additionally, he added, it would show the US
was turning its back on a significant strategic partner, while Russia
was scheduling joint military exercises with Egypt.
His statements are consistent with the activities of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
According to the Times, the proposal to cut US aid to Egypt was accompanied by a letter to senators, warning that such a move could increase instability and adversely affect Israel. Shortly thereafter, the Senate rejected the proposal by a large majority.
Pro-Morsi camp cleared by Egypt military (Photo: AP)
The New York Times highlighted the fact that the US would need to wait several weeks for approval to fly military aircraft over the skies of many friendly countries, while Egypt allows the US to fly over its airspace almost automatically. Loss of this pathway could significantly extend the length of flights in the area, sources warned the American military.
US warships also receive preferential treatment during times of crisis and can bypass other vessels at the entrance to the Suez Canal. Without Egyptian assistance, American operations in the area will take longer. General James Mattis, until recently commander of US Central Command
(responsible for the Middle East and South Asia excluding Israel) said in an interview that the US needed Egypt for several reasons. These included the Suez Canal and the peace treaty with Israel, the capability of flying through Egyptian skies, and to continue the fight against extremists who threatened the transition to democracy.
The Obama White House understands the need of the military to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. They were also clearly delivered the message of Defense Minister al-Sisi in interviews with American media in which he expressed great frustration with Obama and his administration. Washington is hoping that the violence will end quickly, so they will not have to take further steps that might hurt bilateral relations. At the same time, the Americans fear that the Egyptian army will lose control of the situation.
Past experience shows that American administrations did not cancel military aid to countries where military coups took place. The most prominent example was the continuation of military aid to Pakistan after General Musharraf carried out a military coup.
American frustration with the violence in Egypt is great, especially after they believed they were close to achieving a political agreement. The Washington Post reported that two weeks prior to the army taking action against the Muslim Brotherhood,
the Americans were close to an agreement with the assistance of European and Gulf countries.
The agreement included keeping Muslim Brotherhood members off the streets, in exchange for the regime's commitment not to use violence. The provisional government, with the support of the army, decided to reject the deal and the military initiated operations against protesters.
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